Matadors ready to face Big West Conference rival Pacific

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The CSUN Matador baseball team will see if they can finally capture the first game of a three-game series for the first time since early March, as they open a home stand against the University of Pacific Tigers at Matador Field.

The Matadors are 17-27-1 on the season and 9-10 at home. CSUN will face the Tigers Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Tigers prowl into Northridge with a 22-27 record on the season. The Matadors are unsure of their rotation for the series but the Tigers are scheduled to go with Luke Massetti (5-6, 5.04 ERA) Friday. Saturday and Sunday’s starters will be Jason Harr (2-4, 4.66) and Matthew Pena (3-2, 2.51), not necessarily in that order.

The Matadors have a chance to score some runs in the first game against Massetti, who has not won in his last two starts, giving up 14 runs on 22 hits in 10 1/3 innings.

However, the Matadors will need to find a way to keep Pacific’s hard-hitting Justin Baum in the ballpark. Baum has 11 home runs, 30 RBI and is hitting .288 (45-156).

“We have played a better schedule than we have played in the past,” said Ed Sprague, Pacific’s head coach in his second year with the team, on the team’s record thus far. “(Our) inconsistency (is) probably the biggest thing, which most clubs battle. We have played very well at times and at times we haven’t played well. That’s the nature of baseball.”

The Matadors will look to gain some momentum behind the hitting streak of Michael Paulk who has hit in 14 of the last 16 games. Paulk is hitting .337 (59-175) with ten homers and 37 RBI on the year.

“We’re looking to get a little tougher,” said Paulk, on CSUN’s play this season. “Play tougher during the game, when runs are scored against us. Not (just) die, (but) for us to get tough and answer back with more runs of our own.”

Paulk and the Matadors will face last week’s Big West Co-Player of the week, freshman first baseman Brett Manning. During the week Manning was 5-10 with three RBI and on the season he is batting .250 (19-76) with three homers and 15 RBI.

“(Manning) had a good week, he has been up and down this year offensively,” said Sprague, winner of back-to-back World Series Championships with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 playing catcher, first base and third base.

“He hit the ball hard all week,” Sprague said. “He made some adjustments at the plate. He was 0-23 going into the week, (so) he got some extra hitting and made some adjustments. He’s got a good swing (and) has a chance to be a good hitter one day.”

The Matadors have had success against Pacific in the past, having won 15 of the 19 meetings between the clubs including nine of the last 10.

The Matadors swept Pacific last year, outscoring the Tigers 50-10 in a three-game series in Stockton behind the bat of Paulk. Paulk was 7-15 with nine RBI’s and was named the Big West Player of the week after the series.

“We just need to play as hard as we can all the time,” Paulk said. “(We have to give) 100 percent. We only have nine games left so we have to leave it on the field. I think we’re trying too hard sometimes and the pitching is not as tough as everyone says. But we’re trying too hard (and) trying to do too much.”