NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Early offense gave way to superior pitching for much of the game as the third-ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans (46-8, 21-4 Big West) defeated the Cal State Northridge Matadors (31-24, 15-10 Big West) 5-2 on Thursday afternoon at Matador Field. The teams combined for 15 hits in the game but just five after the third inning as the defense took over for both sides.
The Titans jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead by scoring a run with two outs in the top of the first inning. Richy Pedroza led off the game with a single to center field and scored on a single by Michael Lorenzen to give Fullerton the early advantage.
The Matadors responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second to take the lead at 2-1. After Alexis Mercado reached on an infield single, Chester Pak doubled down the left field line with one out to give CSUN runners in scoring position. Ryan Raslowsky then reached on a bunt single while attempting a squeeze to score Mercado and Pak crossed the plate from second on a throwing error on the play by Matt Chapman.
"I think that demonstrates the expectation to win that this team has," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "They came out and scored first on us but we were able to bounce back. We just need to do a better job offensively, the third inning was a tough one but we had a couple of opportunities late and we just gotta take better at-bats."
Cal State Fullerton regained control of the game in the top of the third and scored three times to go up 4-2. Chapman scored Pedroza with a sacrifice fly to tie the game before J.D. Davis hit a two-run home run to center field to break the tie.
The Titans added a run in the top of the fourth against relief pitcher Brycen Rutherford to put the final line at 5-2. Carlos Lopez brought in Austin Diemer with a ground out to the right side of the infield.
Rutherford kept the Titans off of the board the rest of the way and retired seven straight hitters from the fourth to the seventh. Thanks to a caught stealing in the seventh inning and a double play in the ninth, Rutherford faced just two batters over the minimum in 6.2 innings of work out of the bullpen.
"I was getting my offspeed over for a strike and getting ahead in the count," said Rutherford. "I had to come in and throw strikes right off the bat. Luckily, I was making pitches and our defense played really well today and we're gonna get right back out there tomorrow."
Koby Gauna (4-1) was similarly successful for the Titans, retiring 14 consecutive batters from the second to seventh innings for Fullerton. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out three to earn the win. Davis pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his third save of the year.
Jerry Keel (7-3) took the loss for Northridge after allowing four runs in 2.1 innings.
Pak led the Matadors offensively by going 2-for-4 at the plate with a double while Raslowsky earned the lone RBI for CSUN in the game. Mercado had a hit, scored a run and threw out a runner on the basepaths.
"We are playing this like a postseason series and, just like any series, you got a chance to win the series and we need to answer back and play quality defense like we did today," added Curtis. "It's a pretty simple formula, it's just not always that easy to do so if we can do those things, then we can get right back at it."
The two teams will continue their series on Friday, May 24, at Matador Field. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.