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Feb. 19, 2009

Coach Rousey Shares His Thoughts on  the 2009 Season

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

THIS WEEK'S GAMES

Friday, Feb. 20    Northridge @ Pepperdine    Eddie D. Field Stadium     2:00 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 21    Northridge vs. Pepperdine    Matador Field    1:00 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 22    Northridge @ Pepperdine    Eddie D. Field Stadium  • 1:00 p.m.

ON THE MOUND

Friday, Feb. 20 •  RHP Ryan McCarney (0-0, 0.00)  vs. RHP Nathan Newman (0-0, 0.00)

Saturday, Feb. 21 •  RHP Ryan Juarez (0-0, 0.00)  vs. LHP Scott Alexander (0-0, 0.00)

Sunday, Feb. 22 •  LHP Bryan Harper (0-0, 0.00)  vs. LHP Robert Dickmann (0-0, 0.00)

 

After many months of intense workouts, drills, and practice games against one another, the long wait is finally over as the Cal State Northridge Baseball team will begin the 2009 season with a three-game series against the Pepperdine Waves. 

Junior transfer Ryan "China" McCarney will make his debut for the Matadors as the opening day starter Friday afternoon at Pepperdine, and will face fellow right-hand pitcher and All-West Coast Conference First Team honoree Nathan Newman. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

The series switches venues on Saturday to Northridge as sophomore Ryan Juarez is scheduled to open up the 2009 home schedule at Matador Field against fellow freshman Scott Alexander. The teams will swap venues for the final time on Sunday for the final game of the series with Matador's Bryan Harper starting the game against Robert Dickmann. 

Both weekend games will begin at 1:00 p.m. 

A 29th-round draft pick in the 2008 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft by the Cleveland Indians, McCarney chose to hone his skills under Coach Rousey's tutelage this season, and has shown great promise during off-season workouts. 

"China has earned his spot on opening day," stated Coach Rousey. "He has worked hard and shown us that he is ready to pitch for us this season." 

Before transferring to Northridge, McCarney spent the previous two seasons pitching for the College of the Canyons. The Acton, California native was a member of the starting rotation both seasons, and was named team captain of the 2008 Western State Conference Championship squad; a group of student-athletes that amassed a collective 53-38 record during the last two seasons. 

One of 13 sophomores to make this season's roster, Juarez once again returns to the mound as a member of the starting rotation. After redshirting in 2007, he started in seven of the 15 games he appeared in , going 3-4 with a 6.45 ERA.

Also making his debut this season for Northridge is freshman Bryan Harper, Sunday's scheduled starting pitcher. Like his teammate McCarney, Harper was also selected in the 2008 MLB draft, chosen by the Washington Nationals in the 31st-round, and also chose to further develop his skill set under the eyes of Rousey and his staff.

Originally from Las Vegas, Harper played all four seasons for the baseball team at Las Vegas High School, earning First Team All-Region, First Team All-State, and Northeast Division Player of the Year honors during his junior season, and both First Team All-Region and All-State accolades as a senior.

McCarney and Harper are just two members of a recruiting class ranked in the top-40 by Collegiate Baseball in their most recent annual evaluation. 

The Matadors were one of four representatives from the Big West Conference that were ranked by the Tucson-based publication, a list that also included Cal State Fullerton (14), UC Irvine (22) and Long Beach State (39).

Joining McCarney as the only transfer student this season is Bryan Longpre, a 6-2 right-handed pitcher who spent the previous two seasons in San Diego throwing for Grossmont Junior College. Known for his athleticism and durability, Longpre will compete for a permanent spot in the Matador rotation this season as he continues the transition to the Division I level.

Also looking to carve their identity on this year's roster are freshman pitchers Steve Messner (LHP, Apple Valley Christian HS), Chris DeBoo (RHP, Otay Ranch HS), and Justen Gorski (RHP, Moorpark HS). 

"Messner performed as well as anyone on staff during fall workouts, and can also pitch himself into the starting rotation this season," explained Rousey. "DeBoo has an outstanding competitive makeup and will provide an additional level of depth in the bullpen, and Gorski could see a healthy number of innings as he possesses good fastball command and a quality breaking ball."

