It took a while and certainly a lot of shortcomings, but the CSUN Matador softball team finally registered that elusive second Big West Conference win.
After staying with the undefeated Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs for the first two games on Saturday, only to come a tad short in the end, the Matadors came back to win the rubber match in dramatic fashion, winning the final game 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh, handing Cal Poly its first conference loss.
“That says a lot about their character. I’m very proud of them,” head coach Barbara Jordan said.
CSUN took a 6-5 lead into the seventh inning, but Sarah Iwata led off the top of the seventh inning with a double to right-center field, then Jackie Gehrke-Jones hit a flyball to left field. Smith hustled, trying to make a diving catch, but the ball instead went off her glove and into the grass, which allowed Iwata to score the tying run.
The Mustangs had several chances to take the lead, but Gehrke-Jones was thrown out at home trying to score on a Kelly Comstock grounder. Comstock herself was later thrown out at third on a grounder by Cristen Lee, which ended the inning. In the bottom of the seventh, freshman pinch hitter Christina Saenz led off with a single to right field and Sophomore Sarah Kahn-Shamout came in as a pinch-runner.
Kahn-Shamout took second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman designated player Lauren Olivas, then took third on a sacrifice grounder by senior third baseman Kelly Zakosek. Junior center fielder Jackie Duree came up and sent a laser down the right field line that just stayed in fair territory, allowing Kahn-Shamout to score the winning run.
“I definitely thought it was fair,” Duree said without hesitation.
Cal Poly jumped ahead from the get go Sunday. Melissa Pura hit a three-run home run to left to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead. Northridge pushed a run across in the bottom first on a single by sophomore catcher Amanda Peek, but Cal Poly added two more in the top second to take a 5-1 lead.
CSUN stayed in the game, pushing another run across in the bottom of the third, then busting out with a four-run fourth inning to take the lead. Junior pitcher Mercedes Lovato came in as a reliever in the second inning and held the Mustangs scoreless through four innings.
“When we all showed up this morning, we felt really good about it, and we knew we could hit any of their pitches that they threw us,” senior left fielder Megan Smith said.
Northridge’s Sunday win against Cal Poly was mush needed after two agonizing losses to the Mustangs the day before. In game one of Saturday’s double header, the Mustangs scored at least once in each of the first five innings. Cal Poly once in the first and second innings, twice in the third and once more in the fourth. Northridge pushed two across home plate in the fourth inning on RBI singles by sophomore shortstop Micah Putnam and freshman Alexandra Alvarado. Cal Poly appeared to have put the first game on ice with a five-run fifth inning, but the Matadors came right back with five runs of their own in the bottom fifth to stay alive. The Matadors had several chances to score more runs, but Cal Poly got the key defensive plays the last two innings to hold on for the win.
Game two saw Cal Poly unleash the power. Iwata homered to left field in the top of the second inning and an inning later, Lisa Modglin golfed a deep flyball off the Matador scoreboard at left-center field for a solo home run, giving the Mustangs a 2-0 lead. CSUN scored one in the bottom third on a single by Duree that scored Zakosek, but Cal Poly pushed another run across an inning later on a sacrifice flyball by Stephanie Tam that scored Jenna Maiden. That was all Mustang pitcher Maiden needed, as she pitched a complete game, striking out seven batters.
“All of our losses in conference have been by one or two runs,” Jordan said. “We’re right there in every game, and it was just a matter of staying committed, don’t get down because things aren’t going our way.”
The Matadors hit the road this weekend for three games with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The two teams play a double-header this Saturday, followed by the finale on Sunday. Both games can be heard on gomatadors.com and ibsu.net with Bill Courtland at the call.