May 15, 2011

Matadors Score Six in Ninth, Defeat UC Riverside in 10 Innings

May 15, 2011

Box Score

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

There are 27 outs per team in a regulation baseball game, and the Cal State Northridge Matadors needed every one of them as they scored six runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, finally completing the comeback with a walk-off safety squeeze in the 10th to defeat the UC Riverside Highlanders 9-8 on Sunday afternoon at Matador Field.

The victory increases the Matadors' record to 21-29 with a 4-14 mark in Big West play. The Highlanders fall to 25-20, 8-10.

Northridge trailed for the most part of the game before the rally was sparked in the bottom of the ninth, as UC Riverside once again scored first, this time in the top of the third inning.

After a combined two hits through the first two innings of the game, the Highlanders put the first run of the game on the scoreboard after Bart Steponovich hit a ground-rule double to left field off of Matador starting pitcher Carlos Gonzalez, Jr. (6.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 K) to lead off the third. A sacrifice bunt moved Steponovich to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Trevor Hairgrove.

The Matadors could not match the run in the bottom of the third despite a leadoff double to right center by Miles Williams. Williams advanced to third base with one out on a sacrifice bunt from Matthew Moreno, but was out at the plate trying to tag up on a fly ball out to center field by TS Reed.

UC Riverside took advantage of the momentum by scoring twice more in the top of the fourth to increase its lead to 3-0. A leadoff walk and a single down the third base line put runners at first and second with no outs. Gonzalez got the next two batters in order before allowing a two-run double into the right field corner to Vince Gonzalez.

Northridge finally plated runs of their own in the home half of the fourth inning, thanks to a two-run home run by Steven Keller. With two outs, Andrew Muren singled to right field before Keller hit a deep fly ball to left field that carried with the strong winds for his third round-tripper of the season.

The wind was blowing strongly out to left field the entire game, and the Matadors were able to both take advantage of it on offense and fight against it on defense to keep further runs from scoring.

In the top of the seventh with the bases empty and two outs, Hairgrove launched a ball to left field that Ridge Carpenter was able to track down by making a leaping catch to end the inning on what likely would have been extra bases. Then, in the top of the ninth inning, Muren chased down a ball that was lined over his head in center field, making a spectacular catch against the wall with a runner on second and two outs.

In between those plays, however, UC Riverside extended its lead by scoring in each the eighth and ninth innings. In the top of the eighth, the Highlanders went ahead 6-2 after the leadoff man singled and advanced to second on a throwing error. An RBI single by Justin Shults scored Ryan Goetz from second base with no outs. The bases were eventually loaded following two walks and a passed ball allowed a runner to score before a sacrifice fly scored another from third.

The margin was increased to six runs at 8-2 in the top of the ninth as a two-out two-run double by Tony Nix landed in the left center field gap before the aforementioned catch by Muren against the wall in center field ended the inning.

The Matadors were quickly down to their final out in the bottom of the ninth as both Keller and Alex Muren, who entered the game as a relief pitcher and was inserted into the batting order in a double switch, popped up to open the frame.

Tommy Simis then sparked a massive Northridge rally with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to left field to make it 8-3. Williams drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Down to his last strike, Moreno followed by drawing a walk of his own.

With runners on first and second, Reed singled up the middle and Williams scored from second base. Nate Ring, who had entered as a defensive replacement for Carpenter in the top of the ninth, walked to load the bases with two outs. After the Highlanders brought in their closer Mike Wolford to pitch with an 8-4 lead, Adam Barry singled to right field to score both Moreno and Reed.

Andrew Muren came up to hit with two men on and facing just a two-run deficit and took the 0-1 pitch to left center field, doubling in Ring and Barry to tie the game and bring a spirited crowd to its feet. Muren would be stranded at second as Keller was retired for the second time in the inning to force extras.

Chris DeBoo (1-1, 1.0 IP, 2 K) come on to relieve Alex Muren (3.0 IP, 3 ER) in the top of the tenth inning and walked two batters with one out before settling down and retiring the next two to end the inning.

In the bottom of the tenth, Simis reached second base with one out as a routine fly ball to the right fielder was dropped for an error. Williams followed with a routine ground ball to the shortstop Hairgrove, who misplayed the ball, allowing Simis to advance to third and Williams to be safe at first.

Moreno, who had laid down two sacrifice bunts earlier in the afternoon, ended the game as he dropped down yet another, this time scoring Simis from third on a safety squeeze to complete the largest comeback for the Matadors this season. 

For Northridge, it was just the first extra-inning game since a 3-2 victory over the University of San Francisco on March 5 at the YMBL Cardinal Classic in Beaumont, Texas. It was also the first walk-off hit since Simis doubled to score two runs in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over UC Santa Barbara on April 12, 2011.

The Matadors will return to action May 20-22 with a three-game conference series at Long Beach State. The final home stand will take place from May 27-29 against Cal State Fullerton.

NOTES:

Miles Williams had his first career three-hit performance by going 3-for-4 with a run scored. He also walked and was safe at first base on an error, reaching base safely in all five plate appearances on the day.

Both Adam Barry and Steven Keller finished 1-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI. Andrew Muren went 2-for-5 with a run and two RBI, hitting his team-high 16th double.

Tommy Simis went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI, taking the team lead with his fourth home run of the year.

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