In order to avoid a historically infamous place in the CSUN record books, the Matadors needed to do something last weekend that historically had been but routine for them.
CSUN needed to sweep UC Riverside – a team it had dominated in the all-time series, going 77-8 against it – to have a chance at winning at least 16 games in 2012 and only tie the record for the fewest wins in a single season since Tony Venditto’s Matadors went 4-19 in 1978.
With the Highlanders shutting Northridge out twice, completely turning the tables on it and sweeping it, CSUN won’t even match the 16 wins the 2005 squad garnered. The 2012 team, led by second-year head coach Tairia Flowers, will unofficially go down as the worst team in the history of the program.
As CSUN gets ready for a final homestand of three games against UC Santa Barbara this weekend, it does so not only owner of the dreadful record, but also on a run that seriously threatens its goal of ending the season strongly to carry some momentum into next year.
Heading into the series at Riverside, CSUN pitcher Mia Pagano said her team would try to finish better than the fifth place Big West Conference coaches had predicted for it in a preseason poll. But after UCR sweeped them, the Matadors are now on a five-game losing streak and in eighth place in the standings.
Of the five losses, three have been shutouts and two of them had to be called off early due to the mercy rule that lets a team walk away after five innings if it’s down by double-digit runs. The last one occurred Sunday, when the Highlanders rudely decided to rewrite history by pounding CSUN 11-0.
Prior to the weekend, UC Riverside had never won a series against the Matadors, let alone sweep them in such a discourteous manner. UCR had only won three Big West games all year but doubled that with the sweep.
Despite the historically rough year, the Matadors can still it finish on a positive note if they take the final series from the Gauchos.
UCSB is still in contention for the conference title.
Streak on hold
In a struggling 2012 offense that’s lacked steady execution, first baseman Madeline Sale has been one of the most consistent performers, leading the team in hits with 36 for the year.
Sale became kind of the go-to person for hits this season, especially as she put together a string of 11 consecutive games from April 8-28 in which she recorded at least one hit per game.
But Sale has been kept in check and not recorded a hit since. Coincidentally, the Matadors have gone 0-4 and been shut out three times in the span.
Sale will try to get back on the hitting streak this weekend against UCSB. She’s the Matadors’ leader in batting average (.265).
Pagano playing through pain
Mia Pagano has started the most games for CSUN in 2012 and is the team leader in wins (8-16). She usually starts two of three games every weekend.
The workload has taken a toll on her body and she’s been seen wearing a protective walking booth in her right leg after games. The junior pitcher says she’ll need surgery after the season ends.
In the meantime, she’s tolerating the pain.
“I’m kind of used to it,” she said.