CSUN baseball sweeps Stony Brook to start season 3-0

CSUN infielder Mason Le, 27, throws the ball to first base against Stony Brook University on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, at Matador Field in Northridge, Calif.

Charlie Gonzalez, Sports Writer

CSUN baseball got its 2023 season off to an explosive start, sweeping Stony Brook University in a three-game series by a cumulative score of 42-11.

The Matadors earned a staggering 20-5 victory in game one of the Feb. 17-19 series against the visiting Seawolves. The first inning told a different story than the rest of the game; after each team had a chance to bat, the Seawolves held a 1-0 lead thanks to a single into right field.

In the second inning, CSUN flipped the script. Starting pitcher Lucas Braun threw two strikeouts, followed by a groundout to third base. Leading off the bottom half of the inning, first baseman Luc Stuka hit a single on a full count, leading to an RBI double by infielder Shunsuke Sakaino, which brought Stuka home.

Two at-bats later, starting catcher Graysen Tarlow hit a grand slam into right field to give the Matadors their first lead of the day — a lead that would stay with them through the final out. This was the first of three innings in which the Matadors went through the entire batting order.

Tarlow’s grand slam was his first collegiate home run. He finished the day with the first five-hit solo performance from a Matador in nearly a decade.

“It was a first-pitch heater,” Tarlow said of his grand slam. “What I was just trying to do was get something in the air, try to drive in some runs, and pass the baton really.”

CSUN’s momentum only picked up speed, as they outscored Stony Brook 14-3 over the next three innings. Infielder Ali Camarillo hit a second grand slam for the Matadors in the third. With the game all but won, CSUN put in five substitutes over the final three innings.

The winning pitcher, Braun, finished with nine strikeouts and five earned runs over six innings. Overall, the Matadors earned 20 runs and 20 hits while committing zero errors in a nearly flawless offensive performance.

The 20-5 victory was the first of coach Eddie Cornejo’s career.

“We get a lot of the jitters out. In a score this lopsided, we try to get as many guys into the game and get their feet wet as much as we could,” Cornejo said. “But out of respect for our opponent and where we play, we can’t do that to the full extent as much as you would like. But I’m happy with how well they competed in all nine innings.”

Game two on Saturday, Feb. 18, featured another stellar offensive display by the Matadors. The game lasted approximately two and a half hours, a significantly shorter duration than game one. CSUN’s 14-4 victory allowed them to clinch the series against Stony Brook, with the Matadors collecting 14 runs and 17 hits in the second matchup. CSUN carried its momentum over from game one, outscoring Stony Brook 5-0 in the first inning. Following that early surge, CSUN’s lead never dipped below three runs. The winning pitcher, Thomas Bainton, finished with three strikeouts and retired the side in order three times.

With the series already won, CSUN looked to stay perfect and improve to 3-0. Game three was shorter than the previous two, lasting two hours and 24 minutes. The highlight of the Stony Brook series through games one and two was the explosive firepower of the Matadors’ offense. The other side of the coin was CSUN’s pitching.

Xavier Martinez was the difference-maker in game three, winning the game for the Matadors with his three 1-2-3 innings of relief. CSUN’s offense didn’t put the game away until the latter half.

Stony Brook made a pitching change entering the sixth inning, with Eddie Smink replacing Nick DeGennaro. Before the change, the Matadors had yet to take the lead. Smink gave up three walks, one hit and two runs in his first inning on the mound. The consequences of pulling DeGennaro became crystal clear in the eighth inning, when CSUN tacked on two more runs to take a 6-2 lead.

Attempting to stop the bleeding, Stony Brook pulled Smink in favor of Quinlan Montgomery. During the very next at-bat, with a 2-0 count, center fielder Jakob Simons hit a two-RBI triple to put game three out of reach for Stony Brook.

“Earlier in the game, I’ve been rolling balls over. My timing felt a little bit off,” Simons explained. “I told the guys in the dugout right before that at-bat that I was just gonna try to hit a line drive up the middle, and he gave me a good pitch to hit.”

Joshua Romero closed the game for the Matadors, striking out right fielder Matthew Wright and leaving a man stranded at first. As a result, Cornejo started his head coaching career 3-0.

“I think the main takeaway for me is that what we’ve been seeing in practice can translate into games,” Cornejo said. “We’re being competitive, we’re knowing our jobs, and we’re picking each other up. And to me that’s a good sign of a quality ball club.”

CSUN’s schedule has them hosting San Francisco University for a four-game series this weekend, though the first game has already been canceled due to rain.