NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Although the Matadors finished the 2013 season with a 15-12 conference record, the Cal State Northridge baseball team was picked to finish eighth in 2014 in the preseason poll of the league's head coaches, the Big West Conference office announced last week. The Matadors were also chosen to finish eighth last season, but a strong run in conference play saw them end the year in a tie for fourth.
"When I was told that we were picked to finish eighth, I began counting. There are 8 teams that go to the College World Series. They must think we're good. Then I was told that we are picked eighth in the conference. So, I checked the number of the teams in our league. It's nice to be mentioned," CSUN head coach Greg Moore said with a smile.
The Matadors return all three weekend starters from a year ago in Jerry Keel, Calvin Copping and John Salas. The trio combined for 41 starts and posted 16 victories for CSUN. In addition, Northridge will have eight position players on the squad that have started regularly in the past and the services of 16 newcomers at its disposal to add balance and depth at each spot on the field.
Outfielder Chester Pak started each conference game for CSUN last season and hit 11 doubles and two home runs against league opposition. Catcher Alexis Mercado added eight doubles and 15 runs batted in while hitting for a .324 average against the Big West.
"Come see this team practice and play in this outstanding conference. It's the work, the stories and the people that make this a Matador brand of DORS Baseball," added Moore. "We will play hard for the San Fernando Valley. One goal is to make the University proud on and off the field. Other goals center privately in our locker room."
Cal State Fullerton, named the top team in the nation by multiple media outlets, was predicted to win the Big West title in 2014 and earned 73 points in the poll. Cal Poly (68) and UC Santa Barbara (60), two programs that competed in the NCAA Regionals last year, came out in the second and third spots, respectively. UC Irvine picked up one first place vote in the poll and 55 points to sit in fourth, followed by Long Beach State (49), Hawai'i (33), and UC Riverside (27). Cal State Northridge (25) and UC Davis (15) rounded out the poll.
With the departure of the University of the Pacific from the Big West at the end of last season, the Matadors will play just 24 conference games this year. CSUN will play host to Cal Poly, Long Beach State, Hawai'i and UC Davis while hitting the road for series at Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and UC Riverside.
Cal State Northridge opens the season on Friday, Feb. 14, at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Matadors will play their home opener against Seattle University on Friday, Feb. 21, and will begin the conference portion of the schedule at home against Long Beach State on Friday, March 28.