During Spring Break, the CSUN baseball team won three games and dropped five to even its record at 10-10.
On March 14, the Matadors traveled to Hattiesburg, Miss. to play a two-game series with both Liberty University and the University of Southern Mississippi. In game one of a doubleheader, Northridge defeated Liberty, 11-7, and then dropped the second game to Southern Mississippi, 6-2. The next day, CSUN topped Liberty, 9-2, but fell to Southern Miss again by the score of 6-2. Northridge returned to Los Angeles for a four-game series with Loyola Marymount University. The Matadors lost the first two games at LMU on March 20, 6-2 and 5-4, then played a double-header in Northridge, losing the first game 9-4 and winning the second, 10-3.
In the first game against Liberty, four Matadors accounted for eight of the team’s 11 runs. Left fielder Richard Cates, catcher John Parham, shortstop Justin DeMarco and pinch hitter Chris Hannick each had two RBIs. Pitcher Jimmy Jolicoeur pitched seven innings, giving up five hits and three earned runs.
Northridge was down 3-2 going into the bottom of the fifth, but came out five runs ahead. Center fielder C.J. Belanger and third baseman Ryan Pineda walked to start the inning. Both players scored on a Cates double to center field. Cates advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Parham. Two batters later, DeMarco reached on a fielding error by the third baseman. Cates scored, giving the Matadors a 5-3 lead. CSUN scored two more runs in the inning, taking the lead 7-3.
In the bottom of the sixth, Northridge’s scoring attack continued. The first three batters hit singles, giving the Matadors bases loaded with no outs. DeMarco hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Cates. The next batter, Hannick, singled to center, driving in two more runs, giving CSUN a 10-3 advantage.
Parham hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, and Liberty came back with four runs in the top of the ninth, but it was not enough. CSUN walked away with the 11-7 win.
In the later game against Southern Miss, the Matadors were only able to put up two runs on seven hits. The team had six strikeouts and left six runners on base. Starting pitcher Phil Hann (1-2) threw 5.2 innings, giving up six hits and four unearned runs. Bryce Schoening relieved Hann in the sixth. Schoening pitched one inning, giving up two hits and two earned runs.
The Matadors got off to an early 2-0 lead. In the top of the third inning, second baseman T.S. Reed led off with a single. Pineda singled to left, but reached second on a fielding error and Cates grounded out to shortstop, scoring Reed from third.
In the top of the fourth, first baseman Jowen-James Murray-Thornton singled to the pitcher, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Jason Dabbs. Two batters later, Hannick singled to left field, scoring Murray-Thornton.
Southern Miss got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs, the Matadors committed a costly error, extending the inning and allowing Southern Miss to score four runs on four hits. The Golden Eagles scored two more runs in the bottom of the seventh, giving them a 6-2 win.
The next day, Northridge met up with Liberty for the second of a two-game series and had another good day at the plate. Reed led the offense with three hits, one run and three RBIs. Dabbs had two hits and two RBIs, and right fielder Matt Carvutto added two hits, two runs and two RBIs. Starting pitcher Davin Tate (2-0) pitched six innings, giving up seven hits and one earned run. He walked one batter and struck out five. Peter Mendez pitched three scoreless innings and only gave up two hits to record his first save of the season.
Liberty had a 2-1 lead going into the sixth, but that changed after CSUN batted at the top of the inning. The Matadors scored six runs on four hits and one error, and batted around the lineup. Reed led off the inning on a bunt single, then stole second and went to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Dabbs singled up the middle, scoring Reed. Murray-Thornton and DeMarco walked to load the bases with two outs. Dabbs scored on a wild pitch to give CSUN a 3-2 lead. Carvutto singled up the middle, knocking in Murray-Thornton and DeMarco. First baseman Dominic D’Anna and center fielder Todd Eskelin walked to load the bases for the second time in the inning. Reed came to the plate for the second time in the inning, and again got his bat on the ball, hitting a two-RBI single to left field. CSUN ended the inning with a 7-2 lead.
Northridge tacked on two more runs in the top of the eighth. Carvutto, D’Anna, and Dabbs singled, while Reed added a double to give the Matadors a 9-2 win.
On March 16, Northridge faced Southern Miss, and just like the game two days prior, CSUN was only able to score two runs. The difference this time was not only offense, but defense. The Matadors committed five errors, and four of them led to runs.
