NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Despite another strong outing by Jerry Keel, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (30-19, 14-5 Big West) fell late in a 6-1 loss to the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (26-20, 11-8 Big West) on Friday afternoon at Matador Field. Keel pitched 8.0 scoreless innings and Nathan Ring launched a solo home run in the ninth but the Gauchos scored six runs in the final inning for the victory.
"This was a high-level Division I game, two Friday pitchers going toe-to-toe with good stuff," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "You've got to tip your hat to Pettibone, he moved his fastball around, he got his offspeed over for a strike, pressed the bottom of the zone, pressed the corners of the zone. He did an outstanding job and yet we had some chances, had runners in scoring position and couldn't convert."
Keel and UCSB starter Austin Pettibone were locked in a pitching duel for eight innings and allowed just four hits each until the final frame. Northridge turned the ball over to the bullpen in the ninth inning and UCSB found a breakthrough to take the first game of the series from the Matadors.
The Gauchos nearly scored in the top of the third after loading the bases against Keel with no outs. Luke Swenson singled and Jackson Morrow reached on an error while putting down a sac bunt before Joey Epperson walked. Keel was able to escape the inning without further harm after Joshua Goossen-Brown caught a line drive at first and tagged Epperson on a double play. A strikeout of Woody Woodward ended the inning for Keel and the Matadors.
"Jerry's always done that. That's the way he is and that's why he's successful. There's no pitcher out there who doesn't have those innings," added Curtis. "That's the separator and that's what separates him. He just continues to make pitches, he doesn't let the situation dictate how he's going to attack hitters, he keeps making his pitches, he controls his emotions and that's the way he's always been. That's what he's always done and that's why he's been a Freshman All-American and that's why he's been one of the best guys in the league this year."
UC Santa Barbara again threatened in the top of the sixth, getting runners to first and second with one out. Keel buckled down and got a strikeout and a pop fly in foul territory to strand another two runners on base.
The Matadors almost took the first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth but were unable to plate a run in almost identical fashion. With one out, Kyle Attl singled and Ring walked but a flyout and a pickoff kept the pair from advancing any further against Pettibone.
Keel departed the game after the eighth inning and Goossen-Brown, the team's closer, came on to pitch in a scoreless game in the ninth. The Gauchos scored runs in the inning on a bases-loaded walk and a pair of two-run singles by Morrow and Brandon Trinkwon. A sixth run scored after a passed ball and a wild pitch with two outs.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Ring lifted his fourth home run of the season over the fence in left field but his offense was not enough to rally the Matadors to victory.
Ring led Northridge offensively by going 1-for-3 with an RBI, run scored and walk. All six CSUN hits were recorded by a different individual.
Keel went 8.0 innings on the mound and struck out seven while allowing just two walks and four hits. He was able to lower his season ERA 18 points to 1.85 after his performance. Goossen-Brown (2-3) allowed five runs in the ninth for the loss. Pettibone (7-3) pitched a complete game and allowed a run on six hits for the win for the Gauchos.
The two sides will continue their series on Saturday, May 11, at Matador Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.