Baseball team moves back above .500 over the break

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The CSUN baseball team, which had won six of their last nine non-conference games overall, dropped two out of three games at New Mexico State last week. Then, in a four-game home stretch this past week, CSUN swept Stony Brook and then split a pair of games with Cal Poly at Matador Field.

The Matadors (12-11-1) won both games against Stony Brook 9-5 and 4-3. Then, after a day off, they won the first game against Cal Poly 8-5,before dropping the latter 8-4.

The first game CSUN played against Stony Brook (5-11) was suspended Tuesday due to heavy, continuous rain. The game resumed late Wednesday morning as part of a doubleheader against the Sea Wolves. CSUN had jumped out to an early 4-1 lead before the suspension in the top of the third inning.

Junior third baseman Erik Hagstrom went 3-for-5 with a double, two singles, a run scored, and three runs batted in. Sophomore shortstop Raymond Ravago went 2-for-4 with two RBI and junior designated hitter Luke Riordan went 2-for-5 with one run and two RBI for the Matadors. Senior John Voita added to the win over Stony Brook by slugging a solo home run, his fifth of the season, in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Kyle Jean, who got credit for the win and improved to 2-0 for the Matadors, relieved original starter Craig Baker by pitching three and two-thirds innings and giving up three hits on one unearned run, while walking three batters and striking out two.

Stony Brook received contributions from their leading hitters Isidro Fortuna and Andrew Larsen. Fortuna had two hits in three at-bats, along with two walks and two RBI, and Larsen went 2-for-4 with a run scored, one walk, and two RBI in the loss for the Sea Wolves. Matt Lyons, who relieved original starter Tom Koehler, was credited with the loss and fell to 0-1.

Senior first baseman Michael Paulk, who had hit in a school-record 34 consecutive games, ended the first affair against Stony Brook by going 0-for-3 with a walk while also being hit by a pitch. It was the first time Paulk had gone hitless since he went 0-for-4 against UC Irvine at home on April 30, of last season.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Stony Brook and CSUN battled with their pitching throughout the game. Senior pitcher Ivan Lopez had a great outing for the Matadors, giving up two runs on six hits, with no walks and eight strikeouts in six innings.

The game was tied at three going into the bottom of the ninth. Ravago came up with one out and nobody on for the Matadors and slammed a home run over the left-center field fence to give CSUN the win.

“I was just trying to get on base, get the next guy up to the plate, execute and score some runs,” Ravago said after slugging his second home run of the season. “I was just trying to find something good to hit.”

CSUN head coach Steve Rousey stated that he was proud of the way his team performed with the challenges they faced.

“It was two good wins for us,” Rousey said. “What I liked most about these two games was that it was filled with challenges: rain, not being able to continue with (Craig) Baker, the suspension, working on the field with the coaches and players at sunrise. It’s been a long day physically and mentally.”

CSUN then played two non-conference games against Cal Poly on Friday and Saturday. The Mustangs came into Matador Field with a 15-11 record. In the first affair for CSUN, Paulk went 1-for-3 with a double, a hit-by-pitch, an intentional walk and scored three runs.

Hagstrom also had another good game for CSUN with two hits, two runs scored and one RBI. Hagstrom has 10 hits in his last 20 at-bats (.500 average) along with seven RBI and five runs scored.

“I’ve just been in the zone,” Hagstrom said. “It feels like another world out there. The hits are just coming in pairs. I’m seeing the ball pretty well.”

CSUN had great support from their pitching staff. Sophomore Joe Rocchio was on fire, pitching six and two-thirds innings and giving up one run on nine hits while walking two batters and striking out five.

Rocchio was credited with the win, improving to 2-3 on the season. Senior Peter Eberhardt came in to pitch the top of the eighth inning for CSUN and got one out to end the inning. When the ninth inning came around, Eberhardt allowed the first three hitters to get on base via an error, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Eberhardt overcame odds and struck out the next three batters to seal the victory for the Matadors.

Cal Poly trailed 8-1 heading into the top of the eighth before delivering quite a rally. It started when centerfielder Jimmy Gardiner reached on a fielder’s choice and then, pinch-hitter J.J. Owen came up and slammed the first pitch he saw off a tree in right field for a two-run homer.

Next, shortstop Drew Gillmore reached base with a single and then right-fielder Matt Cooper hit a 2-2 pitch over the fence to pull within three. That was all they could muster though, finally falling to CSUN 8-5. Garrett Olson, the pitching ace for the Mustangs, took the loss, dropping his record to 5-2.

In the second game against Cal Poly, the Mustangs wasted no time in getting runs on the board jumping out to a 6-0 lead after three innings. This included a huge contribution from Owen.

Owen went 3-for-4 with his second home run in as many games, three RBI and two runs scored. Catcher Kyle Blumenthal also added to the early romp by going 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBI.

Starting pitcher Gary Daley was credited with the win for Cal Poly, improving to a perfect 4-0 on the season, while Baker for CSUN received the loss and dropped to 4-2.

Riordan had the best performance for CSUN going 2-for-4, including a bases-loaded, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Paulk also contributed with an RBI single in the seventh. Senior catcher Alberto Quintana had the other big hit, an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth.

Rousey, despite the recent loss to Cal Poly, said when his team executes and plays well, like they did in the last few games, it makes him very proud.

“We’ve been playing good baseball lately,” Rousey said. “We’ve had a good opportunity to see what our opponent is going to be like for next week.”

The Matadors begin Big West Conference play this week with a three-game series at Cal Poly. They thencome home for three games against Cal State Fullerton, before going back out on the road to play Long Beach State.