Big West Conference Slate Opens as Matadors Travel to UC Irvine

March 30, 2011

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The 2011 Big West Conference season will get underway for the Cal State Northridge Matadors this weekend with three games at No. 19 UC Irvine. The series with the Anteaters, who tied for second in the preseason coaches' poll, will begin at Anteater Ballpark in Irvine this Friday night at 6:30 p.m. The conference-opening series is set between two non-conference games for Northridge, as the Matadors will finish out a season-high five-game road trip next Tuesday at UNLV. All four games this week on the road will be broadcast on IBSU.net Internet radio by Kevin Strauss and can be accessed via the "Listen Live" link on the main calendar of GoMatadors.com. The games will also be covered on Gametracker.

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 began 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, Drew Muren's grand slam capped a six-run seventh inning and Chris 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 Chris 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

As the Big West Conference season gets underway, the Matadors 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 .278 batting average and leads the league with a .393 slugging percentage.

The Matadors lead the Big West in hits (211) and doubles (45), rank second in the conference in runs scored (128) and runs batted in (112), and are 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 (84) and tied for second in both times hit by pitch (31) and sacrifice flies (11).

Defensively, Northridge ranks third in the league in strikeouts recorded (166) and fourth in batters struck out looking (46). The Matadors' pitching staff has hit the second fewest batters in the league (14), is second in the conference in saves converted (8), and second in successful pick-offs (7).

A Closer Look at UC Irvine

The Cal State Northridge Matadors open up Big West Conference play this weekend with a three-game series on the road at No. 19 ranked UC Irvine. The Anteaters will be the first ranked opponent the Matadors will face in 2011. The Anteaters come into the series with a conference-best 15-6 record and most recently defeated the University of Southern California on the road to snap a four-game losing streak.

The `Eaters are lead statistically by junior infielder Jordan Fox, who owns a .354 batting average with four doubles and a triple. The first baseman is second on the team with 19 RBI through 21 games and has the most hits for UC Irvine at 29. Fox was named Big West Conference Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 14-21.

On the mound for the Anteaters is a trio of consistent starters that may throw against CSUN this weekend. Matt Summers is 2-2 with a 2.12 ERA, Crosby Slaught is 3-0 (2.75 ERA) through his first four starts and Kyle Hooper is 2-0 with a 5.01 ERA after five starts. As a team, UC Irvine has a 2.62 ERA and a team batting average of .288.

The Matadors will open and close conference play against two of the best teams in the conference, UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, respectively.

A Closer Look at UNLV

Next Tuesday's game at UNLV will mark the return trip this season for the Matadors. Earlier in the season, the Matadors took an 11-6 victory from the Rebels at Matador Field on March 15. In that game, senior Ridge Carpenter hit his first homerun of the season and drove in four runs and senior TS Reed went 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. The Rebels have three games at Utah before the game with CSUN.

Since the last meeting, the Rebels are 2-5, losing series to both TCU at home and New Mexico on the road, but defeating UC Irvine. UNLV now owns a record of 18-9 coming into the week with a 1-5 mark in the Mountain West Conference.

Rance Roundy leads the team with an impressive .429 batting average in 27 games, starting all but one. He has collected 14 doubles and six homeruns on the season. Roundy went 2-for-4 as the clean-up hitter in the first match up, scoring once and driving in a run. Tanner Peters leads the pitching corps with a 4-1 record and a 1.01 ERA through six starts with two complete games.

Results from Last Week

The Matadors took part in a split series with the Loyola Marymount Lions Friday through Sunday. Games one and three were played in Northridge with the middle game played at Page Stadium in Los Angeles. In the first game of the series, the Matadors were trailing 2-1 going into the ninth before LMU posted three runs in the top of the ninth to go ahead four. A late rally in the final frame was not enough as the Matadors could only scratch across two and lost 5-3. The Lions dominated every aspect of the second game, winning 8-0 and throwing a combined two-hitter, the first against Northridge in over five years.

The Matadors were able to salvage the final game of the series, coming from behind to take a 2-1 victory on Sunday. Defensively, the Matadors threw out four runners on the basepaths, two at the plate, to keep the game close before scoring the go-ahead run on a Justin De Marco double in the bottom of the eighth.

Against San Diego State on Tuesday, the Matadors ran into tough pitching and timely hitting by the Aztecs as they were defeated 10-0. CSUN could not capitalize on bases loaded with two out in the third and allowed a seven-run fifth inning in the loss.

The Anchor in the Outfield

Redshirt junior Drew Muren 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 is currently tied for the lead in the conference coming into the week for doubles (10) and is fourth in runs scored (17).

The Flyin' Hawaiian

Senior outfielder Ridge Carpenter had seven hits in the three-game series with LMU (March 25-27) and now leads the team in multiple-hit games with nine. 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 tied for second in the Big West coming into the week for runs scored (18) and is second in stolen bases (10).

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. He has spent time as the designated hitter, first baseman, catcher and relief pitcher for the Matadors so far this year and leads the squad with a .390 batting average. Goossen-Brown is currently tied for third 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.