BAKERSFIELD, Calif. –
Cal State Northridge twice rallied from deficits after giving up four runs in the first inning as the Matadors (16-28) outdueled the Bakersfield Roadrunners (17-26) 9-8 on Tuesday night at Hardt Field. The Matadors scored two runs in the eighth and held off the Roadrunners to win their first night game of the season and snap a five-game losing streak.
"I think there are two sides tonight. The offense did a great job of making some two-strike adjustments," said CSUN head coach Greg Moore. "Alex Mercado was the key today. He turned some outfielders around and really gave us a jolt. On the pitching side, we had a few guys steady the game. That was the difference tonight."
Bakersfield all but put the game away in the bottom of the first inning when the Roadrunners scored four runs against CSUN starter John Salas. All four runs scored with one out before Calvin Copping entered the game and got a fielder's choice and a pop fly to keep the deficit at 4-0.
The Matadors responded to the slight change in momentum with a run in the top of the second to get closer on the scoreboard. Nick Blaser singled with one out to give the team its first hit of the night and Nico Garbella singled through the right side as well. With two outs, Brett Balkan's single to left field scored Blaser from second.
Two innings later, Cal State Northridge produced its biggest inning of the season with six runs. Blaser opened the frame with a double to left center before Garbella reached on a fielding error by the second baseman. Alexis Mercado followed with an RBI single and Balkan reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases as Garbella was safe on an error at third.
With the bases loaded in a 4-2 game, William Colantono walked to force in a run. Ranny Lowe then drove in a pair of runs with a double down the right field line to give CSUN its first lead at 5-4. Two final runs came across on a two-run single by Nick Murphy.
The Roadrunners fought back, however, and scored twice in the bottom of the fourth to put the score at 7-6. Chance Gusbeth drove in two runs with a single through the right side of the infield with one out before Anthony Cortez entered the game to pitch and induced a double play to end the inning.
Bakersfield regained the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as well. Allen Gwynn brought home a run with a single through the right side and Max Carter was able to score on a wild pitch with two outs.
The Matadors had a final surge left inside though, and used it to put up two runs in the eighth to go ahead for good. Mercado started things off with a double off the top of the left field wall that missed being the tying home run by inches. Balkan then reached on a bunt single that the catcher hoped would roll foul.
Colantono delivered the game-tying RBI with a single to center field with no outs and Lowe reached on a fielding error by pitcher Steven Gee on a sacrifice bunt attempt. With the bases loaded and one out, Chester Pak hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Balkan and gave the Matadors a 9-8 lead.
"Honestly, I've just been trying to get on base," said Colantono. "Coach [Jordan] Twohig always talks about getting the at-bat to the next guy, so that's what I'm trying to do at the plate."
Shay Maltese pitched a scoreless ninth inning and struck out the side to earn the save. With his sixth save of the season, Maltese now ranks in a tie for fifth in single-season school history.
The Matadors had four players with multiple hits in the game, led by Mercado's 3-for-5 performance. Blaser, Garbella and Balkan each had two hits on the night while Lowe, Murphy and Colantono drove in two runs apiece. As a team, CSUN belted out 12 hits and the pitching staff recorded 13 strikeouts.
Reliever Michael Coates (1-0) notched the win with 2.0 scoreless innings on the mound and struck out a season-high four batters. Gee (2-1) took the loss for Bakersfield after allowing two runs, one earned, in 4.2 innings of relief.
"There's so much that we can take away from this game and apply to practice tomorrow," added Moore. "We have a lot of work to do and that's where we need to get back to tonight."
The Matadors will return home from their five-game road swing when they take on the UC Davis Aggies in a Big West series this weekend at Matador Field. First pitch between CSUN and UC Davis on Friday, May 2, is scheduled for 3 p.m.