CSUN’s Craig Baker pitched five dazzling innings, and a pitchers duel turned into a slugfest as CSUN came back to defeat the UOP Tigers 9-8 in 10 innings, salvaging one game of the three-game set.
Drew Aguailar hit the game-winning single in the 10th inning, his second hit of the game, as the Matadors avoided another three-game sweep Sunday.
Baker (4-5) surrendered five hits, struck out six batters, and walked one. He didn’t give up his first hit until the fourth inning, on a ball just beyond the reach of Matador second baseman Chase McGuire and into rightfield.
The Tigers earned three runs off Baker in the sixth inning, Bakers’ last, after he hit two batters and gave up three hits that Matador fielders were unable to handle. Baker got a little luck when the inning ended after Tiger right fielder Will Brindza tried to stretch out a triple and was tagged out at home.
“I’ve been struggling lately but it all just clicked today,” Baker said. “It felt pretty good from the start so I just kept going with it. On a hot day like this you have to do what you can. The defense did not fail me but it’s a game of inches. You can’t blame it on anybody. I was starting to wind down.”
The Tigers definitely noticed Baker had his best stuff on this day.
“(Baker) was spotting his fastball well,” said Tigers head coach Ed Sprague, who is in his second season as the Tigers skipper. “(It) looked like his velocity was pretty good. His breaking ball (and) off speed stuff he was throwing for strikes and keeping us off-balance. But the biggest thing with him was his fastball location. He was probably throwing harder than anybody we saw all weekend.”
The Tigers Matthew Pena (3-2) held the Matadors off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning when Matador lead-off hitter Raymond Ravago hit a solo home run to pull the Matadors within two.
Pena allowed five hits through 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs, two earned, while walking two batters and striking out six.
“He kept us off balance with his speed,” said Matador outfielder Michael Paulk, who went 1 for 4 on the afternoon. “He threw slow so it took awhile for our hitters to adjust to him.”
In the seventh inning the Matadors exploded for six runs to take a 7-3 lead. Pena was relieved after allowing one run and allowing another runner to move into scoring position. Two Tiger relief pitchers came in and gave up five more runs before the inning ended.
The Tigers responded with three runs of their own in the top of the eighth inning and another run in the ninth to tie the game. Justin Baum hit a run-scoring single in his last at bat, going 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBI.
The 10th inning saw more offense from the Tigers as they took the lead on Jesse Kovac’s only hit of the day, a double, scoring the go-ahead run. The Matadors came to bat in the 10th and got a walk off Tiger reliever Josh Schimdt to start the inning.
The Matadors’ Johnny Coit earned the walk during his only at bat, and made the most of the walk by stealing a base. Jeff Tezak then got a hit sending Coit to third. Catcher Adam Fleener followed by laying down a bunt, but Kovac surprised Coit by acting as though he was throwing to first base, instead throwing home to get Coit out at the plate.
The Matadors were finally able to tie the score when pinch hitter Erik Hagstrom hit the ball so hard he took the pitchers glove off, shooting the ball into centerfield to score a run and tie the game.
“We played extremely well today,” said Steve Rousey, Matador head coach in his third season. “Our opponent can really hit. Their statistics aren’t really flashy offensively but they’re coming together.”
“Our pitching did a good job and our defense is kind of hanging in there, fighting through,” Rousey said. “(The Tigers) brought some real firepower. You can’t ask more from a team (except not hitting) so many batters.”
The winning pitcher was Kyle Jean (3-2) who worked three innings, giving up four hits and two runs while racking up four strikeouts and two walks. The losing pitcher was Big West Conference saves leader Josh Schmidt (9 saves in 32 appearances, 1.89 ERA) who gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning, giving up three hits, striking out one and walking one.
“When you’re in a situation like ours you have to look at the good and the bad and know the difference,” Rousey said. “In this game we eliminated some mistakes and did a few more things defensively.”
“With the bat and as far as making pitches, it’s a matter of understanding what you do when you play well and what you’re not doing when you play poorly,” Rousey said. “(We need to) work to be more consistent (which is) where we’re at right now.”
With the win, CSUN improves to 18-29-1 including 2-16 in conference. Pacific fell to 24-28 and 9-12 in conference.
In the first game, Paulk hit his 11th and 12th homers of the season, but it wasn’t enough as Pacific beat CSUN 13-6. Baum led Pacific to the win, going 5 for 6 with two homers and five RBI.
In the second game, CSUN blew an early lead en route to a 12-5 defeat. Baum had another good game as he went 2 for 3 with another homer and two more RBI.
For the series, Baum was an amazing 10 for 13 with four homers and 10 RBI. Teammate Matt Berezay was just as impressive, going 7 for 13 with five homers and eight RBI.
The Matadors will be on the road tonight against the UC Riverside Highlanders, in a make up game from February, at the Riverside Sports complex with game time scheduled for 3 p.m. The Highlanders are coming off a 20 hit performance against UC Santa Barbara Sunday, in a 13-4 win.
The 20 hits by the Highlanders matched their season high while winning their second straight game to improve to 23-24 overall, 8-7 in the Big West Conference.
The Matadors have won 98 meetings all-time compared to 65 for the Highlanders and the teams have tied one game. Their first meeting was in 1959 when the Matadors lost 9-2 in Riverside.
In their last meeting May 3, the Matadors throttled the Highlanders in Riverside, winning 19-7 on the strength of 20 hits with Alberto Quintana, John Voita, and Paulk collected four runs in the game. Quintana also contributed six hits in the game.