NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors continue their homestand this week with four games against the Washington State Cougars out of the Pac-12 Conference. The Matadors went 2-3 across five games last week against then-No. 12 UCLA and Seattle University. CSUN took two of the four games against the Redhawks at Matador Field, including both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday. This week, the Matadors and Cougars will do battle in the San Fernando Valley. The series is scheduled to span four days, from Thursday, Feb. 27, to Sunday, March 2. However, the threat of rain in the area could force one or more of the games to be rescheduled. Fans are encouraged to follow @CSUNBaseball on Twitter, monitor GoMatadors.com or enable push notifications for baseball in the CSUN Front Row app for breaking news related to the weather this weekend. All four games will feature live stats coverage and a free Internet radio broadcast available on GoMatadors.com and CSUN Front Row.
GAMES #9-12: Cal State Northridge (4-4) vs. Washington State Cougars (1-5)
Thursday, Feb. 27 - 2 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 28 - 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 1 - 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 2 - 1 p.m.
Matador Field (1,000) - Northridge, Calif.
Follow Your Matadors While On-the-Go
Fans can now follow all of the action for Cal State Northridge's 19 varsity sports right from their phone or tablet! CSUN Front Row, the official mobile app of Cal State Northridge Athletics, is available for free for your iOS and Android devices. Rather than having to navigate to GoMatadors.com from your phone, you can now catch up on the latest scores, schedules and news right from a single app. You can also access live stats coverage of a majority of CSUN home events, as well as audio and video links when available. For more information, search for CSUN Front Row on the App Store or Google Play or visit GoMatadors.com/frontrow.
A Closer Look at Washington State
The Washington State Cougars enter the week with a record of 1-5 after games against Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside and Western Carolina. The Cougars took one game on the road against the Titans but have suffered defeats in each of their last four games. Washington State had two of their four games against Western Carolina cancelled due to weather last weekend. Last season, the Matadors lost three of the four games they played against Washington State in Pullman. Cal State Northridge is 9-14 all-time against the Cougars, including 5-9 at Matador Field. This weekend's series will be the first between the two in Northridge since 2007.
The Cougars are led on the offensive side by Nick Tanielu, who has started all six games and is batting .435 with three doubles. He is second on the team with four RBIs and leads the charge with 10 hits overall. Yale Rosen sits second with a .316 average and two doubles while Collin Slaybaugh has recorded a triple and leads the team with five runs batted in. As a team, Washington State is hitting .246 with 11 doubles, one triple and 24 RBIs.
Tanner Chleborad and Scott Simon figure to be in the starting rotation for the Cougars this weekend as each has a pair of starts on the year. Chleborad is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in 9.0 innings of work while Simon is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in 6.0 innings. Jason Monda (0-0, 0.00 ERA) went 3.0 innings in a start this year and Kellen Camus (0-0, 4.50 ERA) has the other start for Washington State. As a staff, the Cougars have a 7.43 ERA and have allowed 81 hits in 53.1 innings.
The Matadors and Cougars will open their series with a 2 p.m. game at Matador Field on Thursday, Feb. 27. The teams are scheduled to play a 2 p.m. game on Friday as well before battling in 1 p.m. contests on Saturday and Sunday. Following the series in Northridge, the Cougars will return to Pullman to host Texas State next weekend.
Redefining the "Matador Defense"
The Matadors continue to pride themselves on playing smart and sound baseball defensively. In addition to improving its winning percentage each of the past three seasons, Cal State Northridge has also set program records for fielding percentage twice in that span. There were 16 Matadors last season that were perfect in their chances in the field and five others that had two errors or fewer all season. Last year Northridge recorded a .976 fielding percentage, which was good for third in the Big West Conference and also set a mark for the best ever in CSUN history. The Matadors also picked up 16 outfield assists in 2013 and look to build on that quality moving forward. The team did not commit an error in the three-game series at Bethune-Cookman and has a .990 fielding percentage with three errors in eight games.
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
With the second weekend of the season now completed, the Big West Conference has released its second statistics standings of the year. The Matadors are currently seventh in batting average (.246), slugging percentage (.300), and on-base percentage (.338). CSUN is sixth in runs scored (28), hits (64), and runs batted in (24). The Matadors rank seventh with seven doubles, are third with 27 walks, and check in at second in the league after being hit by a pitch 10 times. The team leads the Big West Conference with 10 sacrifice bunts and is second with 11 stolen bases.
Defensively, the Matadors are fifth in the Big West with a 2.88 ERA and are averaging 6.5 strikeouts recorded per game. The pitching staff is fourth with 52 strikeouts recorded after eight games. CSUN has allowed just three errors so far this year and has the best fielding percentage in the league at .990.
Individually, Alexis Mercado is tied for third in the conference with three doubles on the year. Ryan Raslowsky has been hit by a pitch three times and has four stolen bases, ranking second in both categories. William Colantono (3rd, 7) and Daniel Timmerman (8th, 5) are among the leaders in walks drawn. Ranny Lowe has been hit by three pitches and ranks third in the league while Brett Balkan's three sac bunts are tied for first.
