The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN baseball sweeps doubleheader against Dirtbags

Infielder Kamau Neighbors, 19, batting as Andrew Gauna, 43, gets ready to come home from third base on Friday, April 12, 2024, against CSU Long Beach at the Matador Field in Northridge, Calif.

After a disappointing blowout loss at home to California Baptist last week, CSUN (20-14, 8-4 Big West) bounced back with a vengeance, securing a dominating series win by sweeping a doubleheader against Long Beach (19-14-1, 6-9 Big West) on Friday afternoon.

The Matadors were propelled by the performances of outfielders Jakob Simons, Kevin Fitzer, and catcher Ben Griffin. Their combined three home runs and 10 RBIs were instrumental in the team’s success, catapulting them to an 8-7 win in the first game of the doubleheader and a blowout 10-4 win in the final game of the doubleheader. Both wins would propel the Matadors to second place in the Big West.

CSUN started game one strong, with pitcher Thomas Bainton holding the Dirtbags to just four hits over four scoreless innings. The Matadors’ offense came alive in the third and fourth innings, driving in five runs. Simons smashed a towering two-run homer in the third inning, sparking cheers from the crowd. He repeated this feat in the next inning, hitting another home run to left field, bringing two across the plate to extend the lead to 5-0 for the Matadors.

“Recently, we’ve been able to put together some quality wins as a team,” Fitzer said. “In that first game, we got to two outs pretty easily, but many of our guys picked each other up, and we got good at-bats in the end.”

The Matadors seemed to be in control, leading 5-0 at the end of the fourth inning. However, the Dirtbags refused to go down easily, staging a comeback in the fifth inning and scoring four runs to narrow the gap to just one run.

By the fifth inning, the game was a tense back-and-forth match. Long Beach would take a 7-5 lead at the end of the eighth, scoring three runs on four hits to stun CSUN and shift the momentum in the Dirtbags’ favor.

Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, it looked like CSUN would blow their lead as they gave up seven straight runs with no answer from its offense. The bases were loaded with Simons, Kamau Neighbors, and Roberto Gonzalez. With two outs, CSUN’s fate rested in the hands of first baseman Will Linberg.

With the pressure mounting, Linberg delivered as he connected the ball to the right side of the field, landing down the field, the crowd erupted. CSUN secured a miraculous walk-off victory to earn an 8-7 win in its first game of the doubleheader.

“This year has shown that we’re always in games,” Fitzer said. “We have confidence in everyone on the team, and even with two outs in the final inning, we’re even more dangerous.”

The second game of the doubleheader began with the Matadors continuing their offensive dominance. This time, CSUN didn’t allow the Dirtbags to gain any momentum. CSUN struck first blood as Griffin got an RBI to the right side of the field, bringing in Simons, and Andrew Gauna grounded out to bring in Jarren Sanderson, giving CSUN a 2-0 lead after the second inning.

However, in the third and fourth innings, Long Beach would tie the game 2-2 after an RBI from Dirtbag outfielder Kyle Ashworth and a solo home run from Cole Santander.

“I think after that first game, our confidence was really good after that walk-off win,” Fitzer said. “But we were able to stay focused and not take this team for granted.”

CSUN brought an offensive onslaught on the Dirtbags in the bottom of the fifth inning. Griffin came up clutch, hitting the ball to right field to pick up a two-RBI single, and Simons joined in with an RBI to extend CSUN’s lead to 6-2 to end the inning. The Matadors’ offense was firing on all cylinders, capitalizing on every opportunity to take control of the game.

The match capped off with Neighbors’ RBI single and Fitzer hitting CSUN’s third home run of the afternoon, propelling the Matadors to a commanding 10-3 lead. With each bat swing, CSUN’s offense was determined to beat Long Beach and leave them reeling.

“We knew these series games are so important,” Fitzer said. “It’s hard to win both games in a doubleheader, and we’re all pushing each other to be the best every day.”

The Matadors were unable to complete the series sweep against the Dirtbags, as Long Beach defeated CSUN 10-7 on Monday. The loss dropped CSUN to fifth in the standings, just behind UC San Diego in the Big West. The Matadors bounced back with a midweek win at Pepperdine, and will travel to Fullerton for a weekend series Friday through Sunday.

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