CSUN baseball falls to UC Riverside in game one of the four-game series


Blake Williams

Denzel Clarke catches a fly ball against the UC Riverside Highlanders at Matador Field in Northridge, Calif., on Friday, April 16, 2021. The Matadors lost 6-5 in 11 innings.

Blake Williams, Reporter

For the second time in the game, the Matadors found themselves trailing the Highlanders with just three outs to work with.

After Bobby Silvis and Mason Le were retired to start the inning, Ryan Ball walked on a 3-2 count. Then Kai Moody singled on an 0-2 pitch, putting runners on first and second for Blake Doremus. After three balls to Doremus, Highlanders’ pitcher Jake Lachemann battled back to a 3-2 count, only to walk Doremus on the next pitch.

CSUN had the bases loaded with two outs and Carlos Arellano coming to the plate. The first pitch was thrown: strike one. Then the second pitch: strike two. And on the third pitch, Arrellano swung and hit a ground ball toward second base.

Arellano sprinted to first base, but the second baseman was able to cleanly field the ball and the throw beat him to the bag. The game was over.

Mason Le rounds third base and scores against the UC Riverside Highlanders at Matador Field in Northridge, Calif., on Friday, April 16, 2021. The Matadors lost 6-5 in 11 innings. (Blake Williams)

CSUN battled to tie or take the lead three other times up until that point, but they weren’t able to do it a fourth time as UC Riverside took game one of the four-game series by a score of 6-5.

“That was a tough loss. I felt the fight from the ninth inning on was really good for our team,” head coach Dave Serrano said. “I shared with them that even though we didn’t score in the last inning, I’ll take that fight every inning throughout a weekend series. Even though we weren’t rewarded with a run, we were in battle mode from the ninth inning on.”

The game started as a pitching duel, with both starting pitchers blanking the other team’s lineup for the first four innings of the game.

In the fifth inning, the Matadors jumped out to a 2-0 lead with an RBI-double from Ball and an RBI-single from Moody. In the sixth, the Highlanders came back to tie it before Denzel Clarke hit a solo home run in the bottom of the inning to put the Matadors back on top.

In the seventh inning, the Highlanders doubled and walked, which chased CSUN starting pitcher Blake Sodersten from the game. Serrano went to Jackson Cunningham to try to get out of the jam with one out in the inning.

On the first pitch Cunningham threw, Nathan Webb swung and hit a home run to left field, giving the Highlanders a 5-3 lead and closing the book on Sodersten, who was credited for two of the three runs allowed.

Matadors’ starting pitcher Blake Sodersten throws a pitch against the UC Riverside Highlanders at Matador Field in Northridge, Calif., on Friday, April 16, 2021. Sodersten pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits while walking four and striking out four in a 6-5 extra-innings loss. (Blake Williams)

He finished his day throwing 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks.

“I think there were spurts that Blake was really good, and there were spurts where he kind of lost a little bit,” Serrano said.

The score held until the bottom of the ninth as CSUN had three outs to score two runs.

Clarke led off the inning with a double on a 3-2 pitch. Robert Bullard, who was pinch-hitting, then followed with a triple to cut the Highlanders’ lead to one.

After a ground out to third base by pinch hitter Jayson Newman, Le stepped to the plate. On the first pitch, Le hit a deep fly ball to left field, but the Highlanders were able to record the out. However, it was deep enough for Bullard to score the tying run, as the Matadors took the game into extra innings.

Neither team scored in the 10th inning, but CSUN did leave two runners on base. In the top of the 11th, the Highlanders took the lead on a sacrifice fly to center field after two singles, a throwing error, and an intentional walk loaded the bases.

With the loss, the Matadors dropped to 6-11 on the season.

“We jumped out to a two-run lead with a Friday starter on the mound, from that point on I think we gave them five free passes,” Serrano said. “You can’t do that to win a Friday night game and you can’t do that to win in college baseball. Some good things happened but it’s the complete baseball game and we didn’t play the complete baseball game. We gave them too much again, put our backs against the wall and fought, but the game wasn’t going to reward us late.”

They will face UC Riverside again in a doubleheader on Saturday. Serrano said he is challenging the team to show up and battle in game two and three after a tough loss on Friday and season-long struggles in Saturday games.

“What team is going to show up tomorrow,” Serrano said. “The team that has had their tail between the legs on Saturday and hasn’t played good baseball or a team that’s going to fight from the first pitch to the last pitch, however long that is later in the day tomorrow.”