The CSUN Matador baseball team had quite a bit of momentum going into its home series against the Long Beach State Dirtbags this past weekend.
The Matadors had battled perennial Big West powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in that series’ final two games and beat the UCLA Bruins at Jackie Robinson Stadium last Tuesday.
However, the Dirtbags quickly asserted themselves at Matador Field, as their pitchers held the Matador offense in check, the hitters pounded away and the end result was a three-game sweep by scores of 16-2, 9-2 and 4-1.
“We were just completely outclassed,” Head Coach Steve Rousey said.
After dropping the first two games, Northridge hoped for a better day in the rubber match on Sunday, but problems arose quickly in the first inning, as the Dirtbags took advantage of two Matador errors and two passed balls to score two runs, all before Northridge even recorded one out.
“To just give them two runs like that, you get what we got,” Rousey said.
Long Beach State had a chance to add to its lead when it loaded the bases with two outs, but junior relief pitcher Edwin Quirarte, who came in to relieve sophomore Billy Ott in the fourth inning, got sophomore designated hitter T.J. Middlestat to ground into a fielder’s choice in which junior shortstop Danny Espinoza was tagged out at second. The Dirtbags though eventually added to its lead in the sixth inning, as senior catcher Travis Howell reached base on an error, stole second, took third on a sacrifice and came home on a single by Steve Tinoco.
?CSUN finally got off the mat in the bottom of the seventh, as freshman center fielder Drew Muren doubled to left with one out and freshman pinch-hitter Ryan Pineda laced a single to center field to get Muren home and knock Long Beach’s freshman starter Jake Thompson out of the game in favor of junior Nick Vincent. Pineda was then awarded second on a balk, Long Beach Head Coach Mike Weathers came out to argue the call and was ejected by the third base umpire. Sophomore right fielder C.J. Belanger then hit a fly ball to left field that looked like it would drop in for a hit, but freshman Jonathan Jones came in from center field and made a sliding catch. Vincent then got sophomore left fielder Billy Swanson to fly out to the shortstop to end the inning.
?Long Beach got the run back in the eighth inning, as Howell singled to lead off the inning, senior second baseman Jason Tweedy then hit a grounder that took a bad hop on second baseman Pineda and ended up in right field, and Howell later came around to score on a fielder’s choice by Jones.
?Sunday’s game marked the first time that Quirarte, the team’s closer, had pitched more than one inning and he made the most of his opportunity, allowing one unearned run and striking out three batters in 5 1/3 innings of work.
?”I got tired towards the end, but I felt good,” Quirarte said. “I just got to start running a lot more to be ready for those situations.”
?In the first game, it was Northridge striking first, loading the bases with two outs, then freshman second baseman T.S. Reed came around to score on a passed ball. The Matador lead turned out to be brief, as Long Beach put two runners on base in the third inning and Espinoza sent a deep fly ball over the fence in left field for a three-run homer. The Dirtbags were just getting started that day, as they blew the game open with five runs in the sixth inning, four runs in the eighth inning and two runs apiece in the fifth and ninth inning. Long Beach had 20 hits in the opening game.
?The second game was more of the same, with Long Beach scoring two in the top of the first, and after surrendering a run in the bottom of the first, opening the gates with a four-run third inning and adding two runs in the fifth and one more in the eighth inning. Northridge actually had nine hits in the game, but got only two runs out of those hits. The Dirtbags meanwhile pounded out 18 more hits on Saturday.
?The Matadors looked to bounce back with a non-conference game at home against UC Santa Barbara yesterday afternoon before heading to UC Riverside for a three-game series this weekend.