Shay Maltese finds himself tied for seventh in the conference with a 1.04 ERA and is third after holding opponents to a .111 batting average so far this year. Jerry Keel is currently tied for fourth in the Big West with five strikeouts looking on the year.
Junior left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel enters the season as the anchor of the pitching staff in 2014. The former Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Freshman All-American is the Friday starter once more for Northridge and picked up right where he left off in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman. Although he took the loss, he pitched 7.0 strong innings with five strikeouts in a 2-1 decision. He walked three batters and allowed five hits, including just one double. He also pitched 6.2 innings against Seattle University and recorded six strikeouts. Keel finished the 2013 season with a 7-3 record with a 2.59 ERA in 93.2 innings.
No Trouble in the Balkans
Senior Brett Balkan is coming off of an injury-shortened 2013 and has quickly made an impression in his first action this season. Taking the reigns as the starting shortstop, he was one of two Matadors with three hits over the opening weekend and he is currently among the team leaders with four runs batted in. He drove in a run in CSUN's 2-1 win in the second game at Bethune-Cookman and added an insurance RBI in the 2-0 win in the finale. Balkan collected seven defensive assists on the weekend, including on a relayed throw to the plate to catch a runner trying to score. He went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored in the first game of a doubleheader against Seattle. On the season, Balkan is hitting .267.
Not a One-Man WolfPak
Junior Chester Pak picked up a couple of hits in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman and drove in the winning run in the top of the 11th inning in the second game. Pak is currently one of three Matadors on the team with nine hits and also drew a couple of walks to help CSUN take two games against the Wildcats. He belted out six hits, including a pair of triples, in the series against Seattle and had five runs batted in. Pak is currently batting .300 with a team-high six RBIs in eight games. Last season, he hit .272 with 18 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
The Bull Market
Junior Alexis Mercado came up with big hits when the Matadors needed them in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman. His lone hit in the second game of the series was a double in the top of the 11th that eventually resulted in the game-winning run. He had a single, RBI and stolen base in the finale for CSUN, driving in the eventual winning run in the top of the sixth in a 2-0 victory. In the series against Seattle, he had a hit in three of the four games and had a career day in the first game of the doubleheader, going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Mercado connected on the first CSUN home run of the season and had a total of seven hits, including a pair of doubles, against the Redhawks. Mercado finished last season with 29 runs scored and a home run and led the team with 16 doubles.
Senior center fielder Ranny Lowe is providing a spark at the top of the order for the Matadors this season. After batting in the three-hole for the early part of the year, Lowe became the leadoff hitter for the series against Seattle and immediately made an impact on the lineup. Against the Redhawks Lowe recorded six hits, scored two runs and drove in his first run of the campaign. He also picked up his first stolen base of the season and went 5-for-9 across CSUN's doubleheader with Seattle on February 22. On the season, Lowe is now hitting .273 in eight games.
Every Run Counts
After erupting for 22 runs this past weekend against Seattle, the Matadors own a 4-4 record heading into the week. In the three games at Bethune-Cookman the two teams combined for eight runs, with the winner of each game needing just two to get the job done. In the series against Seattle the first team to score four runs won each game and with three runs in the first inning of game one of Saturday's doubleheader, CSUN scored more than two in a game for the first time this year. At this early point of the season, CSUN is 2-1 in games decided by one run and 1-2 when the margin is two runs.
Northridge has brought in a number of new faces to the program this year as 13 players are looking to make their debut for the Matadors. Left-handed pitcher Gabriel Corniel returns after taking a redshirt season as a freshman and he will be joined by eight transfers hoping to make an immediate impact. Ranny Lowe is a fifth-year senior that should get the bulk of time in centerfield while Nick Murphy will push for a starting role behind the plate. Nick Blaser and Nico Garbella are both versatile utility players that can be used anywhere on the diamond. Northridge will also hope to feature talented freshmen in the lineup and out of the bullpen to add to their depth at all positions.
The Matadors will face another challenging schedule this season as the team prepares itself for the Big West Conference slate and the postseason beyond. The season started with a three-game series at Bethune-Cookman, a program that has captured 15 MEAC championships since 1996. CSUN also played a midweek game at defending national champion UCLA. Other top teams on the schedule include Washington State, Pepperdine, Fresno State, and TCU in non-conference games. The Matadors will also take on Stony Brook, a team that is just one season removed from the College World Series, for one game at Matador Field. The Big West schedule will feature home series against Long Beach State, Hawai'i, Cal Poly and UC Davis while CSUN will take on UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton on the road. In all, the Matadors will take on three teams, CSF (1), UCLA (10), TCU (23), in the USA Today Preseason Top 25 and two others (Cal Poly, UCSB) that received votes.
Cal State Northridge is now 32 wins from reaching the 1,600-mark in program history. The Matadors posted 31 wins a season ago, their highest win total in over a decade. With their first victory in 2014, the Matadors handed head coach Greg Moore the first win of his tenure at CSUN. Junior left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel is currently third in the school record book with a 2.34 career ERA and needs eight wins to enter the Top 10 while reliever Louis Cohen sits in a tie for ninth with six career saves. Ryan Raslowsky is one sacrifice bunt away from joining the Top 10 as he has 14 through his first two-plus seasons at Cal State Northridge.