Northridge hosted defending national champion Cal State Fullerton this past weekend, hoping to snap its three game conference losing streak.
However, as the series progressed, the Titans showed why they were not only the superior team, but contenders for a second straight national championship.
Fullerton was never challenged during the series, outscoring CSUN 43-2 in a three game sweep at Matador Field. The Titans thoroughly dominated all facets of the game, exemplified by Saturday afternoons 24-0 blowout victory, one of CSUN’s worst defeats in school history.
The Matador offense was stifled to such an extent that the team could not advance a runner to third base in the process of being shutout for the first time this season.
The troubles for Northridge started before Saturday’s blowout loss, as the Matadors’ lost game one of the series 11-1, their fourth consecutive conference defeat.
A partisan Fullerton crowd supported their second ranked team as they came in droves, outnumbering CSUN fans by large amounts. Titan ace Ricky Romero pitch a gem, allowing just one run in seven innings, and recording his sixth victory of the season.
“Fullerton played very well and we did not,” CSUN head coach Steve Rousey said. “I thought we took good at-bats against Romero, but we made foolish base-running mistakes that took us out of potential big innings.”
Matador hurler Joe Rocchio could not match his counterpart, allowing seven runs in a short, four inning performance. The defense behind Rocchio did not help his cause, as Northridge committed four errors and allowed the Titans potent lineup to have extra at-bats.
Rocchio said giving teams of Fullerton’s caliber extra chances to score is not a recipe for success.
“They play small ball really well, and take advantage of your mistakes,” Rocchio said. “Falling behind all day and allowing big innings are important to stay away from, but unfortunately we couldn’t execute the game plan.”
Fullerton took advantage of a Michael Paulk error in the first inning to load the bases with two outs. Titan third baseman Ronnie Prettyman added to the lead as he laid down a perfect bunt single to first base, scoring a run and giving the Titans a lead they would not relinquish.
CSUN’s only chance came in the bottom of the fourth inning, as the bases were loaded with one out, while trailing 7-1. But, Raymond Ravago grounded into a double play to end the threat and finish any chance to cut the deficit.
Game two starter Craig Baker did not fair much better than Rocchio in his outing Saturday, allowing nine runs, six of which were earned, in just 2 1/3 innings.
The Titan offense had no trouble scoring, as Fullerton touched the plate in every inning. Fullerton took advantage of windy conditions, as they pounded out five home runs and seven doubles en route to the 24-0 blowout victory.
The big inning CSUN hoped to avoid eventually did occur in the third inning, as Fullerton sent 12 batters to the plate and scored nine runs. The knock out punch came from Bobby Andrews, who nailed a three run homer to give them an 11-0 lead.
In the meantime, Fullerton starting pitcher Wes Roemer recorded his second win of the season by baffling the Matador hitters. He gave up just four hits and two walks in seven innings.
Northridge tried to salvage the finale of the home-stand Sunday afternoon, but their attempts to do so were unsuccessful. A five run seventh inning proved too much for the Matadors to overcome, as Fullerton broke open a tight 3-1 lead and turned it into an insurmountable 8-1 advantage.
What plagued the Matadors in game one of the series haunted the team once again in the decisive seventh inning, as three Northridge errors helped fuel the big inning for Fullerton.
Ravago’s costly throwing error allowed one run to score and gave Fullerton extra outs to take advantage of. After the Titans loaded the bases, Sergio Pedroza sent what should have been a routine fly-ball to outfielder Alberto Quintana, but the ball ended up falling on a misplay.
The sweep dropped CSUN’s record to 12-17-1, and 0-6 in Big West Conference play. CSUN’s sixth straight loss could not have come at a worse time, with a tough Big West schedule remaining and the team struggling to find its rhythm.
If one bright spot can be taken from the remaining schedule, it is that Northridge will host 13 of its last 24 games at Matador Field. But the one road trip the team must still make will be against another tough opponent, as CSUN travels to Long Beach State next weekend for a three game set.