FULLERTON, Calif. -
After falling behind by four runs the Cal State Northridge Matadors (18-36, 6-16 Big West) fought back over the final few innings but eventually fell 4-2 at Cal State Fullerton (30-22, 12-10 Big West) on Thursday night at Goodwin Field. The Matadors received production offensively from Chester Pak and Nick Murphy but were unable to string together late hits to power past the Titans.
The Matadors went on the attack early as Pak and Murphy combined for a pair of two-out singles against CSF starter Thomas Eshelman in the top of the first. CSUN starter Brycen Rutherford started off on the right foot as well, striking out the first two batters he faced in the game.
Rutherford worked around a two-out triple in the first inning and a one-out single in the second to keep the Titans off of the board. Cal State Fullerton was the first to break through, however, and took a 1-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the third.
Taylor Bryant was credited with an infield single on a grounder that took an odd bounce by first base and moved up to second on a ground out. With two outs, Bryant scored from second base on an RBI single to left field by J.D. Davis.
The Titans picked up three more runs in the bottom of the fourth to go ahead 4-0. With two outs Austin Diemer walked, Jared Deacon singled and Bryant walked to load the bases.
A bit of miscommunication on a pickoff attempt resulted in the ball being thrown to center field, allowing a run to score from third. Clay Williamson and Keegan Dale followed with successive singles to bring home two more runs for the Titans.
Cal State Fullerton was able to load the bases again in the bottom of the fifth, but Rutherford responded with a strikeout that stranded the runners and swung the momentum in CSUN's favor. The Matadors came out swinging in the top of the sixth, scoring twice against Eshelman.
Ranny Lowe started things off by muscling a single to center field on a 1-2 count and was followed by a single to left from Ryan Raslowsky. Brett Balkan then found himself in a seven-pitch at-bat before being hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Pak grounded into a fielder's choice that scored Lowe and Murphy hit an RBI single to left field, but a double play ended the CSUN threat as Nick Blaser was called out on a close play at first.
The Titans threatened to score again in the bottom of the sixth, but with two outs Blaser threw out a runner at the plate for his eighth outfield assist of the season. The Matadors got a pair of runners on base with two outs in the eighth against reliever Koby Gauna but could not string together another hit to score a run.
Pak and Murphy each went 2-for-4 with an RBI while Raslowsky and Lowe picked up the other hits for the Matadors.
Rutherford (4-7) struck out six in 5.2 innings but was hit with the loss while Eshelman (8-3) picked up the win after allowing just two runs in 7.0 innings. Gauna earned credit for his fifth save of the season.
The Matadors and Titans will continue their season-ending series on Friday, May 23, at Goodwin Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast worldwide on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.