Matadors confident ahead of conference home opener

Smith prepares to hit the ball
Senior shortstop Fred Smith gounds out to third base in the third inning against UCLA on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Smith went on to hit a home run during the sixth inning.

CSUN baseball opens conference play Friday at home against the U.C. Santa Barbara Gauchos.

The Matadors look to turn their recent struggles around, having lost nine of their last 11 games, making their record 14-16.

“You got to take a deep breath and right back to work,” said head coach Greg Moore. “There is not anytime in baseball to dwell on any of the negatives, you have to focus on the solution going forward.”

Moore said they are a lot closer than it might appear and feels they only need one or two guys to play a little better to achieve success.

The team is currently led by junior Tei Vanderford. He has a 2.75 ERA and 33 strikeouts for the season. This is Vanderford’s first year as a Matador after a unique journey beginning at Glendale Comminity College (GCC), transferring to the University of Tennessee, then going back to GCC before putting on a Matadors uniform.

“[Coming to CSUN] has been by far the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Vanderford said. “Me coming to Northridge was exactly what I needed at the time and I think everything is starting to fall into place a little better for me.”

Vanderford said the number one factor for choosing CSUN was Moore. He believes Moore is currently the best pitching coach in college baseball. He attributes the success of the current pitching staff to him and the veteran catchers led by junior Albee Weiss.

Weiss has become one of the leaders of the team both offensively and defensively. He leads the team with 25 RBIs and is second on the team with five home runs. He runs gameplans against the games hitters, which Vanderford says takes a lot of pressure off the pitching staff.

“[Weiss] is very important,” Moore said. “He just has to keep getting better, he has figured out how to narrow down the break down and has cut down on his strikeouts.”

Now with conference play opening up, Weiss’ experience dealing with the Big West could make a difference, but he sees these upcoming games the same as any others.

“There might be a little more wait behind these games, but at the end of the day if we win pitches and we win thirds of games it doesn’t matter who you are playing,” Weiss said. “We talk about the opponent being nameless and faceless, you take the information as who it is you identify who day are and you kind of say so what who cares and go out there and play the game.”

Vanderford is also excited for conference play to start and is eager to see how far they could go this season.

“Any one in our team would be dissatisfied if we didn’t win the conference this year and that’s our main goal is to win conference,” Vanderford said. “We have high expectations and we 100 percent believe we could do it… it is going to be very fun.”

The Matadors begin their weekend series versus U.C. Santa Barbara April 7 at 3 p.m.