The CSUN Matador baseball team showed it certainly belonged on the same field with the host UCLA Bruins this past weekend.
UCLA, however, managed to get the breaks it needed, and the end result was the Bruins sweeping the Matadors in three hotly contested games at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Trailing 6-2 after five innings of its rubber match on Sunday, the Matadors busted out with a six-run sixth inning. With two men on base and nobody out, senior first baseman Jorge Andrade Jr. sent a bomb over the left field wall for a three-run home run, cutting the Bruin lead to one.
But Northridge was just warming up, as they put two more runners on base and with one out, senior center fielder Amiel Traynum singled to left field to score freshman designated player Brian Slover to tie the game at six. Then the next batter, freshman shortstop Jason Dabbs laid down a solid bunt that he beat out, allowing C.J. Belanger to score to put Northridge up 7-6. CSUN got another run on a Bruin error to make it an 8-6 Matador lead.
“I thought we were going to win,” head coach Steve Rousey said. “That’s really it. There’s not much more I can say. I thought this was going to be our day.”
The Bruins, though, didn’t stay down long, pushing a run across in the bottom half of the sixth, then an inning later. Gabe Cohen walked and Casey Haerther reached on an error. Tim Murphy moved the runners up one base on a sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Ryan Babineau, grounded out to short, but the grounder enabled Cohen to score the tying run, then the next batter, Jermaine Curtis came up and hit a flyball to center field. Traynum quickly raced over and tried to make the diving catch, but the ball went off his glove and into the grass, allowing Haerther to score the go-head run. UCLA put the game away with a three-run eighth inning and Bruin reliever Brant Rustich, who came in during the sixth inning, shut the door on a 12-8 UCLA win.
The Bruins jumped out early, scoring four runs in the second inning and two more in the fifth inning. CSUN stayed within sight, scoring one in the fourth on a sacrifice grounder by Andrade Jr. and one more in the its half of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Dabbs.
The first two games of the series, played on Saturday, eerily resembled Sunday’s game, with Northridge hanging around for a duration of the game only to see UCLA find a way to pull out the win. In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, Northridge got on the board first in the top of the first inning on an RBI double by Andrade Jr. UCLA, however, quickly unleashed its power. Cody Decker sent a rocket over the left field wall for a two-run home run in the bottom of the first to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. An inning later, Brady Dolan sent one over the wall at left-center field for a solo home run and a 3-1 UCLA lead.
Senior starting pitcher Bobby Paschal settled down though and kept the Bruins off the scoreboard for the next four innings. Northridge threatened in the top of the sixth, putting two men on base. Junior catcher Jowen-James Murray-Thornton was actually caught in a rundown between first and second base, but Murray-Thornton stayed alive long enough to allow Andrade Jr. to score from third and cut the Bruin lead to 3-2.
UCLA though got the run back and one more in the bottom of the sixth, as Haerther hit a two-run home run to make a 5-2 Bruin lead. UCLA then put game one on ice with a three-run seventh. CSUN got its last run in the top eighth, when Slover singled to score junior Anthon Reed, who got on with a triple.
Northridge looked to redeem themselves in game two, and things looked good. Senior starter Joe Rocchio pitched six innings, striking out five and allowing three runs, two of earned. Down 1-0 in the top of the second, CSUN loaded the bases and the Bruins’ starter uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Jason Dabbs to score the tying run. Then in the third, the Matadors jumped ahead 3-1 on a two-run home run by senior third baseman Todd Shelton.
CSUN took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but Will Penniall belted a two-run home run to tie the game. Then in the ninth, the Bruins put two men on and with one out, Mickey Weisser hit a chopper that got past the shortstop Dabbs and into center field to score Curtis and win the game 6-5.
“We hung in there for all three games, but just came up short,” Rousey said.
Despite the losses, Andrade Jr. extending his hitting streak to 12 games. CSUN returns to Matador field this upcoming weekend to resume Big West Conference play. Northridge will look to avenge a three-game sweep at the hands of UC Santa Barbara back in March when it hosts? the Gauchos for three games, starting this Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s games will start at 1 p.m.