CSUN’s (15-15, 3-2 Big West) baseball team won back-to-back games over UC Riverside (14-12, 3-2 Big West) in their weekend three-game series to return to a .500 record for the first time since the beginning of March.
After taking Friday’s game 5-3, led by sophomore pitcher Jerry Keel and his career-high eight strikeout performance, the Matadors defeated the Highlanders 3-1 Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s game saw another dominant Northridge pitching performance as freshman pitcher Calvin Copping held the Highlanders to a single run in his 6.2 innings pitched.
According to Copping, he focused on hitting his spots and throwing down strikes similar to his performance at Long Beach.
After giving up two singles, putting runners on first and third, head coach Matt Curtis brought in a relief pitcher to face Riverside. Freshman pitcher Anthony Cortez came in and hit the first batter he faced, loading the bases.
“The slider hung out over the plate a little bit, but he’s coming in to throw his breaking ball. He just didn’t get it quite out in front,” Curtis said.
Curtis’ strategy to specialize his pitchers to the batters they face proved highly successful.
Freshman pitcher Oscar Sandoval inherited the bases loaded situation, but was able to strikeout the next hitter to record the third out in the seventh.
Junior pitcher Harley Holt finished the game with a five out save, his second save of the season, allowing one hit in his 22 pitches.
Freshman designated hitter Michael Najera had his first career hit and RBI in the third inning giving Northridge a short lived 1-0 lead.
UC Riverside came back in the fourth to tie the game 1-1 after loading the bases with one out and getting an RBI single to second base.
CSUN failed to break the game open in the middle innings, finally getting another run in the seventh inning.
“From the beginning it looked like their starter had pretty good stuff. He had a good fastball, he was bringing a backdoor curveball on the right handed hitters and he also had a changeup that he was able to use when we got in hitting counts,” Curtis said.
A sacrifice bunt by redshirt sophomore left fielder Kyle Ferramola moved redshirt junior first baseman Joshua Goossen-Brown into scoring position after leading off the seventh with a single. A single up the middle by sophomore catcher Alexis Mercado would give CSUN the winning run.
Another sacrifice bunt and a fielding error in the eighth inning gave the Matadors an insurance run, increasing their lead 3-1.
The Matadors capitalized on Riverside’s baserunning mistakes in the ninth, putting down any kind of rally. After Highlander sophomore second baseman Nick Vilter doubled down the引越し left line, Holt walked sophomore center fielder Joe Chavez.
Three outs occurred in a blink and you miss it ninth inning. Vilter was picked off at second on a throw from Mercado, after a failed bunt attempt. Holt then struck out the hitter and Chavez was caught in a rundown while stealing second for a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play to end the game.
“That was one of the weirdest ways we’ve ever ended a game. They had two lead off guys and we had nobody out. We run a bump play and we kind of got lucky,” said senior shortstop Kyle Attl. “(Mercado) came off flying and trusted I would get there and I did. So it was pretty awesome to end the game that way.”