Matadors earn first sweep of 2019

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Matadors earn first sweep of 2019

Senior Isaiah Nunez pitching in the win over Santa Clara University on Sunday at Matador Field. Nunez allowed just four hits and one run to score in seven innings as the Matadors came away with a 7-2 victory to earn the series sweep over the Broncos. Photo credit: Tyler Wainfeld

Senior Isaiah Nunez pitching in the win over Santa Clara University on Sunday at Matador Field. Nunez allowed just four hits and one run to score in seven innings as the Matadors came away with a 7-2 victory to earn the series sweep over the Broncos. Photo credit: Tyler Wainfeld

Senior Isaiah Nunez pitching in the win over Santa Clara University on Sunday at Matador Field. Nunez allowed just four hits and one run to score in seven innings as the Matadors came away with a 7-2 victory to earn the series sweep over the Broncos. Photo credit: Tyler Wainfeld

Senior Isaiah Nunez pitching in the win over Santa Clara University on Sunday at Matador Field. Nunez allowed just four hits and one run to score in seven innings as the Matadors came away with a 7-2 victory to earn the series sweep over the Broncos. Photo credit: Tyler Wainfeld

Tyler Wainfeld

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The baseball team rebounded from a four-game losing streak by scoring 23 runs and sweeping Santa Clara University in this past weekend’s three-game series at Matador Field.

While records do not always tell the whole story, this series was expected to be an easy one for the Matadors as the Broncos came into it with just a 3-15 record and were swept by Loyola Marymount University in their conference-opening series last weekend.

But the Broncos wouldn’t simply roll over and concede the series before it all started, as Santa Clara started Friday’s game by scoring two runs in both the second and third innings to jump out to an early 4-0 lead.

That would be the largest and last lead that they would hold in the entire series.

The Matadors would tie the game with a four-run third, keyed by senior Kyle Barret’s monster home run to left field, before senior Wesley Ghan-Gibson gave CSUN the lead in the fifth with a homer of his own. The Matadors would add another three in the frame to increase the lead to 8-4 and never looked back, winning the first game 14-8.

“It’s always nice to get a win,” associate head coach Jordon Twohig said. “It’s always nice to come home. I think these guys got rewarded (Friday) for just a lot of hard work … These guys played really hard and it’s nice to finish out a game.”

Ghan-Gibson had himself a day at the plate, hitting another home run in the fifth and adding a double in the seventh to finish 3-5 with two home runs (both with two strikes), two RBIs and three runs scored to lead the offensive bombardment.

“I think it just helps being confident and being confident with the teammates around me,” Ghan-Gibson said about his ability to put together quality at-bats after hitting three home runs in a two-game stretch, including one at Pepperdine University last Wednesday.

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Senior Wesley Ghan-Gibson admires his home run in the fourth inning to give the Matadors the lead in the game on Friday against Santa Clara University at Matador Field. CSUN would go on to win the game 14-8 in what was an offensive showcase for both teams. Photo credit: Tyler Wainfeld

His ability to do so was enabled somewhat by the two guys at the top of the lineup, as both sophomore Brandon Bohning and Barret reached base three times each.

“Those guys set the tone. It’s beautiful how they work,” Ghan-Gibson said. “They just put tremendous pressure on the defense and, at least for the guys behind them in the middle of the lineup, it’s easy to hit with guys like that on base because then we get fastballs and (the opponent is) worried about them running. We’re blessed to have guys like that on our team.”

The second game was a typical pitcher’s duel as neither side was able to string together quality at-bats until the fifth inning when junior Robert Bullard singled home Ghan-Gibson, though the run was unearned as the Broncos’ center fielder made an errant throw that allowed both runners to advance (and score, in Ghan-Gibson’s case).

The Matadors would get another run across in the sixth on a double steal that was started by freshman Austin Elder, who took second base, allowing Barret, who was waiting at third base, to steal home on the throw to second and make it 2-0. That would be the final score as the Matadors guaranteed themselves a series victory, their first since winning three of four against Gonzaga University in the second series of the season.

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Sophomore Wesley Moore pitching in the win over Santa Clara University on Saturday at Matador Field. Moore allowed just five runners to reach base and struck out seven in six shutout innings to improve his record to 3-1 and drop his ERA to 2.11 on the season. Photo credit: Tyler Wainfeld

Sophomore Wesley Moore had another quality outing, striking out seven and allowing just five runners to reach base in at least six innings. That efficiency earned him the victory and dropped his WHIP on the season to just 1.00 while his ERA is now a minuscule 2.11. He is now 3-1 on the season and his numbers have dropped significantly across the board since last season when he went 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA, a credit to the heavy amount of work he went through during the offseason and continues to do so between starts.

“I have more fun watching (Wesley Moore) in between starts,” head coach Greg Moore said. “Wes Moore can talk the game for two hours and not blink. He loves talking the craft of the game. Working at the craft, he’s got as long of a pre-game routine as anybody I’ve had because he just wants to do it the right way. So he’s fun to watch on the mound, but in between starts is more impressive.”

The third and final game saw the Matadors jump out to 1-0 lead in the second inning, courtesy of sophomore Victor Cerny’s second home run of the season. The lead swelled up to 7-0 in the fifth before the Broncos scored one each in the sixth and the ninth, but it wasn’t enough as CSUN walked away with a 7-2 win to confirm the series sweep.

Senior Isaiah Nunez tossed seven innings, giving up just four hits and one run to earn the victory and improve his record to 4-2 on the season, and he had the offense to thank for providing him with a lead to work with early on.

“I think it’s a sort of comfort that you feel,” Nunez said. “When you get that early lead, you try not to think about it too much but it’s hard not to.”

Looking ahead

After the three-game series sweep, their first since May of 2018 over UC Davis, the Matadors have a record of 12-13.

This was the last series before the start of conference play next weekend at Cal Poly, and Nunez feels that he, along with the rest of the team, is getting locked in at the right time.

“We’re going to find a way to build off today,” Nunez said after Sunday’s win. “Build off of what we’re doing together, what the pitching staff is doing, what the offense is doing and what the defense is doing.”

Coach Moore, though, does not feel as if playing a team within the conference is any different from playing a team that is not in the Big West.

“The mindset is ‘day off tomorrow, catch up on school and then Tuesday we get back at practice,’” coach Moore said.

CSUN will next play on the road at San Luis Obispo for a three-game series against the Cal Poly Mustangs, who are 9-13 on the year and recently split a four-game series against Saint Mary’s College to close out their non-conference schedule.

The Matadors took two of three in the series at Matador Field last year after the Mustangs took two of three at Baggett Stadium in 2017.

The series starts on Friday, March 29 at 6 p.m., followed by another 6 p.m. game on Saturday and then the series wraps up with an afternoon game on Sunday at 1 p.m.