“We have guys in new positions, so it’s taking time for them to get used to them,” Cates said. “We just have to have trust in our ability.”
Belanger had two RBIs and Parham scored two runs. The Matadors had six hits, nine strikeouts and left seven runners on base. Drew Muren (1-2) pitched four innings, gave up seven hits and five runs (two were earned).
After the game, Coach Rousey gave the team a pep talk and told them they were missing some pieces to the puzzle.
“We need to trust ourselves and know that we are a great team,” Reed said. “We need to know what our abilities are and play more relaxed.”
Reed added that trust also includes having confidence in teammates and the ability of each player.
“We don’t play like we know how good we can be,” Reed said. “That was the best talk we had all year.”
The Matadors returned to the west coast to face LMU at Page Stadium on March 18. For the second consecutive game, CSUN only scored two runs, and errors were a major factor in the game. Northridge committed four errors: two fielding and two throwing in the 6-2 loss.
“Those games can be won with one or two runs,” Reed said. “The errors don’t help though.”
Pineda and Cates both went 2-for-4, and scored a run. Cates hit a triple in the top of the fourth, and scored when Parham grounded out to the shortstop with one out. Northridge scored its only other run in the top of the ninth. Pineda led off with a single to short, and scored on Murray-Thornton’s ground out to first.
Northridge starter Billy Ott (0-1) pitched four innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs. He had two walks and four strikeouts in the losing effort.
Two days later, the Matadors looked to avenge its loss to LMU. Muren and Reed led the offensive attack. Muren was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including a home run and a two-run double. Reed was a perfect 4-for-4, including a stolen base. Despite the big numbers, CSUN fell 5-4.
“I was just trying to get on base for the team,” Reed said. “It was not necessarily the pitching. It was just one of those days.”
Jolicoeur had another strong outing in the loss, pitching 6.2 innings and giving up two earned runs. Eric Billings and Schoening came on in relief to keep the Matadors in contention.
“We had situations where we could put runs on the board, but we hit the ball hard right at someone,” Cates said. “We need to play better on defense and then everything else will fall into place.”
The Matadors completed their series with LMU at home on Sunday, losing the first game of a double-header 9-4 and winning the second to avoid the sweep, 10-3.
In the first game, Hann took the loss after pitching 5.2 innings and giving up 10 hits and 7 runs. The Matadors had 10 hits, but left nine on base.
LMU was up 2-0 in the second, when Pineda scored on a DeMarco single. Parham evened the score at 2-2 in the third with a homerun. LMU scored three more runs in the fourth to take back the lead at 5-2, then scored a run in the fifth and sixt
h to go up 7-2. CSUN got a run when they came up in the sixth, when Murray-Thornton hit a triple, scoring Muren, who had reached base on a walk. LMU and CSUN both scored a run in the seventh, with a single by Muren scoring Cates and bringing the score to 8-4. LMU scored the last run of the game in the eighth on a homerun, for a final score of 9-4.
In the second game of the day, the Matadors got 20 hits, with all nine starters getting a hit in the game. Cates hit 4-for-5 and Swanson went 3-for-4, with 3 RBIs. P.J. Rousey got the win with three innings of relief, giving up just one hit. Tate started on the mound, pitching one inning and giving up two hits and one run. Quirarte relieved Rousey and pitched five innings, giving up six hits and two runs.
With LMU leading 1-0 in the first inning, Muren hit a triple, then scored on a single by Parham, tying the score at 1-1. In the second inning, Swanson singled, then scored on Reed’s ground out. CSUN went up 3-1 in the fourth after Swanson hit a double, scoring later on a single by Reed. LMU got a run in the fifth, but the Matadors came back to score four more, for a 7-2 lead. Parham started off the inning with a homerun, then Cates singled. Pineda and Murray-Thornton were both hit by pitches and Cates scored on Hannick’s sacrifice fly. Murray-Thornton and Pineda both scored on a single through the right side by Swanson. CSUN scored another run in the seventh when Swanson’s sacrifice fly brought Murray-Thornton around for an 8-2 lead. LMU got a run in the eighth on a homer, but the Matadors scored two more, with Parham scoring on a Pineda single and Cates coming home on a single by Pruitt for a final score of 10-3.
The Matadors hits the road to open conference play with a three-game series against UC Santa Barbara. The first game is on Friday at 2 p.m., followed by games on Saturday and Sunday, both at 1 p.m.