Matadors will try to take advantage of Big West break

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Entering the final month of regular season play, the Matador baseball team will look to discover a winning path. To do so however the Matadors will have to take it one game at a time.

Thursday May 5, at 3 p.m., CSUN will match up against the Sea Lions of Point Loma Nazarene at Matador field. The Sea Lions are currently ranked 19th among the NAIA’s best in the nation with a record of 35-12, including 21-8 in Golden State Athletic Conference play.

The Sea Lions are no stranger to winning. In 2004 they finished first in the GSAC and sixth in the final NAIA national rankings with an overall record of 47-16, both a school and conference best. PLNU finished third in 2004 World Series play

Located in San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene is home to what many have called, America’s most scenic ballpark, where just beyond the outfield lies the Pacific Ocean. CSUN does have the win-loss edge over PLNU with an all time record of 4-2 including victories in the teams’ last two meetings. However, the two teams last met in 1987.

The Sea Lions will play Cal Baptist on Wednesday followed by Cal Lutheran on Thursday before finishing up their regular season at Matador field. PLNU is led by senior outfielder John Engers who is hitting .421 with 10 homers and 36 RBI. Zach Robinson is hitting .362 with team-highs of 16 homers and 58 RBI.

PLNU comes in with four pitchers having six or more wins and all sporting an ERA under 2.73.

Saturday May 7 at 2:30 p.m., the Matador baseball team will travel cross-town to USC (27-15 and 9-6 in the Pac-10) for one game at Dedeaux Field. Although the Trojans have lost four out of their last five games, they do have quite an impressive record against Big West conference teams this season at 7-4, including wins over Baseball America’s top-ranked Cal State Fullerton and No. 11 Long Beach State.

Trojan pitcher Ian Kennedy shutout Pac-10 leader Arizona with an impressive 14 strikeouts and is slated to be on the mound come Saturday against CSUN. In just 11 starts Kennedy has achieved an 8-1 record with a 2.53 ERA and over 100 strikeouts.

On offense, catcher Jeff Clement of USC will enter Saturday with a batting average of .361 and 10 home runs. USC owns a 48-19-1 all-time record against CSUN and has emerged victorious in each of the last six, including a 7-5 victory in the 2002 West Regionals.

The Matadors hope to ride the hot hitting of junior first baseman Michael Paulk who leads the team with nine home runs and 32 RBI and is the owner of the longest consecutive games streak in CSUN history, with a hit in 34 straight games. The streak was snapped earlier this season.

After losing 13 of 14 conference games, this week will serve as somewhat of a break, where the team can regroup and hopefully find its winning ways.

Before CSUN can begin its Big West Conference break though, it must face UC Riverside in a game being made up due to a rainout earlier in the season. The game was scheduled to have been played yesterday in Riverside, but scores were unavailable.

Nick Salotti leads Riverside with a .369 batting average, to go along with six home runs. Matt Cunningham leads the team with eight homers and 33 RBI, and Big West Player of the Week Andrew Martinez is hitting .330 with 30 RBI.

The Highlanders are 21-20 on the season and 6-6 in the Big West and have won three of their last four games. After beating Riverside earlier this season 7-4, CSUN lost three straight at home to the Highlanders two weeks ago. The Matadors and Highlanders will also match up again on May 17.

The expected starter for the Highlanders was to be Jose Shaw, who is 2-3 with a 5.30 ERA this season.