The Cal State Northridge softball team will play their last home series of the regular season this weekend, taking on the UC Davis Aggies at Matador Field. The Matadors are in a must-win situation – they need to win all three games in order to stay above .500 in Big West play and to have any hopes of a post-season.
“We’ll take it one pitch at a time, one game at a time and we’ll beat them,” said assistant coach Kia Fennell.
The Matadors are currently sitting atop the Aggies in the standings, with a record of 21-23 overall and 10-8 in Big West games. The Aggies are 23-34 overall and 8-10 in conference play.
Fennell said that it doesn’t really matter what a team looks like statistically, they play each team tough.
“We’re gonna play every team as hard as we can and do our best,” Fennell said.
Northridge took its final road trip of the regular season last weekend, sweeping the series against the UC Riverside Highlanders at Amy S. Harrison Field. The Matadors won both games of Saturday’s doubleheader by scores of 1-0 and 4-3, then finished with a 2-1 victory on Sunday.
The win gave senior Mercedes Lovato her 17th victory of the season, tying her career-high set during her freshman season. Lovato threw for five innings, giving up just two hits and one run. Sophomore Amanda Pitzenberger pitched two innings of relief for the save, giving up just one hit.
For the Highlanders, Christin Songer pitched the full seven innings, giving up eight hits and two runs.
The Matadors struck early on Sunday, scoring in the first inning after senior Jackie Duree’s double scored sophomore Alexandria Alvarado, who got on base with a single and then advanced on sophomore Jacklyn Rymer’s walk.
Riverside responded right away with a solo home run by designated hitter Marissa Alvidrez at the bottom of the frame tying the score at 1-1.
Northridge took the lead in the third inning with Alvarado hitting a double to get on base, then scoring on Rymer’s single.
The Highlanders threatened in the fifth, but left two stranded. The Matadors also missed an opportunity to put more runs on the board, leaving three on base at the top of the sixth,
The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader was also a low-scoring affair, with the Matadors getting the winning run in the seventh inning. Sophomore Karla Chaparro hit a single and Pitzenberger reached base on an error. Sophomore Christina Saenz came in to hit for sophomore Lauren Olivas and reached base after being hit by a pitch. With bases loaded, junior Amanda Peek walked, scoring Chaparro.
Pitchers for both teams went the full seven innings. Lovato gave up just three hits in the game and struck out four batters. For the Highlanders, Songer gave up four hits and one run in the loss.
In the second game on Saturday, the Highlanders scored in the first inning to take the early lead, then increased that lead to 3-0 in the sixth inning.
But, having one last chance at bat, the Matadors got the four runs needed to win the game.
Rymer and Alvarado both singled to get on base. Freshman Kristen Mihm hit a single and an error advanced all the runners, with Rymer scoring. Duree reached base on a fielder’s choice, but another error by the Highlanders scored Alvarado and put Mihm on third. Olivas reached on a fielder’s choice, advancing Duree, but Mihm was out at home. Peek was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Another error by Riverside scored Olivas and a wild pitch scored Duree, giving the Matadors a 4-3 lead and ultimately, the win.
Pitzenberger started in the circle for Northridge and pitched for 5.2 innings, giving up five hits and three runs. Senior Samantha Schroeder came in for .01 innings of relief, but it was enough to earn Schroeder her first win of the season. Lovato closed it out for the Matadors, pitching the final inning for the save.
Alvidrez took the loss for the Highlanders, pitching the full seven innings. Alvidrez gave up six hits and four runs in the defeat.
This Saturday, Northridge will salute its three seniors at their last home game: Duree, Schroeder and Lovato.
Looking forward to this weekend, Lovato said that playing her last home series for the Matadors feels “surreal.”
“I’m very happy the last series is at home so that friends and family can be there,” Lovato said.
After playing in Chicago for her first two years, Lovato said she has enjoyed playing closer to home.
“It’s been nice to play for a team that’s committed to winning and working hard,” Lovato said, adding that she has learned “so many things” from head coach Barbara Jordan.
“I’ve become a lot tougher, on and off the field,” Lovato said. “It’s a good thing – it applies to a lot of places.”
After graduation, Lovato will once again head farther away from home to play softball, this time traveling to the Netherlands. Her teammate, Schroeder, will also be playing softball in the Netherlands this summer.
Before then, Lovato said she is focused on winning three games and having a postseason.
“Anything’s possible,” Lovato said. “As long as we come out hard that day as a team, we’ll win.”