The CSUN Matador softball team had a solid up in Santa Barbara this past weekend, as they took both games of a doubleheader with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Saturday before the Gauchos rebounded to take the final game the next day.
In game one of the doubleheader, The Matadors had to wait three innings before they got on the board. When they finally did get on the board in the fourth inning, it was in grand fashion, as Northridge loaded the bases and freshman designated player Christina Saenz came up and crushed a grand slam home run to left-center field, giving CSUN a 4-0 lead. The home run was Saenz’s third of the season.
Northridge pushed another run across an inning later when Saenz doubled to left field to score sophomore catcher Amanda Peek. Santa Barbara finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning when Gaucho pitcher Jennifer Davis hit a solo home run. Davis turned out to be a one-player show for Santa Barbara, as she struck out 11 batters in the circle. Junior pitcher Mercedes Lovato held the Gaucho batters in check, pitching a complete game while giving up four hits as Northridge won game one 5-1.
Game two saw CSUN stage a huge come-from-behind win in the seventh inning to sweep the doubleheader. Santa Barbara took advantage of several Matador errors to score eight runs in the first three innings. Half of those eight Gaucho runs were unearned.
The Matadors quietly chipped away at the huge UCSB lead, scoring two in the third and three in the fifth. Still, Santa Barbara led 8-5 heading into the top of the seventh inning when the Matadors suddenly caught fire.
Peek started the rally with a solo home run, her 10th of the season. The Matadors later put two men on base and sophomore second baseman Sarah Khan-Shamout doubled to right to score both runners and tie the game at eight. Northridge got the go-ahead run on a single by freshman Miranda Ponce, who came into the game as a pinch runner. Ponce’s single scored Kahn-Shamout. Lovato came for relief duty and successfully shut the Gauchos down in the bottom seventh to complete the Matadors wild 9-8 win.
Northridge returned to UCSB’s Campus Diamond on Sunday looking to break out the brooms. Things started out good for the Matadors, as senior third baseman Kelly Zakosek led off the game with a home run. CSUN then loaded the bases and the Gauchos were forced to go to the bullpen early. Davis was given the call and she immediately responded, as she got the Gauchos out of the first inning with minimal damage.
Santa Barbara immediately responded in its half of the first inning, tying the game, then taking the lead off one swing of the bat by Davis, as she hit a solo blast to give UC Santa Barbara a 2-1 lead. The Gauchos understandably weren’t satisfied with just a one-run lead, as they scored three more times in the fifth and once more in the sixth to cement a 6-1 win and avert a potential sweep at the hands of the Matadors.
CSUN’s offense, which had been on fire on Saturday cooled off on Sunday, as they got only two hits in the series finale. Davis again proved to be the thorn on the side of the Matadors, as she struck out nine batters in seven innings of relief work.
Still, there were plenty of positives for the Matadors, as Saenz earned Big West Conference player of the week honors for her .455 batting average and seven runs batted in, including the grand slam, during the weekend series against UC Santa Barbara. The Matadors return to Matador Diamond for a six-game homestand, starting with three games against the UC Riverside Highlanders this weekend. The Matadors start off with a doubleheader on Saturday starting at noon and Sunday’s rubber game also starts at noon.