Baseball: Last-place Matadors face Gauchos in home Big West series
The sinking in the Big West Conference standings continues and time is an enemy at this point as the Cal State Northridge baseball team prepares for the final month of the season.
A good start to a promising season with a new coaching staff has been recently marred by a funk that has been impossible to shake.
The funk can best be characterized by inconsistent play on both sides of the ball as the Matadors have lost 17 of 22 games dating back to March 19, when CSUN took a three-game series against Sacramento State.
Northridge faced a tough Loyola Marymount team after playing the Hornets and have not won a single series since, dropping six straight that included sweeps by UC Irvine, Cal Poly and UC Davis.
The three sweeps have been significant because the Matadors are buried in the Big West standings as a result, sporting a 1-11 conference record.
Even with the awful record, a sense of optimism continues to revolve around the clubhouse.
“We haven’t lost hope yet. I want to win the next 12, it’s not impossible, but I know the seniors, we’re going to go ahead and try and find ways to keep the morale up. We’re doing a lot of off-field stuff together, extra hours here on the field,” said senior pitcher Paul Tremlin, who is 2-4 with a 4.95 earned run average.
The rut has dropped CSUN to a season-worst seven games under .500 at 18-25, having gone 4-14 in the month of April.
The Matadors are currently fifth in the conference in batting average with .267 and tied for third in hits with 367.
The fine line that has kept them from more victories is pitching. The staff has a cumulative ERA of 5.73, which is second to last in the conference ahead of Pacific.
Marty Bowen leads the team in batting average with .333 and is currently on a nine-game hitting streak.
Center fielder Drew Muren leads the team in hits (45), RBIs (26) and doubles (14). His doubles total is tied for second in the conference.
Northridge will face a UC Santa Barbara team that is third to last in the Big West at 5-7 with a 19-19 overall record. The Gauchos have notable wins over Cal Poly and Long Beach State, the third and fourth-ranked teams in the conference, respectively.
UCSB is last in the conference in team batting average, hitting .260, but has been able to win important conference games due to solid pitching. The staff is ranked sixth with a 3.86 ERA.
Outfielder Mark Haddow leads the team in home runs with five and RBIs with 35, which is second in the Big West.
The Matadors and Gauchos are 1-1 in head-to-head matchups this season, both non-conference games.
“First goal is to get better and as a team, we’re looking to take the series from UC Santa Barbara, they’re a good team. We just need to get better, our practices have not been very good and that has just carried to our games, so we just need to get better all around. Our offense needs to score more runs and pitching needs to keep its runs down to a minimal,” Muren said.
With critical games still pending, the coaches are all but ready to give up and call it a year.
“At this point, we’re still trying to do our work. There are some young guys who are in their first full season of Division I baseball, so there’s still a development period for those guys coming back next year,” assistant coach Shaun Larkin said. “Not only finish this year strong and have some pride and compete, but also get these guys their work that are going to make them better players next year.”