NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Junior catcher Nick Murphy singled in center fielder Ranny Lowe with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-4) topped the Washington State Cougars (1-6) 3-2 on Thursday afternoon at Matador Field. All five runs in the game were scored across the final three innings as the Matadors earned their second extra-inning win of the season and their first walk-off victory since April 28, 2013 against Pacific.
"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit but he threw me a lot of sliders and I didn't quite get one," said Murphy. "I finally got a fastball inside and just reacted, didn't try to do too much, and got my hands through and found a hole."
"I think the steady approach that our dugout had today was the key," said CSUN head coach Greg Moore. "We had some mistakes early in the game in terms of execution. They gave us a few 90-foot chunks, but our dugout kept preparing and kept working at the game."
With the threat of rain in the San Fernando Valley, the start of the game was moved up two hours to 12 p.m. Washington State wasted no time offensively against the Matadors and loaded the bases in the top of the first inning. After the first two batters of the game were retired, the next three reached base before starting pitcher Jerry Keel induced a ground ball to end the danger.
The Matadors had an opportunity of their own with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first but a fly out to center field kept the game scoreless. In fact, the two teams combined for 12 runners left on base through the first three innings of play.
Defense was the story for Cal State Northridge for much of the game as the Matadors turned two unconventional double plays, caught a runner stealing, had an outfield assist and threw out two runners at the plate.
In the top of the second, the Cougars had runners at first and third with one out before first baseman William Colantono threw out a man at the plate on a bouncing ball. In the top of the third, Washington State designated hitter Yale Rosen flew into a double play when Lowe threw a laser to third to catch Collin Slaybaugh.
Cal State Northridge broke through first on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to timely hitting and three errors on the Cougars infield. After Nick Blaser singled to open the inning, Brett Balkan reached on a sacrifice bunt attempt that was thrown away by the pitcher.
"I'm not surprised Nick had a good day today," continued Moore. "He prepares in that dugout on a chart like he's in the game itself. He is a baseball rat. He had good execution and good swings today at the plate and I'm happy for Nick."
Chester Pak followed with an RBI on a sacrifice fly that scored Blaser from third and Balkan moved up to second when a pickoff attempt by the catcher was thrown down the right field line. Balkan later scored on a double down the left field line by Alexis Mercado.
The Cougars would not go down quietly, however, and rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth. Washington State loaded the bases with no outs before Trace Tam Sing's grounder scored Michael Monda on a fielder's choice.
A hit by pitch again loaded the bases and Slaybough came through with the game-tying single. Relief pitcher Shay Maltese buckled down for the Matadors after that and struck out the next two hitters to end the inning tied at 2-2.
The Matadors loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but could not find the winning run.
In the top of the 10th, a wild turn of events once again swung momentum in CSUN's favor. With runners on the corners and one out Ian Sagdal hit a ball right at Nico Garbella, who took over at first base after being inserted as a pinch runner in the 9th.
Garbella alertly fired home, catching Patrick McGrath in a run down. After Murphy was tagged out McGrath on the third base line, the Matadors also caught Ben Roberts in a pickle to end the inning.
"I just tried to stay calm and get one out first and then see whatever happens after that," added Murphy. "We ended up getting two."
With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Lowe singled through the left side to start the winning sequence. With two outs and Lowe on second after a stolen base, Murphy singled to left field and Lowe was able to slide in under the tag at the plate to seal the 3-2 win for CSUN.
John Salas (1-0) pitched the final 0.2 innings for the Matadors and picked up his first win of the year while Ian Hamilton (1-1) took the loss for the Cougars. Keel finished the day without a decision and struck out six batters in 7.0 scoreless innings.
Blaser led the Matadors at the plate with a 3-for-5 day in which he recorded his first hit as a Matador. Murphy went 2-for-5 with the game-winning RBI.
The Matadors and Cougars are scheduled to continue their series on Friday, Feb. 28, at Matador Field. First pitch is scheduled at 2 p.m. but fans are advised to monitor GoMatadors.com for any changes due to the forecasted weather around Southern California.