With issues at both the defense and offense for most of the season, the Matadors had finally found a bright spot in the long tumultuous year.
After winning two of three games against UC Santa Barbara, the Cal State Northridge baseball team (20-27) improved its Big West Conference record to 3-12, taking its first league series victory of the season.
CSUN head coach Matt Curtis stressed the fact that winning league series is difficult in and of itself, so a sweep is not always the top priority.
“Winning series in Division I baseball in the Big West Conference is hard enough. I don’t think you can go into any series and think sweep,” said Curtis after Sunday’s 5-1 loss to UCSB. “It’s just everybody has really good players.”
Losing the series finale to the Gauchos was quickly followed by a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of San Diego State in a non-conference matchup, losing in the ninth inning on two late runs by the Aztecs.
Now in the middle of a rut where they have dropped eight of the last 10 games, the Matadors are heading in the final stretch and will face UC Riverside in the second to last home series of the season.
Northridge will have a tough time against UCR (23-19, 6-10 Big West) as the Highlanders rank amongst the top three in team pitching and top four in team batting average.
Riverside is hitting .277 and its pitchers are averaging a little over three runs per game with a 3.31 earned run average. The Highlanders have notable wins over Pacific, Long Beach State, USC and Cal State Bakersfield, which swept the Matadors in early April.
CSUN on the other hand has struggled to consistently connect the pitching to its offense. When the offense is up and running, the pitching tends to collapse and vice-versa.
Both came together when winning the first two games against UC Santa Barbara, but fell through in the next two losses. The Matadors are now hitting .263 and is throwing an abysmal ERA of 5.45, both second to last in the conference.
CSUN catcher Marty Bowen leads the team in batting average, hitting .329. Center fielder Drew Muren is the anchor of the offense, as he is second on the team in batting (.302) and leads the team in doubles (14), home runs (3) and runs batted in with 29.
Senior infielder Trevor Hairgrove leads the Highlanders with a batting average of .353, which is tied for third in the Big West, and hits with 60. His hit total ranks in the top five in the conference.
The two-man tandem composed of pitchers Matt Andriese and Eddie Orozco lead UCR, as both have a 2.47 ERA. Andriese leads the team with 60 strikeouts in 76.2 innings.
“We know what type of team we are. We’re a good team, we know that and this is a good series to win so maybe we can use that for the last three weekends and finish the best we can,” said pitcher Josh Goossen-Brown after Sunday’s loss.
In Tuesday’s game against San Diego State at Tony Gwynn Stadium, Northridge scored from the get-go as it jumped on the Aztecs with three runs in the top of the first inning.
Even with a 5-3 lead late in the game, the Aztecs would come back with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Brandon Meredith hit a two-out RBI single to come within one and then a wild pitch from CSUN’s Ryan Juarez scored the tying run to make it 5-5.
The Aztecs won the game in the ninth innings when Northridge’s Goossen-Brown hit a batter with the bases loaded to make it 6-5.
NOTES: The Matadors lead the all-time series against the Highlanders 99-78-1. Both teams first played each other in 1959. UCR comes into the weekend series at Matador Field on four-game losing streak.