Sundial file photo
After their season was canceled due to the pandemic, the CSUN baseball team and manager Dave Serrano are looking to start this new season the way they kicked off the previous one.
The Matadors started last season 7-0 with wins over nationally-ranked University of Central Florida, Grand Canyon, Gonzaga, and a Fordham team that made the NCAA Regional Playoffs the year before. And even though they were picked to finish sixth in the Big West Conference this upcoming season, the Matadors believe they can accomplish much more.
With a roster full of letter winners and upperclassmen, the team is expected to lean on its experience to carry them throughout the year. Among the returners are two 2019 All-Big West Conference selections in right-handed pitcher Blake Schriever and catcher Sean Skelly. Denzel Clarke, a top 100 draft prospect, is looking to continue from his strong sophomore season where he led the team in six offensive categories.
“That’s the one thing that I was holding on to, that we did bring in a good class of new players and young players,” Serrano said. “But we’re returning such a big class of older returning players that have been through the wars, maybe only one year with this coaching staff, but at least they’re at the age where they know how to prepare to get their bodies ready for the season.”
Skelly agreed that while the team did not have a full offseason to prepare like they normally would, the fact that they are coming back with a veteran team alleviates the loss of practice time.
“We’re doing pretty well given the situation,” said Serrano. “I think our lineup is good, and our pitchers are really good, so we’ll definitely be ready to go when the season starts.”
Back in February, the team announced that they will only be participating in 40 conference games due to COVID, as opposed to the usual 55 games. The Matadors coaching staff believes the shortened schedule is not only the best option going forward, but the safest.
“Health is the main issue that we’re looking into as a staff,” Serrano said. “Obviously, you got COVID right in front of us, and then the fact that we haven’t had a lot of time to prepare their bodies. We’re doing the best job that we can with our strength and training staff, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
Over the course of the upcoming season, CSUN will play a four-game series against each team in the Big West Conference. The middle games of each series will be a doubleheader.
The season kicks off on Saturday at Matador Field, where the Matadors will take on Cal Poly at 1 p.m.