March 23, 2011

Matadors Face Lions, Aztecs in Final Non-Conference Tune-up

March 23, 2011

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The Cal State Northridge Matadors are gearing up for the final games on the non-conference slate this week with four contests against Southern California teams. First, the Matadors will play a split series with Loyola Marymount, with the second of the three games to be played at Page Stadium in Los Angeles. The series will begin this Friday, Mar. 25 at Matador Field and will conclude in Northridge on Sunday. Following the series with the Lions, Northridge will travel down to San Diego to take on the Aztecs of San Diego State for one game on Tuesday. The one-game set will be the second of three contests between the two schools this season, with the final game scheduled for May 10 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Making History

With the Matadors' 10-5 victory over the Sacramento State Hornets on March 19, Cal State Northridge has now won 1,500 games on the baseball diamond. The program began play in 1959 as San Fernando Valley State College and started its inaugural season 0-7 before winning for the first time in school history against UC Riverside 7-5 at Matador Field. Now in its 53rd season, Cal State Northridge baseball has won 12 conference titles, the first in 1965 (California Collegiate Athletic Association) and the most recent in 2002 (Big West Conference), and two NCAA Division II National Championships (1970 and 1984).

Yard Work

The Matadors have been seeing the ball well of late and have made opposing pitchers pay. Against Sacramento State, senior TS Reed hit his first homerun of the season, a three-run shot in game two of a doubleheader on March 18, and redshirt sophomore Tommy Simis added his first of the year the next day in a pair of victories. On March 8, Andrew Muren's grand slam capped a six-run seventh inning and Christian Allen added a two-run blast in the eighth to beat San Diego State 12-9. In the victory over Lamar, Nate Ring hit a solo homer in the top of the first to give CSUN an early 1-0 lead. During the series with Valparaiso, three different Northridge batters hit their first homerun of the season. Junior Steven Keller, sophomore Christian Allen and freshman Miles Williams all cleared the bases with two-run homers. Sophomore Joshua Goossen-Brown hit a homerun in his first career at-bat for the Matadors against Seattle as well. As a team, the Matadors lead the Big West Conference (11) as nine different Matadors have gone yard this season.

Conference Chatter

After winning 13 of their first 21 games, the Matadors as a team are making a splash in the Big West Conference, leading or near the top of many offensive and defensive statistical categories. As the second team to reach 10 wins, Northridge is setting itself up for a strong run at the rest of the conference. The team is currently third in the Big West with a .287 batting average and second with a .408 slugging percentage.

The Matadors lead the Big West in hits (191) and doubles (38), rank second in the conference in runs scored (123) and runs batted in (107), and are tied for fourth in triples (5). When it comes to the long ball, no other team has hit more homeruns as Northridge leads the league with 11. The Matadors are displaying excellent plate discipline, ranking second in walks drawn (76) and tied for first in times hit by pitch (29), and they lead the Big West in sacrifice flies with 11.

Defensively, Northridge leads the league in strikeouts recorded (155) and is second in batters struck out looking (43). The Matadors' pitching staff has hit the second fewest batters in the league (12) and leads the conference in saves converted (8).

A Closer Look at Loyola Marymount

The Matadors and Lions have had a lot of history on the basepaths. Over the years, Northridge has faced Loyola Marymount 100 times on the diamond, with the Matadors owning a 55-45 advantage, including taking two of three games last season. Northridge owns a 25-24 lead at Matador Field, where two of the three games this weekend will be played, and is 30-21 on the road in the series.

The Lions come into the week with a record of 13-8 and have recently taken three of four games against UC Riverside. Loyola Marymount faces Long Beach State before traveling to Matador Field this Friday.

The Lions are led offensively by Matt Lowenstein and Matt Koch, who have both started every game this season. Lowenstein is batting .363 with nine RBI and two doubles. Koch is hitting .325 with 26 hits, 11 of which are doubles, two homeruns and 16 RBI.

Pitching leaders for LMU include Aaron Griffin, who is used mostly out of the bullpen, and starter John Lally. Griffin leads the team with a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 innings, collecting one save and earning a 3-1 record. Lally has a 2.63 ERA with a 2-1 record in eight appearances, five of which are starts.

A Closer Look at San Diego State

Next Tuesday's game at San Diego State will be the second time the two teams have met this season. On March 8, the Matadors rallied from behind to take a 12-9 decision at Matador Field. Centerfielder Andrew Muren hit a grand slam, capping a six-run seventh inning to give Northridge a 10-8 lead, and first baseman Christian Allen hit a two-run homerun the next inning for insurance runs in the victory.

Since the game on March 8, San Diego State has gone 3-5, taking two out of three in a conference-opening series at home against New Mexico and defeating then-No. 15 ranked Arkansas, and are currently 5-15 in 2011. The Aztecs will face UC Riverside and Brigham Young on the road before hosting Northridge on Tuesday, Mar. 29.

Hitting leaders for the Aztecs include Brandon Meredith and Chris Wilson, who have combined for 25 RBI and 21 runs scored through 20 games. Meredith is hitting .315 with four triples, six doubles and a homerun, while Wilson has a .313 batting average with four doubles, a triple, two homeruns and 12 RBI.

Results from Last Week

The Matadors hosted the Sacramento State Hornets for three games at Matador Field this past weekend. The series, which was originally scheduled to be played in Sacramento, was moved to Northridge due to inclement weather in an effort to play all three games.

