Baseball team continues winless streak in Big West

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The CSUN baseball team had its hopes of getting at least their first Big West Conference win this past weekend, but the UC Riverside team had hopes of its own, as UCR swept the struggling Matadors in a three-game series at Matador Field.

With the three losses, the Matadors saw their record fall to 13-23-1, including 0-12 in conference play.

Last Tuesday’s 10-inning, 13-12 win against the University of San Diego ended the Matadors’ 10-game losing streak. The visiting Riverside Highlanders (18-19, 4-5) then came into Northridge, started off with a bang, and ended the same way.

In the first game, Riverside did not waste any time and went right after senior starting pitcher Peter Eberhardt, who was making only his second start of the season. Eberhardt didn’t last long as he was relieved after giving up five earned runs on five hits while walking three in 1 1/3 innings.

After scoring two runs in the first inning, the Highlanders started another scoring bash. Catcher Jeff Abney and center fielder Brett Bigler singled and second baseman Anthony Claggett ripped a two-run double off CSUN reliever Kyle Jean. Both runs were charged to Eberhardt, and he was credited with the loss, dropping his record to 3-3.

Riverside then, after scoring two more runs in the sixth, put up a five spot in the eighth with a pair of home runs from left fielder Matt Cunningham and shortstop Brian Steinmeyer to go on top 12-1 and would eventually win by the same score.

Haley Winter pitched a complete game two-hitter en route to improving his record to 5-5. Winter gave up only one earned run on two hits while walking two and striking out three.

The only run that CSUN was able to squeeze out of Winter was on an RBI groundout by junior third baseman Erik Hagstrom to bring in junior designated hitter Luke Riordan. Hagstrom finished the game going 0-3 with the RBI while the only two hits CSUN was able to get were from junior first baseman Michael Paulk and junior left fielder Paul Wilson.

Saturday’s matchup featured a real pitchers duel, involving Taylor Bills for Riverside and junior Jimmy Brettl on the mound for the Matadors. Both pitchers went the distance with Brettl giving up two runs on seven hits and Bills giving up one run on five hits in the 2-1 Riverside victory.

The Highlanders took the lead in the fourth inning thanks to a sacrifice fly from Steinmeyer to bring home designated hitter Andrew Martinez. Martinez reached third after he stole second base and a fielding error by senior shortstop Alberto Quintana, allowed him to make it to third.

While both pitchers were still throwing great pitches, Riverside got themselves an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Steinmeyer reached on a fielder’s choice, knocking in rightfielder Aaron Grant for his second RBI of the game.

When the bottom of the ninth came around, Matador Head Coach Steve Rousey decided to send up senior infielder Drew Aguailar to pinch-hit for Wilson. Aguailar reached first on a bunt single to try getting a rally started.

Paulk came up next and, with the outfielders playing him to pull the ball to right field, smacked a double down the left-field line scoring Aguailar from first.

After two groundouts moved Paulk to third base, John Voita came up with hopes of sending the game into extra innings. Voita launched a shot off Bills to the deepest part of center field, only to find the glove of Bigler to end the game.

Paulk, Aguailar, Quintana, Hagstrom and sophomore infielder Chase McGuire gathered the five hits for CSUN off Bills.

Brettl went the distance and delivered a complete game, but still received the loss, dropping his record to 0-6. Brettl has lost his last 12 decisions over the last two years.

“They usually play pretty good defense behind me,” Brettl said. “But the bats didn’t really come around. I put the ball into their hands and as long as they play good defense, I’ll have a good outing.”

After a well-fought game on Saturday, Sunday came around and the Matadors were determined to pull off a victory. Craig Baker and Daniel Stange took the hill for CSUN and Riverside, respectively.

The Matadors got fired up right away and for good reasons. Sophomore second baseman Jeff Tezak led off the first inning with a single, and after junior outfielder Johnny Coit sacrificed him to second, Quintana singled to move Tezak to third.

Paulk then extended his hitting streak to seven consecutive games with an RBI single to give the Matadors an early 1-0 lead. The run gave CSUN its first lead in a conference game since they led 3-2 in the fifth inning at Cal Poly April 3.

After Riverside tied the game in the second inning, CSUN fired right back with an RBI single from sophomore catcher Adam Fleener and a sacrifice fly from Tezak.

Then, after an RBI single by Cunningham in the top of the fourth for Riverside, CSUN again fired back with an RBI double by Quintana and another sacrifice fly off the bat of Voita, putting the Matadors up 6-2.

Riverside fought back again in the sixth and eighth innings by scoring four runs on five hits to tie the score at six. Martinez contributed the most by driving in all four runs on a pair of RBI doubles to bring Riverside back.

After CSUN reliever Joe Rocchio struck out the side in the ninth, the Matador offense was not able to break the tie and had to try to escape the nail-biter in extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, catcher Nick Salotti led off with a single, Grant reached on an error by Tezak, and Cunningham reached on a fielder’s choice in which Salotti was forced out at third.

Martinez, already with four RBI, slammed a three-run homer over the left-field fence to put the Highlanders up 9-6. Martinez finished the game with three hits and a team-high seven RBI.

Just when most people thought the game was over, the Matadors did their best to overcome the blast by Martinez. After Tezak led off the bottom half of the 10th with a fly out, Coit walked on four straight pitches to try to start another rally.

Then, after Quintana struck out, Paulk came up and hit a two-out, two-run homer over the left-center-field fence to pull the Matadors within a run.

After Paulk’s homer, Aguailar tried to keep the rally alive, but was thrown out while trying to bunt his way on, ending CSUN’s chances of winning their first conference game.

Rousey was grateful and extremely pleased with how well the Matadors had performed in the last few games, despite losing all three.

“We do a lot of good things,” Rousey said. “But we don’t do the good things when we need them the most, whether it was making the right pitch or hitting the ball really hard. It’s about us playing well. We played well. We had a chance to win.”

The Matadors will end their season-long five-game homestand with a non-conference matchup against the San Diego State Aztecs (17-24, 11-7) of the Mountain West Conference Tuesday at 3 P.M. at Matador Field. Then, they will head out on the road to face UC Irvine for a three-game series.