NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Senior right-handed pitcher Brycen Rutherford pitched 7.1 masterful innings, Brett Balkan and Nick Blaser had two RBIs apiece and the Cal State Northridge Matadors (14-23, 3-7 Big West) defeated the visiting Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors (14-20, 2-8 Big West) by a score of 6-2 on Thursday afternoon at Matador Field. Rutherford allowed just an unearned run on two hits to propel the Matadors to their first victory in the last six games.
"Bryce sets a tone and it's not just by what he does physically. He competes very well, he moves pitch to pitch like he is 30 and not 22," said CSUN head coach Greg Moore. "He understands the pace of the game. Having somebody like that out there teaches your bullpen more than you can cover in a pregame meeting."
The early part of the game quickly turned into a pitching clinic between Rutherford and Hawai'i starter Matt Cooper. The two combined to allow five hits through the first three innings, but the first third of the game was completed in exactly 30 minutes. Rutherford picked off a runner to end the first inning and got Matt Miller to line into a double play to end the second.
The Matadors got back-to-back hits from William Colantono and Ranny Lowe with one out in the third but a double play ball helped Cooper escape any damage. A single by Chester Pak opened the CSUN half of the fourth inning and a hit by pitch and walk loaded the bases with two outs but the Matadors were unable to score.
Cal State Northridge broke through for the first runs in the game in the bottom of the sixth to take a 2-0 lead. Nick Murphy started things off for the Matadors with a walk on eight pitches and Nicolas Osuna reached base when his sacrifice bunt attempt was thrown away by third baseman Jerry Kleman.
Blaser followed with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position before Balkan's two-run single to right center gave the Matadors a lead they would not relinquish.
The Matadors struck for four more runs in the bottom of the seventh to push the lead to 6-0. Lowe opened the inning with a single on the first pitch of his at-bat and scored on a triple to the right field corner by Ryan Raslowsky. Pak followed with an RBI single of his own and Murphy singled through the left side of the infield to put two runners aboard.
Two batters later, Blaser came through with a two-run single up the middle to put an exclamation point on the inning.
Hawai'i rebounded with two runs in the top of the eighth to end the shutout bid of Rutherford and relief pitcher Shay Maltese. With one out the Rainbow Warriors loaded the bases on a fielding error, a single to center field and a hit by pitch.
Jordan Richartz and Adam Hurley each walked with the bases loaded to force in a pair of unearned runs and cut the margin to 6-2.
Rutherford (3-3) struck out three batters and was charged with just an unearned run on two hits in the win. Cooper (3-4) was handed the loss after allowing five runs, three earned, on nine hits in 6.0 innings.
"I think the UC Irvine game got away from me and I didn't make the pitches that I could have," said Rutherford. "I came into this game wanting to pump the zone and give our hitters a chance to score and get ahead of another team. They played really well and we played really well on defense."
Lowe, Pak, Blaser and Colantono each recorded two hits in the game while Blaser and Balkan had two RBIs each. Balkan added two stolen bases to his line and Osuna was credited with three sacrifice bunts in the game.
During the game, the Matadors recognized the faculty and staff of Cal State Northridge and the support they have provided to the program over the years.
"I view both of our roles as teachers. They teach in a classroom and we teach on a field," added Moore. "I believe many of the breakthroughs that our players have come in the classroom because of the communication standards that the professors at CSUN set. The interaction between athletics and academics here is top-notch."
The Matadors and Rainbow Warriors will continue their three-game series on Friday, April 18. First pitch at Matador Field is scheduled for 3 p.m.