The Cal State Northridge softball team had mixed results over the weekend in its series against Long Beach, the 14th-ranked team in the nation. The Matadors dropped the first game of a Saturday doubleheader 1-0, then came back swinging in the nightcap for a 9-1 rout. On Sunday, CSUN lost the rubber match 1-0.
Head coach Barbara Jordan said she was disappointed that while her team gave up just three runs in three games, it resulted in two losses.
“Do I think they better than us? No. But, they were better than us in two games,” Jordan said.
Jordan also credited Long Beach freshman pitcher Brooke Turner, who threw her 12th and 13th shutouts of the season in the Matadors’ two losses.
“You gotta give Brooke credit,” Jordan said. “She contained us for two games.”
In the first game, Long Beach went ahead 1-0 in the second inning. With two outs, junior right fielder Danielle Linke tripled to right center. Sophomore second baseman Ashley Levine reached base on an error and Linke scored. That one run would be all the 49ers needed to secure the win.
Turner pitched the full seven innings for Long Beach and gave up just two hits. She struck out 10 of the 23 batters she faced, for her sixth double-digit strikeout game this season.
Sophomore Amanda Pitzenberger took the loss for the Matadors, pitching the full seven innings. She gave up six hits and struck out four. Pitzenberger’s record is 2-5 for the season.
The Matadors’ left fielder, sophomore Lauren Olivas and sophomore first baseman Jacklyn Rymer both got hits in the game.
“I felt like we weren’t being ourselves in the box,” said junior catcher Amanda Peek. “We were swinging at a lot of balls other than strikes and we were letting her get two strikes.”
The second game of the double header was a much different story, with CSUN handing Long Beach their first loss in conference play.
The Matadors scored in the fourth when Peek stepped up to the plate as the first batter of the inning and smacked a home run over the fence in left center field. Freshman shortstop Tracy Allen kept things going with a single to second base, then advanced on a ground out by junior second baseman Micah Putnam. An error by the Long Beach shortstop put sophomore right fielder Alexandria Alvarado on base and Allen advanced to third. After Alvarado stole second, Rymer doubled to center field, bringing home Alvarado and Allen for a 3-0 lead.
Long Beach got one back in the fifth, starting off with a single by Linke. Casey Burba came in to run for Lincke and advanced to second on Whitney Radcliff’s ground out. Designated hitter Ashley Weber reached base when CSUN pitcher Mercedes Lovato’s pitch hit her in the shoulder. Center fielder Brianna Goad flied out to right field, advancing Burba to third. Shortstop Jessica Beaver hit a grounder to third, but an error put her on base and Burba scored to make it 3-1.
The Matadors put the game away in the fifth, with a flurry of hits. Left fielder Lauren Olivas started things off with a single to left field. Krystal Raphael came in to hit for Karen Fraggi and laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Olivas to second. Long Beach didn’t want to see Peek swing again and gave her an intentional walk. Allen also walked, loading the bases for Putnam, who smacked a single to left field, scoring Olivas and Peek. Alvarado stepped up and hit her first home run of the season over the fence in right center, bringing the score to 8-1. Rymer continued the rally with a single to center field. Sarah Kahn-Shamout came in to hit for Lovato and reached base on a walk, advancing Rymer to second. Senior center fielder Jackie Duree reached base on an error by the shortstop, scoring Rymer and ending the game at 9-1.
Peek said she was happy to hit her fourth home run of the year and get her team on the scoreboard.
“It felt good to finally break through and score a run,” Peek said. “I’ve been struggling for a little bit.”
For Peek, “struggling” means her batting average has dropped to .443. After spending most of the season as one of the nation’s top ten batters, she is now ranked 16th-best in the nation.
“Peek is a pure hitter,” Jordan said. “She has one purpose when she steps up to the plate, to swing the bat.”
The statistics don’t mean anything to Peek, however, who says she doesn’t even look at, or care about, her stats. She just wants to win.
“It’s all about winning and competing,” Peek said. “I love to compete.”
Alvarado was also happy about her three-run homer and the team win.
“We made the choice to come out and hit the ball on the ground and use home field advantage for the second game,” Alvarado said.
Lovato pitched the full five innings for the Matadors, giving up just two hits and one run. For Long Beach, sophomore righty Bridgette Pagano started in the circle and pitched 4.1 innings, giving up nine hits and nine runs for the loss. Kelly Cross came in and faced just two batters in the fifth before the game was called.
In the rubber match on Sunday, Long Beach went up 1-0 with the first batter of the game. Although Beaver had initially been hit by a pitch and awarded first base, she was called back because she hadn’t tried to avoid the pitch. Instead of the base, she got the run when she homered to left field.
It looked like Long Beach might get some more runs when Lovato hit Tyler with a pitch in the third, loading the bases. Lovato got herself out of the mess, however, by getting Linke to pop up and end the inning.
The Matadors also looked like they might score on their at-bat. Pitzenger reached base after being hit by a pitch and Duree singled to left center. Alvarado reached on an error by the first baseman, but when Pitzenberger tried to make it across the plate, she was tagged out.
Lovato took the loss for the Matadors, allowing seven hits and one run in seven innings of pitching Turner pitched the full game for the 49ers, striking out seven and allowing four hits.
CSUN is now 14-18 overall and 3-3 in Big West play.
“The team is going in the right direction,” Jordan said. “We’re playing our best softball during the conference games.”
The Matadors will host the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos this weekend at Matador Diamond. The Gauchos are currently undefeated in conference play.
“We need to play Northridge softball,” Jordan said. “That means winning every inning and playing together.”
CSUN will play a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at noon and will wrap up the series on Sunday with a single game at noon.