The CSUN softball team lived dangerously in its final three Big West Conference games against the Pacific Tigers at Matador Diamond, but when all was said and done, the Matadors were still standing.
All three games against the Matadors and the Tigers weren’t decided until the final inning. Pacific won the first of a Saturday doubleheader with a two-run seventh inning to wipe out a one-run Matador lead. Then in game two, Northridge turned the tables around, erasing a one-run Tiger lead in the bottom of the seventh to split the doubleheader.
The drama wasn’t as big on Sunday as on Saturday. Still, the Matadors had to hold on, stranding a potential tying Tiger run at second base in the top of the seventh to preserve a 5-4 win, clinching the season series against Pacific and securing a .500 finish in conference play with a record of 9-9.
“We’re happy with a W,” senior third baseman Kelly Zakosek said. “It was a good game, it was a good weekend and we’re glad it went as well as it did.”
In game one, Northridge struck first when junior right fielder Jackie Duree singled to center field to score freshman center fielder Lauren Olivas. CSUN held onto that lead well into the seventh, when Pacific made its move.
Briana Santos started things with a walk and two batters later, a span in which Lauren Sandelin replaced Santos as a pinch runner, Kellee Wilson singled to left-center field.
Wilson was replaced by Vianney Campos, who took second on a sacrifice fly by Gina Carbonatto and the next batter, Casey Goldsand, laced a grounder up the middle into center field to score both runners, wrestling the lead and eventually the win to the Tigers.
Game two saw a role reversal from game one, as Northridge staged the seventh comeback to salvage the split. Up until the seventh inning, the third inning was the only time either side scored runs, with Pacific scoring three runs in the top of the third, Northridge coming back with two runs in the bottom third.
In the seventh, Zakosek and Olivas reached on Tiger errors, a Duree sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, then freshman designated player Christina Saenz singled to center field to score Zakosek, tying the game.
Olivas also tried to score, and the throw to home plate from center fielder Carbonatto looked like it beat Olivas to the plate. Olivas collided with catcher Karie Wilson, but the home plate umpire ruled Olivas safe at home, giving Northridge a 4-3 win.
I just had to get the ball out on the ground (and) make something happen,” Saenz said.
Aside from sending CSUN into celebration, the call at home plate also sent Pacific coach Brian Kolze into outrage. Nevertheless, CSUN will take it either way.
“They found a way to win,” head coach Barbara Jordan said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve played all year, but they did a nice job.”
Freshman starting pitcher Amanda Pitzenberger was key for the Matadors in game two. Despite giving up the three runs in the third inning, she was able to shake that off and give the Matadors a chance to win.
“Every time I went out there, I didn’t think throw harder but throw smart,” Pitzenberger said. “Throw smarter, hit my spots, don’t try to over-compensate for nothing.”
The final game against the Tigers also marked the final game at Matador Field for seniors Zakosek and Megan Smith, and fittingly, the two delivered big time for CSUN, as Zakosek went 2 for 4 with two doubles and Smith drove what proved to be the winning run, as Northridge grinded out a 5-4 win.
“It’s awesome that both seniors had a big day for us on their last day here,” Jordan said.
Smith and Zakosek were honored prior to the game. Then, Zakosek set the tone right from her first at-bat, as she started off the game with a double to left-center field. Two batters later, Saenz crushed a Chelsea Engle pitch over the center field fence for a two-run home run, staking Northridge to a 2-0 lead. The Matadors added another run later in the inning.
Pacific pushed a run across in the top third, but Northridge countered in its half of the third, putting two runners on and Smith brought them home with a double to right-center field, giving Northridge a 5-1 lead.
Pacific cut that lead in half in the fifth inning, as Jennifer Curtier sent a Mercedes Lovato pitch over the right-field fence for a two-run home run.
The Tigers got another run across in the sixth to further chop away at the Matador lead. Then in the seventh, Pacific had the tying run at second base with only one out, but Pitzenberger, who came in a reliever in the sixth inning, made sure that run didn’t get to home plate, as she struck out Kahn. Wilson and got Lauren Weyman to fly out to shortstop Micah Putnam to end the game.
“We never stopped fighting,” Smith said. “Our whole lineup can hit the ball hard, so that just makes the difference is that we never give up.”