Men’s baseball wins only game of rainy series

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T he heavy rain that fell last weekend in Southern California, severely impacted the scheduled series between CSUN and UC Riverside, as two out of the three games were postponed because of the steady rainfall. The Northridge baseball team is no stranger to having games impacted by inclement weather, as four games have already been postponed due to rain.

A break in the weather Sunday afternoon was the perfect opportunity for the two teams to get at least one game played, and the Matadors took full advantage by recording a 7-4 victory on a wet Riverside field. Starting pitcher Craig Baker was the standout for the Matadors, giving up two runs in seven innings, and picking up his second win of the season.

Baker received plenty of help from his Northridge teammates in the third inning, when the Matador offense produced four runs off Highlander pitcher Taylor Bills. The big hit came from freshman infielder Jeff Tezak, who delivered a run scoring single with the bases loaded opening the flood gates. Another run came home on the play when Riverside outfielder Matt Cunningham committed a throwing error.

The Matadors would tack on more runs to their already commanding 4-0 lead, scoring twice more in the fourth inning and adding another run in the fifth. The 7-0 lead was more than enough for Baker, who was impressive all day, especially against Highlander leadoff hitters.

The right-hander retired the leadoff hitter eight times and finished with five strikeouts for the much-needed victory, improving CSUN’s overall record to 3-4-1. Northridge had lost their last three games until the sophomore hurler delivered the clutch performance in-between raindrops Sunday.

“Craig Baker’s performance was very integral in the team’s success Sunday, but it was very important to get off to the fast start and jump on the opponent,” Head coach Steve Rousey said after the game. “Pitching has been very good all year long, but the key has been the turnaround of the offense the last few games.”

The Northridge offense was led by outfielder John Voita, who contributed three hits and scored twice in the seven-run output. Also, catcher Alberto Quintana and infielder Erik Hagstrom were effective, by going 2-for-3 at the plate for the Matadors.

But nothing seems to come easily for the Matadors, as Riverside mounted a comeback in the bottom of the eighth-inning. Pinch-hitter Andrew Martinez sparked the Highlanders with a two-run single drawing the Highlanders to within three.

After two consecutive singles, Riverside brought the tying run to the plate with one out, before relief pitcher Kyle Jean shut them down by recording a strikeout and a fly-out to end the rally.

Closer Peter Eberhardt provided a strong ninth inning by retiring the side in order to give the Matadors’ their third victory of the year.

Game two of what would have been a double header was postponed late Sunday as the rain came down again and forced another cancellation in the series. Rousey said the heavy rain and the postponements the last two weeks poses a hindrance to the team.

“Obviously, the ideal scenario is to stay in rhythm, and the constant delays creates a challenge for the team,” Rousey said. “But, we have to operate with what we are dealt with.”

The Matadors’ hoped to play only their second home game this month against San Diego State Tuesday afternoon, but the team had to endure another postponement, because heavy rain left Matador field un-playable. The record rainfall has created a big problem with Northridge’s schedule, as the team will have to play several double-headers in upcoming weeks to make-up for lost games.

When the team has actually played games without weather interfering, Rousey is encouraged about the season to this point. “A lot of positives can be taken from the early season, especially because we have played only one home game,” Rousey said after the Riverside victory.

“We have split our road games, and that is a very good sign, because the level of competition has been really high,” he said.

Coach Rousey said he was also optimistic about the team’s outlook due to the competitiveness displayed on the field. “For the most part, we have been in every game except for the loss last week to the Aztecs,” Rousey said. “We are 3-3 on the road, and based on the tough road schedule, we have gotten off to a good start to the season.”