Challenging the incumbent Matadors for playing time in the field this season will be newcomers Darren Mullen (C, San Luis Obispo HS), Robert Nadalsky (OF, San Luis Obispo HS), Tommy Simis (2B/SS, Poway HS) and Westley Wright (OF/RHP, Moorpark HS).

Offering his thoughts on all the incoming position players, Rousey believes that "Mullen will get some time to develop into a solid contributor, while Nadalsky will provide additional depth in the outfield."

"Simis possess good instincts as a ballplayer, especially for an infielder," while Rousey envisions that "Wright will likely see actions in all three spots as an infielder, outfielder, and right-handed pitcher."

In total, the 2009 season will be the initial campaign for two transfers and ten freshmen who join a program that fielded one of the youngest starting squads in the nation last season.

Led by Big West Freshman Player of the Year Ryan Pineda, the CSUN's returning members are looking to improve on their 24-32 (8-16 Big West) performance last season and contend for the conference title this time around.

Even though their record landed the Matadors in seventh place, the experiences gained in the process will serve as an invaluable asset for this season's team.

"Pineda has improved defensively and will find a spot in the middle of the lineup this season," stated Rousey.

It was not uncommon for Rousey to field a starting lineup consisting of all freshman to expose the neophytes to the amount of hard work, sacrifice, and everyday pressures faced by student-athletes looking to not only solidify their position as one of the starting nine, but compete with some of the top programs in the nation in the ultra-competitive Big West Conference.

Benefiting from their experiences last season and returning for their sophomore seasons are Taylor Austin, Dominic D'Anna, Justin DeMarco, Todd Eskelin, Chris Hannick, Peter Mendez, Andrew Muren, Jeff Pruitt, TS Reed, Brian Slover, and Paul Tremlin. With Juarez, and Pineda also returning, almost forty percent of the entire team roster is comprised of individuals who made their debut at Northridge last season.

In assessing his returning players, Rousey shares that "Austin possesses the ability to pitch near every game out of the bullpen, while D'Anna will likely find a home in the middle of our lineup because he is a pure hitting first baseman. DeMarco is a top utility infielder with plenty of experience and skill to contribute to the Matador's success this season, and Eskelin provides myself with additional match-up options that can frustrate opposing pitchers every game."

"Mendez is a durable left-handed pitcher that could be near the lead in appearances this season for us, Muren is a solid two-way players that could be both a starting pitcher and outfielder with a potent left-handed bat, Pruitt is an outfielder who possesses great speed and has earned the starting centerfield job, while Tremlin has the ability to pitch a lot of key innings for the Matadors."

As an indication of the amount of talent that could be found in last year's line-up, a number of Cal State Northridge baseball players were recognized by the conference for their efforts throughout the 2008 season.

In addition to Pineda earning 2008 Big West Freshman Player of the Year, teammates Richard Cates and Edwin Quirarte were named to the 2008 All-Big West Second Team, with John Parham, Pineda, Reed, and Phil Hann named to the 2008 All-Big West Honorable Mention squad.

"Reed emerged as a team leader, as a sophomore this mid-infielder will become our leadoff man in hopes of replicating his All-Big West performance of last season," said Rousey.

The six players represent the highest number of post-season accolades awarded to Matador baseball student-athletes during Coach Rousey's tenure with the university, and with all but Quirarte and Hann returning in 2009, this year's starting unit will possess a potent combination of youth, experience, and raw talent.

All of those characteristics will be in high demand this season as the Matadors possess the 24th-toughest overall schedule in the nation, and 38th-toughest non-conference schedule out of the 302 baseball programs competing at the Division I level.

The 2009 schedule also includes ten games against opposition that is currently ranked in Baseball America's Top-25 Preseason Poll. In addition to the three game series against #17-ranked Pepperdine before facing the Waves for a fourth and final time this season on April 21st at Matador Field, CSUN will also face the #5-ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans at home April 9-11 before heading south to battle the #9-ranked UC Irvine Anteaters on May 1-3.

