CSUN looks to rise from the depths

Debby von Winckelmann

CSUN head baseball coach Steve Rousey got two wins closer to his 100th career win after the baseball team opened the 2007 season at Matador Field Jan. 26 to 28 with a 2-1 series win against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Rousey, who is in his fifth year as head coach of the Matadors, now has a career record of 79-147-1.

Last year Rousey coached the Matadors to an overall 26-30 record, their best record yet since Rousey became head coach in 2003. Unfortunately, the Matadors finished last in the Big West Conference for the second year in a row, despite a strong start that featured a 13-2 opening day win against 12th-ranked Arizona State.

Like last year, CSUN received only eight votes in the 2007 preseason Big West Coaches poll this year. The Matadors have something they lacked before. Experienced seniors in starting positions anchor this year’s team.

The 2007 Matadors roster includes 16 players returning from last year’s team as well as 24 new players.

The infield will have four returning seniors, including Jorge Andrade Jr, who played in 55 games in 2006, most at first base. Andrade Jr. posted the team’s best fielding percentage for position players at .990. He also contributed offensively batting .320 with 3 homeruns, one triple and 12 doubles. Jonathan Sakurai played 55 games in the infield and batted .295. Sakurai had one homerun, one triple, 12 doubles and 19 RBIs in 2006. Todd Shelton had a .215 batting average last year and appeared in 43 games. He was second on the team for stolen bases with seven. Alex Bardeguez played in 31 games last year and played five different positions throughout the season. He batted .196 with four doubles and four RBIs.

True freshman Jason Dabbs from Yucaipa, Calif. will also play infield, as will junior Daniel Limbrick, a transfer from Laney College.

In the outfield, returning players include senior outfielder and designated hitter Kris Kasarjian, who played in 47 games last year. Kasarjian batted .295 and hit 12 doubles, one triple and 19 RBIs in 2006.

Senior Amiel Traynum is a transfer from Coppin State in Georgia where he played for three seasons and led his team in stolen bases for each of those seasons.

Also playing outfield this season is freshman C.J. Belanger who redshirted last year and junior Anthony Reed, returning from an injury. True freshman Billy Swanson from Anaheim, Calif. and sophomore Richard Cates will also spend time in the outfield. Cates played in 38 games last year and batted .255.

Sophomore John Parham will return as catcher this season, but he will share time behind the plate with true freshman Brian Slover from Covina, Calif. Jowen-James Murray-Thornton, a transfer from Hartnell College, and true freshman David Carrillo from Burbank, Calif. are also catchers looking for playing time.

Junior pitcher Chuckie Fick pitched 90.1 innings last year with an ERA of 4.48. Fick struck out 72 batters, recorded six wins and allowed only four runs. Sophomore Jimmy Jolicoeur appeared in 19 games last season and posted a 3.53 ERA. Jolicoeur struck out 19 batters in 35.2 innings. Sophomore Edwin Quirarte pitched 78 innings last year and struck out 46 batters. His ERA was 4.50 and he recorded four wins.

The bullpen has only two pitchers who have previously pitched for the Matadors. Senior Bobby Paschal pitched in 20 games in 2006, recoding 29 strikeouts and an ERA of 5.80. Senior Joe Rocchio appeared in 24 games and earned six saves. New pitchers this year include transfers Eric Billings, Mark Haderlein, Phil Hann, Steven DeFratus, Josh Herback-South, and Billy Ott. Freshmen Ryan Juarez, Peter Mendez, Jared Miller, and Davin Tate are also available, as are P.J. Rousey, Jeff Pruitt, and Caleb Gallagher, who are returning from injuries.

The Matadors have historically played a tough schedule and this year is no different. CSUN will be facing three of Collegiate Baseball’s top 25 teams. CSUN is ranked seventh in the nation in strength of schedule by Boyd’s World, a college baseball rankings Web site. The other seven Big West teams are also ranked in the top twelve in strength of schedule. CSUN will play non-conference games against 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State at home and 13th ranked UCLA on the road. CSUN will open conference play against 2006 Big West conference champions, 12th-ranked Cal State Fullerton at Matador Field March 30 – April 1.

Coach Rousey places a lot of importance on pre-conference games. He said although he thinks he is sometimes criticized for playing such a tough schedule, he believes they need to in order to be ready for conference play.

“I really feel like, if the guys keep the right frame of mind, the better their competition the more they’re going to improve. Now, if you get down on yourselves and start to doubt each other and stuff like that, then that can hurt you. But (with) this group of veteran players, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The other option is to play a bunch of easy opponents and build a big record, but is that going to prepare you for Fullerton and Long Beach? I don’t think so,” Rousey said.

CSUN will play 29 games before playing conference opponents in 21 games. There are an additional seven non-conference games interspersed between conference series.

Overall, Rousey said he enjoys being around this team and he enjoys working with them.

“It’s just been a lot of fun for me because they’re good people and they complement what I do and that gives me a chance to complement what they do,” he said. “I don’t know how the season will turn out. Nobody ever does. We’ll play it out the best we can, but I know one thing, I’m going to miss this group of guys whenever the end comes.”