Softball: CSUN to face No. 2 Gauchos

Jay Guillory

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SWING AND MISS: The CSUN softball team is searching for its first Big West series win of the season. Photo Credit: Herber Lovato / Assistant Photo Editor

The Cal State Northridge softball team (16-25, 3-6 Big West) will travels to Santa Barbara to face the Gauchos (22-19, 6-3 Big West) in a Big West Conference matchup.

The Matadors and UCSB will play a doubleheader Friday, followed by a single game on Saturday. The all-time series record vs. UCSB gives CSUN the edge with a 47-22-1 lead.

The last time the Gauchos beat CSUN was April 2009, where they won a 2-1 game.

Northridge is coming off a 5-1 loss to Pacific on Sunday in the finale of a three-game Big West Conference series at Matador Diamond.

CSUN took one in the series against the Tigers and sophomore Mikayla Thielges hammered her league-leading 11th home run of the season, hitting a ball to left field in the bottom of the sixth for the Matadors’ only run.

Thielges leads the team and ranks among the top players in the conference with 34 runs batted in this season. But that was all the Matadors had going for them going against the Tigers’ Nikki Armagost.

The Matadors did not have an answer for the Tigers when they scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the first and added one in the top of the third off CSUN starter Mia Pagano. The Tigers would then add a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh to derail the Matadors’ hope of any comeback.

Pagano took the loss for the Matadors, tossing 6.1 innings with only two strikeouts while Armagost went the distance for Pacific, striking out seven and walking only one Matador batter. She also added three RBIs at the plate in helping her team get the win.

With the loss, CSUN moves into a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference heading into the match against UCSB, which currently holds the second spot with three other league opponents tied with a 6-3 record.

“If we play our game, execute on defense and offense and rely on each other, it will only benefit us,” CSUN’s Jessica Fridwall said.

The Matadors have not played well in conference this season only winning one out of three games in each series versus Big West opponents. The Matadors are second to last in batting average and hits in the conference.

“They (CSUN) understand they have to focus on the little things, putting the time in practice working hard will pay off in the end,” coach Tairia Flowers said.

The Gauchos lost to the Matadors in last season’s series 3-0, but this marks UCSB’s best start in conference play since 2008 when they went 7-2 in their first three series.

UCSB has won consecutive conference series for the first time since the 2009 season. The Gauchos had been winners of 10 of its last 13 games that included a nine-game win streak before losing on Sunday, 11-8, to UC Riverside.

UCSB junior Krista Cobb pitched her second career no-hitter in Saturday’s 3-0 win over UC Riverside. She pitched a complete game and allowed just two walks while striking out one.

Cobb’s first no-hitter was in her first collegiate start against Wagner on Feb. 8, 2009 in which she tossed the first perfect game in UCSB history.

The Gauchos have been knocking balls out of the park frequently as of late.

UCSB has a total of 16 home runs this season with eight coming in the last six games. Three of those eight were sent out of the park by Keilani Jennings, who already has six home runs this season, adding to her career total 15, which ranks her ninth all-time in the UCSB record book.

“They have a good mix of players, but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen this year,” Flowers said.