NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Freshman pitcher Calvin Copping went 8.0 strong innings on the mound and Alexis Mercado drove in a pair of runs as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (24-18, 10-4 Big West) defeated the Pacific Tigers (10-27, 3-11 Big West) 5-2 on Saturday afternoon at Matador Field. With the win, CSUN clinched the series against Pacific for the first time since 2009 and earned its 24th victory for the first time since 2010.
"The difference between the pitching today was Calvin being able to make an adjustment in the first inning," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "Their guy threw a really good game and he just struggled early and made his mistakes early and fortunately we made him pay early and that ended up being the difference."
From the outset, Copping and Pacific's Jake Jenkins were locked in a pitchers duel that wasn't decided until very late in the game. After Copping issued a leadoff walk and a single in the first, he retired the next three hitters to escape the inning unscathed.
Jenkins had a different start to his day but rebounded nicely for the Tigers. The Matadors struck for three runs in the first against the right-handed pitcher to take an early 3-0 lead.
Michael Livingston opened the home half of the first with a walk and Kyle Attl singled before Nathan Ring moved the pair over with a sacrifice bunt. An RBI groundout by Joshua Goossen-Brown was followed by RBI singles for Chester Pak and Mercado to pad the lead for Northridge.
From that point, however, Jenkins did not allow another CSUN hit until the bottom of the sixth with one out.
Pacific scratched across a run in the top of the third inning to start their fight to get back into the game. Tyler Sullivan reached on a fielding error with one out and moved up to third on a single by Dustin Torchio. Sullivan came in to score on a fielder's choice by his brother, Brett, to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Tigers added another in the top of the eighth to draw within a run at 3-2 but could get no closer. Tyler Sullivan led off with a double to left center that was nearly caught on a diving attempt by Ring before scoring on a groundout by Brett Sullivan.
Northridge put the game out of reach, however, in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of runs. Goossen-Brown started things off with an infield single before advancing to second on a Pak bunt. With one out, Mercado drove in Goossen-Brown with a single to left and moved up to second on the throw to the plate.
"Having confidence in myself has helped me a lot," said Mercado. "I've been seeing the ball well out of the pitcher's hand and just putting a good stroke on the ball."
Mercado then scored a run of his own on a squeeze bunt by Cal Vogelsang to put the final line at 5-2. Goossen-Brown came on to pitch the ninth for the Matadors and worked around a hit to get his seventh save of the season.
"Our infield is playing amazing right now," said Goossen-Brown. "I'm just pitching to contact and letting the guys play behind me."
Copping (5-3) matched a career high with six strikeouts in the win and allowed just one earned run on the day. Jenkins (0-6) took the loss for Pacific after allowing four runs in 7.1 innings.
Mercado went 3-for-4 with two RBIs while Goossen-Brown, Pak and Vogelsang each drove in a run as well. Brett Sullivan did not record a hit for the Tigers but did drive in two runs in the loss.
Northridge and Pacific will conclude their three-game series with an afternoon game on Sunday, April 28. First pitch from Matador Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.