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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UC San Diego outlasts CSUN baseball in a 10-inning thriller

Ava Rosate
File photo. Infielder Kamau Neighbors, 19, up to bat against Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, April 26, 2024, at the Matador Field in Northridge, Calif.

In a high-scoring contest on Friday afternoon, UC San Diego emerged victorious over the Matadors 11-5 after a dramatic extra-innings battle. The game was evenly poised until the 10th inning, when UC San Diego’s offense exploded, scoring six runs to seal their victory.

After getting swept in their three-game season series against Hawaii on the road, the Matadors were looking to snap their losing streak and get back in the win column. However, the Tritons (28-21, 15-12 Big West) had their own plans. UC San Diego jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead, leaving CSUN (29-19, 15-9 Big West) in the dirt as Triton catcher Emiliano Gonzalez launched a three-run homer in the first inning.

“We have to play better,” right fielder Andrew Sojka said. “We can’t give up runs like that in one inning and need to step up.”

CSUN responded in the bottom of the first, scoring a run when Jakob Simons grounded out to short, allowing Kamau Neighbors to score from third. Pitcher Thomas Bainton, who had a stellar performance, did an excellent job in the second and third frames, delivering back-to-back shutout innings and keeping the Tritons’ offense at bay. The strong pitching from Bainton kept CSUN from falling behind further in the bottom of the third inning, leading to Sojka’s clutch triple, which propelled CSUN to a 4-3 lead.

However, UC San Diego answered right back in the fourth inning, reclaiming the lead with timely hits and aggressive baserunning. The game remained tight through the seventh inning, with both teams stranding runners, the defense staying strong and the score remaining 5-5 heading into the tenth.

The game remained tied despite Kenji Pallares’ extraordinary pitching, which proved a standout performance for the Matadors. Pallares shut down UC San Diego’s offense, pitching four innings and giving up only one run. The CSUN pitcher made a solid effort to keep the game knotted at five, setting up a thrilling finish.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, CSUN’s offense had a golden opportunity to close the game with a win. Sojka reached on an error with runners in scoring position. However, a powerful throw home from second got Neighbors out as he tried to score and preserved the tie, taking the game into extra innings.

“We did a good job staying in the game despite them getting more hits,” Sojka said. “But we couldn’t close it out when it came down to the clutch. That’s what we need to work on.”

The Matadors’ defense fell apart in the tenth inning. The Tritons scored six runs to win the game. The offense came alive for UC San Diego with five hits, leading to an offensive onslaught on the Matadors.

Despite the tough loss, the Matadors had standout performances from Sojka, Bainton and Shunsuke Sakaino, who played with heart and showcased their competitive spirit. CSUN bounced back from the loss on Friday with a win on Saturday afternoon, 6-4, but came up short Sunday, losing 9-2. UC San Diego won the season series 2-1 and is now 1.5 games behind CSUN for fourth place in the Big West Conference.

“We still have a few games left before we start the playoffs, just enough time to get together and be disciplined for the playoffs,” Sojka said.

CSUN will stay home for a three-game series against the no.1 team in the conference, UC Santa Barbara (35-12, 20-4 Big West), on Friday, May 17 at 3 p.m. Being five games behind the Gauchos with six games left, the Matadors have a slim chance to catch them.

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