With all member-schools of the conference possessing a strength-of-schedule rating in the top-25, a claim that only the Big West and Pac-10 conferences can make this season, all of the experience and talent strewn from the top to the bottom of this year's team will be put to the test throughout the upcoming months.

Looking to end their collegiate careers on a positive note are Cates, Parham, P.J. Rousey, and Bryce Schoening; members of the 2009 senior class who will be heavily relied upon by Coach Rousey and his staff to provide the leadership skills and maturity needed to survive the everyday grind en route towards postseason competition.

With an increased level of production in each of their prior three seasons at Northridge, both Cates and Parham were elected as team captains, and look to produce another successful season full of numbers both at the plate and in the field in hopes of making the postseason for the first time in their collegiate careers.

"Parham is one of the quickest catchers you will ever see, and is expected to be one of our best run producers as a senior in '09. Cates is also expected to produce a lot of runs for us this season, but what I really like is that he has become a more improved defender in the outfield and baserunner," explained Rousey.

With both student-athletes finishing the 2008 campaign either in first of second place on the team with their batting averages, total number of at-bats and total hits, runs scored, runs batted in, walks earned, games played, and games started, both players will once again play a prominent role at the plate.

With Cates and Parham leading the way from the dugout, both (P.J.) Rousey and Schoening can focus their efforts and leadership capabilities within the Matador bullpen this season, and look to fill the void created by the departed Edwin Quirarte who was selected in the 35th round by the San Francisco Giants in the 2008 Draft.

In 15 appearances last season, Rousey finished the season with a 2-0 record, allowing only 17 hits in 17.1 innings pitched, striking out 13 batters in the process, while his teammate Schoening finished the season with the lowest ERA (3.27) and a 1-0 record in his seventeen appearances for the Matadors.

As a veteran right-handed reliever and team captain, (P.J.) Rousey will primarily work as a set-up man, like the left-handed Schoening. Both will likely be amongst the leaders in the Big West in appearances this season.

Assisting the senior class with their own pool of leadership abilities and talent are juniors Billy Ott, Billy Swanson, and Davin Tate.

"Ott will be vying for a starting role as he was our top strike thrower during fall workouts. Swanson is a versatile first baseman/outfielder who possesses a solid left-handed bat, while Tate is one of our right-handed pitchers who is coming into his own this season and will compete for a starting spot,"  stated Rousey.

Enhancing the depth in the bullpen this season is right-handed pitcher Jimmy Jolicoeur, the opening-day starter last season who earned a medical redshirt due to an injury sustained early in the 2008 season.

States Rousey, "Jolicoeur will fill the closer role as a junior in 2009 because he has four quality pitches that he can mix in any count."

Along with Jolicoeur, Slover will pitch in a dual-closer role throughout the season. The sophomore right-handed pitcher not only possess a solid arm, but will occasionally fulfill the role of designated and pinch-hitter when the situation presents itself.

Also returning from an injury that took place while on the road in Mississippi is Jason Dabbs. After playing in only 25 games last season, Dabbs is now fully healthy and will vie for time as a member of the starting nine.

As the number two catcher for the team, Chris Hannick is performing well enough at the plate to merit serious consideration as the team's designated hitter while his fellow counterpart behind the plate, Patrick Castillo, has emerged as the most valuable player of the fall program even though he sat out the 2008 season as a redshirt.

Also a redshirt in 2008, Kevin Shulemson will make his debut for CSUN this season, further deepening the amount of talent on the bench with his skills in the field and razor-quick left-handed bat.

With a bevy of arms available this season, combined with the production in the field and at the plate from his core of returning players, and an skilled class of incoming student-athletes filled with the potential to damage the lineups of their opposition all season long, the Matadors are looking forward to exchanging the growing pains experienced last season for a run at the Big West title this time around.

Matador Baseball is back with their first home game of the 2009 season taking place on Saturday, February 21 against the Pepperdine Waves. First pitch is scheduled to take place at 1:00 p.m., tickets can be purchased with either in-person at Matador Field, online at ticketmaster.com, or at any Ticketmaster retail location.