The two teams played a doubleheader in Northridge on Friday, with the Hornets taking the first game in a defensive battle 3-1. Ridge Carpenter stole his conference-leading ninth base of the year and Joshua Goossen-Brown and Tommy Simis doubled in the losing effort. In game two, the Matadors came out of the gates fast by putting up four runs in the first inning en route to a 13-7 victory. TS Reed (five RBI) hit a three-run homerun, his first of the season and Chris Allen tripled and had two RBI in the victory.

The Matadors won the series the next day by defeating the Hornets 10-5. Justen Gorski recorded his third win of the season and pitched 7.0 innings for Northridge. Reed hit a perfect 3-for-3 and walked once, and Goossen-Brown went 2-for-5 with three RBI to improve the Matadors to 13-8 on the year.

The Anchor in the Outfield

Redshirt junior Andrew Muren returns for his third full season at Northridge in 2011. He was recently named as a Big West Conference Co-Player of the Week after hitting two homeruns, driving in seven runs and scoring six between March 7 and 13. Muren's grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning against San Diego State scored the eventual winning run for the Matadors. Muren's versatility in the field, at the plate and on the base paths make him a threat to any opponent. He accounted for 140 putouts in the field last season and turned three double-plays from centerfield. His prowess in the outfield did not go unnoticed by the Big West Conference coaches, as they voted him the best defensive outfielder in a College Baseball Insider poll earlier this year. Muren currently leads the conference in doubles (9) and is tied for third in runs scored (17).

The Flyin' Hawaiian

Senior outfielder Ridge Carpenter continues to be a force at the plate and on the basepaths. In the victory against UNLV, he went 2-for-4 with a three-run homerun, a triple, four RBI and two stolen bases. Carpenter finds ways to get on base, as he had a hit in three of four games against Valparaiso. In the four-game series against Seattle University, Carpenter stole his first base of the year. In Northridge's 10-3 victory on Feb. 19, Carpenter went 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored. Over the summer, he was ranked as one of the top ten recruits competing in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League for his success as a member of the Kauai Menehunes. His speed and skill led him to be named the best base-runner in the Big West in a College Baseball Insider poll of conference coaches. Carpenter has started every game in the outfield for Northridge this season and is currently second in the Big West for runs scored (18) and leads the league in stolen bases (9).

The Goose is Loose

Sophomore transfer Joshua Goossen-Brown has wasted no time in making himself known around Matador Baseball circles. The pitcher/utility man pitched a scoreless eighth inning and picked up a hold in Northridge's 2-0 victory over Seattle University on Opening Day. The next day, he made his first start at first base for CSUN and homered in his first at-bat, a two-run blast to left field in the second game of a doubleheader. Later in the game, Goossen-Brown smacked a double and finished 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Goossen-Brown went 3-for-3 from the plate with two doubles and four runs scored against UNLV on March 15, as he also pitched the final 2.1 innings and struckout three to notch his third save of the season. Goossen-Brown is currently tied for first in the Big West in saves (4).

First Impressions

With the Matadors' 2-0 victory over the Seattle University Redhawks on Feb. 18, CSUN has now won on Opening Day two years in a row, bringing the program's overall mark to 31-20-2 in season openers. Junior Justen Gorski pitched seven strong innings and allowed just three hits to the Redhawks to notch his first win of the year. Gorski struckout eight hitters while walking two. Joshua Goossen-Brown and Ryan Juarez came into the game in relief to help preserve the shutout, with Goossen-Brown earning a hold and Juarez converting his first save of 2011. Senior TS Reed started the game at second base and went 1-for-1 at the plate, driving in both runs for Northridge.

A Golden State of Mind

Of the 56 games on the schedule in 2011, only five will be played outside the state of California. Northridge welcomes Seattle University, Valparaiso, Lafayette and UNLV to Matador Field this season, but only make a return trip to Las Vegas before the year is through. The Matadors compete in the four-day YMBL Cardinal Classic on the campus of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas from Mar. 3 through 6. They then travel to Las Vegas to face UNLV for one game on April 5 at the halfway mark of the season, with the entire second half of the schedule against teams from California. In total, Cal State Northridge faces just six opponents that play their home games outside of the Golden State.

Under New Management

The Cal State Northridge Matadors will be under the direction of a new coaching staff in 2011, led by head coach Matt Curtis. Curtis joins the program from Fresno State, where he was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs for 10 years and was a part of five straight Western Athletic Conference title teams and the 2008 NCAA College World Series champions. Joining Curtis at CSUN is pitching coach Tim Leary, a former first round draft pick in 1979 by the New York Mets who won a World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. Also new to the coaching staff is CSUN alum and former Matador second baseman Shaun Larkin. Larkin was a member of Northridge's 2002 Big West Championship team and holds the NCAA Division-I record for consecutive times on base (18), and will work primarily with the infielders and hitters.

Survey Says...

The 2011 Cal State Northridge baseball team received 13 points and was picked to finish in ninth place this season by the Big West coaches, as announced by the conference office in late January. Cal State Fullerton was the unanimous choice as the preseason favorite, receiving all nine first-place votes for 81 points. The Titans won their 15th Big West crown in 2010 and made their 32nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine and UC Riverside each received 65 points to tie for second in the poll. Cal Poly was selected to finish fourth and Long Beach State nabbed the fifth spot with 47 points despite finishing in last place in the conference in 2010. The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara received 36 points in the poll to check in at sixth, and the Matadors will face UCSB five times in 2011. Pacific came in seventh as they narrowly edged UC Davis by four points in the poll. Cal State Northridge begins Big West play on April 1 at UC Irvine.