Two long home runs by the catchers and a dominant pitching performance has Cal State Northridge baseball in an unfamiliar place this season: a conference series victory.
The Matadors (20-25, 3-11 Big West) took the first two games of a three-game Big West series against UC Santa Barbara at Matador Field, snapping a six-series losing streak dating back to March 19.
“We feel good right now. We had a great week of preparation and like I said before, we’ve been doing things together off the field as a team. I feel like we are finally starting to click and it feels good right now,” CSUN starter Paul Tremlin said.
The team provided the muscle as it belted a pair of two-run bombs, Saturday to add to its Big West-leading home run total taking a 4-2 decision to claim the series.
The Gauchos (19-21, 5-9 Big West) jumped on the Matadors early as center fielder Derek Eligio lead off with a bunt single and quickly reached third base after Tremlin erred on the throw to first base.
The next batter, second baseman Sean Williams, singled on the first pitch to score Eligio and put the game at 1-0. Tremlin then walked UCSB’s offensive leader Mark Haddow to put runners at first and second with no outs.
The Matadors quickly got out of trouble at the defense, turned a double play and got a fly out to end the inning.
“I think we were fortunate we did a good job to minimize that inning to come and throw a bunt away and put a guy at third base. To follow that up with a single and walk to put runners on base, all of a sudden it looks like they’re going to have a big inning, but you keep that thing to one. It’s really important,” head coach Matt Curtis said.
Gaucho starter Nick Capito had CSUN’s number for the first three innings, holding the Matadors to one hit on a successful bunt by outfielder Ridge Carpenter.
Northridge finally was able to break through the finesse lefthander in the fourth inning when regular catcher Steven Keller, who was the designated hitter for the day, drew a walk on a 3-1 count.
Catcher Marty Bowen locked in on the second pitch he saw and launched it over the left field wall to open the scoring for the Matadors, taking the lead at 2-1. The home run marked the first for Bowen on the season.
“I’m not doing anything different. It’s the same old same old and I just got a pitch up and it went,” Bowen said.
Tremlin, who was pitching a two-hitter despite the run in the first inning, needed run support and all he did was to simply ask his offense.
“After I made the last out before Marty (Bowen) hit the home run, I came in and asked the hitters to get me some runs, because I knew I was going to be on my game today. After Marty hit that home run, I felt more confident,” Tremlin said.
The pitchers were involved in a pitching duel, giving up just three hits combined for the next two innings. Pitcher Ryan Juarez came in to replace Tremlin in the seventh and immediately ran into trouble.
After giving up a walk, a single and a fielder’s choice, Juarez loaded the bases. Gaucho Eligio then singled to score a run and tie the game at 2-2. Juarez was able to get a grounder to end the inning on a double play.
Northridge would answer with a bang in the eighth inning as Keller crushed a monster over the left field wall that came close to CSUN’s softball field. The home run, Keller’s second of the season, proved to be the game-winner as it made the game 4-2.
“I know the pitcher’s game plan for the most part. He (Capito) really was working the changeup a lot today and I was just waiting for it and he left one high enough for me to get a good swing on it,” Keller said.
Series Notes: CSUN won the series opener 4-0. Starter Vincent Roberts earned his first victory of the season.