Conference season looms

David Denenberg

Friday will be a big day for the CSUN baseball team (9-13) as it opens Big West Conference play against the Gauchos (13-5) at Matador Diamond. The match will be the first of three weekend games against UC Santa Barbara.

The Matadors will need to step up their game as they face a Santa Barbara team that Baseball America ranks No. 20 in the country.

CSUN will be looking to capitalize on its offensive firepower. Coming into this weekend, Matador outfielder Richard Cates leads the team with a .389 batting average as he’s managed to get 35 hits and score 20 runs.

It’s also no secret what sophomore third baseman Ryan Pineda brings to the table. He is batting .354 with a team-leading 22 RBIs.

The big question will be how the Northridge pitching staff will fare against the Gauchos. So far this season, the pitching for the Matadors has been ugly as all players who have pitched 20-plus innings have 5.00-plus ERAs. The exception has been junior Billy Ott (1-1), who has pitched 25 innings and has an ERA of 4.68.

Head Coach Steve Rousey said Ott will start on Friday while Ryan Juarez (3-2) will take the mound Saturday.

The Gauchos have impressive players for the Matadors to deal with.’ UCSB infielder Ryan Cavan has a Big West-leading batting average of .436 to go with 24 hits and 19 runs.

Another Gaucho to keep an eye on is junior pitcher Joe Gardner ,who is 3-0 this season with a 1.38 ERA. The average is the lowest in the Big West and 21st lowest in the entire nation.

Fundamentals will play a big role as the Matadors have made critical fielding errors throughout the year. CSUN has taken the lead in a number of games only to see it fade away on self-defeating mistakes.

Friday’s game starts at 3 p.m. The Saturday and Sunday games begin at 1 p.m. Students with a valid CSUN ID will be granted free admission.’ For live in-game updates, visit ‘The Matador Score’ at