NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Despite finding success at the plate early against arguably UC Irvine's most successful starting pitcher, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (20-24, 7-9 Big West) could not hold off a late charge by the Anteaters (28-18, 12-7 Big West) and fell 5-3 in the series opener on Friday afternoon at Matador Field.
The Anteaters were able to take the first lead in the game in the top of the first inning, finding a way to score after a one-out single followed by an error. Connor Spencer brought around the first run on a sacrifice fly to score Tommy Reyes, which went as an unearned run off of Northridge starter Alex Muren.
After getting a two-out single in the bottom of the first, Northridge exploded on offense in the bottom of the second. The Matadors opened the inning with five consecutive hits and three runs against Andrew Thurman, who had allowed just 10 hits and two earned runs in his previous 35 innings pitched coming into the game.
After allowing a one-out single in the first, Muren did not allow a baserunner until the top of the fourth when he conceded a hit by pitch, breaking a string of 10 straight batters retired. During that stretch, Muren induced seven groundouts and recorded a strikeout. Taking into account a fifth inning in which Muren retired the side in order, the junior right-handed pitcher allowed just three baserunners and one hit through the first five innings.
The UC Irvine bats were able to figure out Muren in the top of the sixth, however, and scored three runs to take the lead 4-3. Jordan Fox, Spencer and Jerry McClanahan each collected RBIs in the frame.
The Anteaters nearly extended the lead in the top of the seventh but with runners on first and second and one out, Livingston lept for a chopping ground ball at third and helped turn a double play to end the inning.
UC Irvine did add an insurance run in the top of the eighth to take a 5-3 lead on a squeeze bunt by McClanahan that scored Spencer from third.
The Matadors nearly tied the game in the bottom of the ninth as Eskelin and Attl notched a pair of one-out singles and moved to second and third on a groundout. They did not have the chance to score, though, as a hard ground ball was fielded cleanly by the shortstop to end the game.
Muren (5-6) pitched 8.0 innings and tallied three strikeouts in the loss. Thurman (7-2) went 7.0 innings and allowed nine hits with three strikeouts to pick up the win. Race Parmenter threw a scoreless ninth for UC Irvine to earn his eighth save of the season.
Eskelin, making his first start since April 5, went 3-for-4 with a run scored while Attl also went 3-for-4 and had a double and a run batted in as well. Livingston was the final Matador with a multiple-hit performance and finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The series between the Matadors and Anteaters will continue on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. The finale is set for Sunday, May 13 and will be streamed online for free through BigWest.TV. Sunday's first pitch is also scheduled for 1 p.m.