Baseball: Northridge to face tough pitching against LMU

Ignacio Marquez

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CHARGE: CSUN, which is hitting a conference third-best .287 team batting average, have its final tune up before conference play begins. Photo Credit: Simon Gambaryan / Contributing Photographer.

While averaging almost seven runs per game over the last eight contests, the Matadors are facing one of the tougher pitching staffs in the last weekend before beginning Big West Conference play.

The Cal State Northridge baseball team (13-8, 0-0 Big West) will take on the Loyola Marymount University Lions in a three-game series starting Friday at Matador Field with Saturday’s game being away.

CSUN coach Matt Curtis mentioned early in the season that his team’s strength was pitching and said he is aware of the potential of having pitching duels against the Lions.

“They (LMU) got talented arms and they got a good pitching coach so we know they’re going to come in and throw strikes,” Curtis said. “We’re going to have to pitch well and we’re going to have to play good defense. We’re going to have to expect these lower scoring games and that means all the little things are magnified.”

The talented arms Curtis is referring to is LMU’s staff. The Lions have an earned run average of 3.08 despite an average record of 13-9. The Lions’ starters are a combined 12-8 in 22 games.

Aaron Griffin, who is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in seven games, leads the team.

The Matadors are on a bit of a run after winning five of their last seven games and that includes a series win against Sacramento State and a victory over UNLV, which was 16-3 at that point.

Even with a hot offense after scoring at least 10 runs in three of the last four games, Northridge is not taking the Lions lightly. Senior pitcher Ryan Juarez said LMU is one of those teams that can come back just as easily as they go down.

“Well, LMU is just a classic tough opponent for us. I mean we’ve seen really good success against them and we’ve seen some bad failures against them,” Juarez said. “I remember Paul (Tremlin) had a no-hitter through seven last year and that game got out of hand pretty quick. We already know it’s going to be a bloodbath going in there, so we’re all prepared.”

Sophomore Matt Lowenstein leads LMU in batting, averaging .357 with 30 hits and 17 runs. Lowenstein was the 2010 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year. Catcher Matt Koch is next, hitting .333 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.

So far this season, the Lions are 5-5 against Big West opponents and that includes three victories against UC Riverside and one against No. 14-ranked UC Irvine.

Northridge coaches have said complacency has been one of the major problems the team has faced, but players seem ready to address the problem with any team they face from here on out.

“We got to play like it’s a top notch team because we’re all Division I players here, but at the same time you can’t take an opponent lightly,” said first baseman Chris Allen, who is hitting .189 with two home runs and nine RBIs. “I think we’re going to play our A game and just play consistent baseball.”

With Big West play around the corner, the Matadors know it is time to start solidifying aspects of the team such as the rotation and several different roles within the team.

“I think the lineup is stabilizing a little bit so we have an idea there and hopefully we get everybody settling into some roles as we begin conference season so everybody is comfortable into what they’re doing,” Curtis said.

With conference play on the horizon, Curtis said he wants to take it game by game and not look too far ahead and past this weekend.

“I would like to go in there with some momentum, you know, win some ballgames and I think the guys feel pretty good,” Curtis said. “We know we could be doing better, but we feel good with where we’re at so just continue to build on that and have momentum going.”