IRVINE, Calif. –
A three-run rally in the ninth inning was nearly enough, but the Cal State Northridge Matadors (13-20, 2-5 Big West) were defeated by the UC Irvine Anteaters (22-11, 6-1 Big West) 7-5 on Friday night at Anteater Ballpark in a game televised by ESPN3. The Matadors trailed by five runs going into their final at-bats and had the tying run on first base when UC Irvine was finally able to escape with the win.
"We'll take that momentum into tomorrow," said CSUN head coach Greg Moore. "The momentum is what reminds us of what these guys are capable of and we need to build on those good at-bats."
In a game that included 12 runs scored between the teams, both starting pitchers ruled the first three innings. CSUN starter Brycen Rutherford did not allow a hit into the fourth inning while Andrew Morales surrendered just an infield hit in the first inning for UC Irvine before his side took the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
The Anteaters finally broke through against Rutherford with one out in the fourth following a single from Connor Spencer. Taylor Sparks drew a walk before a two-run single for Jerry McClanahan plated both runners to put UCI ahead 2-0.
Four more runs came across in the bottom of the fifth for the Anteaters, seemingly putting the game away until a late CSUN rally drew the Matadors closer. In the fifth, Spencer hit a two-run triple and scored on a triple by Sparks. A ground out by Jonathan Munoz plated a run as well before the frame was over.
The Matadors pushed across two runs in the top of the seventh against Morales to bring the game within four runs at 6-2. Dylan Alexander brought in a run on a ground out before Michael Livingston drove in another with a two-out single up the middle.
Prior to the seventh inning, Morales had not allowed a run to score in the previous 31.1 innings he pitched. UC Irvine received a much-needed insurance run in the bottom of the eighth that almost turned into the game winner. McClanahan doubled with nobody out to give the Anteaters a 7-2 lead at the time.
With Morales out of the game in the top of the ninth, the Matadors strung together timely hits and nearly completed the comeback before the night was through. Nick Blaser reached on catcher's interference before singles from Nicolas Osuna, Dylan Alexander and Livingston trimmed the deficit to 7-3.
Brett Balkan then hit a sacrifice fly to bring the Matadors within three runs and a fielder's choice by Ranny Lowe made it 7-5 with two outs. With the tying run at first base, a grounder up the middle was fielded at second to end the game.
Osuna finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored while Livingston also had two hits and drove in a pair of runs. Alexander was the third Matadors with two hits and also had a run and an RBI.
Rutherford (2-3) struck out five batters in 4.1 innings but allowed six runs in the loss. Morales (7-0) had nine strikeouts in 7.0 innings to get the win while Sam Moore notched his 14th save of the season.
The Matadors and Anteaters will continue their series on Saturday, April 12, at Anteater Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.