The Cal State Northridge baseball team took only one game in the three-game series against the UC Riverside Highlanders in an unusually non-conference game against a Big West opponent Feb. 24-26 at Matador Field.
The series served as a preview for CSUN in their first game against a Big West opponent. “This was an opportunity to see what the Big West is all about,” said head coach Steve Rousey.
Junior Craig Baker opened the series for the Matadors, taking on James Simmons. Game one proved to be a pitcher’s duel, with only one run being scored.
Baker had a dominating performance. He did not allow a single hit until the sixth inning when center fielder Brett Bigler hit a single to left.
The only run came in the bottom of the eighth inning. Junior first baseman Jorge Andrade Jr. led the inning off with a single to left and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Kris Kasarjian. Senior pinch hitter Paul Wilson singled to left to score Andrade.
The Highlanders made a last inning attempt to tie the game. Shortstop Jaime Pedroza singled and advanced to second on an error. Bigler laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Pedroza to third.
Junior Bobby Paschal came in to relieve Baker and walked D.J. Hollingsworth. Paschal, however, picked Hollingsworth off at first. The Highlanders loaded the bases with back to back walks by catcher Jeff Dunbar and first baseman Nick Salotti. Senior Jimmy Brettl came in to try and close the game out with two outs and the bases loaded. Right fielder Aaron Grant sent a liner straight to the shortstop to end the Highlander charge.
Baker recorded his third win of the season to improve his record to 3-1. He finished the game with nine strikeouts.
This was Simmons’ first loss of the season. He allowed five hits and struck out three.
In game two, freshman Edwin Quirarte took on Haley Winter.
The Highlanders scored first in the second inning. Designated hitter Aaron Wible reached first with an infield single. Wible advanced to third when Quirarte attempted to pick him off at first and overthrew the ball. Salotti reached first safely after a fielding error which also scored Wible. A double to left by catcher Jeff Abney brought Salotti home.
The Matadors responded in their half of the inning. Back-to-back singles by Kasarjian and Andrade put runners on. The Matadors attempted a double steal and Kasarjian scored on the play on a pass ball with Andrade moving over to third. Freshman shortstop Scott Lyons hit a two-run homerun to put the Matadors up 3-2.
The Highlanders quickly rebounded in the third when Salotti hit a two-run homerun to put them ahead 4-3.
The Matadors tied the game in the fourth inning. Junior third baseman Todd Shelton singled to right to score Andrade from second after he reached base on a double.
The Highlanders pulled away in the fifth inning. Hollingsworth hit a one out single and reached third on an error on another attempted pick-off at first. Third baseman Brian Steinmeyer singled to bring in the first run of the inning. Grant followed with a double left to score Steinmeyer.
Kasarjian left the game with an injury after attempting a diving catch on the double that just missed his reach. Senior Paul Wilson replaced him at left.
Grant advanced to third on a deep fly ball to center and scored on a balk to put Riverside up 7-4.
The Highlanders scored two runs in the sixth and two runs in the seventh to put them up 11-4.
Andrade scored for the Matadors in the eighth off a sacrifice fly by Lyons to cut the lead to 11-5.
The Highlanders, however, scored two more runs in the ninth when Pedroza hit a two-run homerun to left to extend the lead to 13-5.
The Matadors came up short in a late inning comeback attempt. They scored three runs in the inning for a final score of 13-8.
Quirarte recorded three strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. The Matadors used six different pitchers in game two. The Matadors recorded 12 hits, but gave up 13.
Andrade finished 4 for 4 on the day and had gone 2 for 4 in game 1.
In game three, sophomore Chuckie Fick took on Taylor Bills. The Highlanders jumped ahead in the first inning when Steinmeyer hit a sacrifice fly to score Pedroza.
Sophomore designated hitter James Scott singled to score junior center fielder Johnny Coit from third, tying the game in the first.
All was quiet until the fourth, when Wible tripled to put himself in scoring position with one out for the Highlanders. On the next play, Wible scored off a single by Barratt to give them a 2-1 lead.
In the fifth inning, the Highlanders scored two more runs. Hollingsworth led off with a one out single and advanced to second on a pass ball. Pedroza followed with a hit to third that took a bad hop to give him an infield single and advanced Hollingsworth to third. Steinmeyer followed with a single to score Hollingsworth and put runners on first and second. Grant grounded to first, which forced the out at second, but led to an overthrow at first on the attempted double play. The error scored Pedroza to give the Highlanders a 4-1 lead.
The Highlanders scored two more runs in the seventh off a two-run homerun by Steinmeyer.
In the bottom of the seventh, junior second baseman Jonathon Sakurai got on board after being hit by pitcher Pat Cassa. Sakurai reached third on an attempted pick-off that ended up in right field. Sakurai scored on a groundball by Coit to cut the lead to 6-2.
The Matadors were unable to produce any more offense after the seventh. The Highlanders scored once more in the ninth inning to give the Highlanders a 7-2 victory.
Fick and Brettl combined for five strikeouts in the game. Andrade finished the game without a hit in the final game of the series.
“It’s baseball,” Andrade said. “Yesterday was 4 for 4, today was 0 for 4. That’s the way baseball is.”
The Matadors have an idea of what they need to work on before conference play begins, said Rousey.
The Matadors will hit the road for a weekend series against Oklahoma State beginning March 3.
Victor Flores can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org