CSUN Hits the Road for Big West Series at UC Riverside

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- 

Matadors Headed to Inland Empire to face Highlanders

The Cal State Northridge softball team (10-36, 5-10 Big West) hits the road for one final time, heading to UC Riverside for a three-game Big West Conference series. The Matadors and Highlanders will play a doubleheader on Saturday,  May 5 and a single game on May 6. All three games will be played at Amy S. Harrison Field on the UCR campus and both days are slated to start at noon. A live, internet-only broadcast will be available for all three games and will be available at GoMatadors.com. Links for live stats and updates on the CSUN official athletic department's Twitter account (@GoMatadors) will be available throughout the weekend. 

Last week, Northridge lost a series with Cal State Fullerton at Matador Diamond. In game one, CSUN posted a 5-2 victory behind the play of Mia Pagano, Samantha Sloniker and Madeline Sale. Pagano, who re-entered in the seventh inning after the Titans scored twice, did not allow a run in her seven innings of work. At the plate, Sloniker set a new career high with three hits and Sale blasted her third home run of the season.

However, the next two games did not go CSUN's way. In a 7-2 loss, Mikayla Thielges staked the Matadors to an early 2-0 lead on a two-run home run. But the Matadors were done in by some errors in the field and Fullerton answered with two homers of its own to rally for the win. Game three saw the Titans collect 17 singles en route to an 11-0, five-inning victory. 

This week, CSUN faces UC Riverside with implications in the Big West standings firmly at stake. The Highlanders are 20-27 overall and 3-12 in the Big West Conference after being swept in a series at Long Beach State last weekend.  At the plate, UCR is led by three players batting over .300 for the season. 

Alexis Pickett leads the team at .341 and has 43 hits, nine doubles, 21 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Kayla White checks in at .331 with nine doubles, four triples, six home runs and 34 RBIs. Finally, Ariel Shore enters the series with a .303 average, two doubles, three triples, 13 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. 

In the circle, the Highlanders are led by Jordyn McDonald and Taylor Alvarez. McDonald carries a 9-13 record in the weekend in 129.1 innings of work. She has 91 strikeouts to 69 walks and has tossed 13 complete games and two shutouts. Alvarez is 7-6 with a 4.04 ERA in 86.2 innings of work. She has both 53 strikeouts and 53 walks on the season and also has two shutouts. 

Following the series with the Highlanders, Northridge will host UC Santa Barbara on the final weekend of the season. The Matadors and Gauchos will play a doubleheader on Friday, May 11 and a single game on Saturday, May 12 with Friday starting at 1:30 p.m. and Saturday at noon at Matador Diamond. 

Time for Madeline

Sophomore Madeline Sale continues to lead CSUN in batting, entering the series with UC Riverside at .283 for the season. Although she saw an 11-game hitting streak snapped against Cal State Fullerton, Sale put up big numbers in the Matadors' victory over the Titans. In the 5-2 win, Sale belted her third home run of the season. In Big West play, Sale is batting .340 and is second on the club with a .404 on-base percentage. In the series against Long Beach State, she hit .400 and had a two-run, ground-rule double. She hit .625 with a home run, a double and four RBIs in the Matadors' series victory at Pacific. Sale hit her first home run of the season and second of her career at LMU. She tied a career-high with three hits in the Matadors' victory over Utah State and scored a career-high two runs in the win over Fresno State. For the season, Sale has scored a team-high 16 runs and has 11 RBIs, three home runs, five doubles, nine walks, and a .366 on-base percentage.

Mama Mia!

Junior Mia Pagano earned her fourth win of the Big West season with a dominating performance against Cal State Fullerton. In the 5-2 victory, she scattered five hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings of work. In the Matadors' five league series, Pagano is 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA while holding opponents to a .238 batting average in 50 innings. Pagano tossed a two-hit shutout and clubbed her first career home run, a grand slam, to lead CSUN to a 4-0 victory over Cal Poly. She picked up two complete game victories at Pacific and finished with a career-high eight strikeouts twice (BYU, Nevada) at the San Diego Classic I. She tossed her first career shutout and tied a then-career-high with six strikeouts in an extra-inning victory over Iowa. For the year, Pagano is 8-15 with a 3.48 ERA in 167 innings. She ranks fifth in the Big West Conference in strikeouts (93), third in innings pitched, eighth in ERA, ninth in wins and fourth in appearances (33). As if her performance in the circle was not enough, Pagano has flexed some offensive muscle. Against New Mexico, Pagano set new career highs with three hits and four RBIs. For the season, she is batting .242 with four runs and 10 RBIs. 

Sloniker's Story

Senior Samantha Sloniker hit .444 in the Matadors' series against Cal State Fullerton. In the Matadors' 5-2 victory over the Titans, Sloniker set a new career high with three hits and a new season high with two runs scored. Two of the hits were doubles and she added her third two-bagger of the weekend in the second game of the series. She is batting .283 in 14 Big West Conference games, raising her average to .228 for the season. She is second on the club with seven multi-hit games, six of which were two-hit performances. She recorded two two-hit performances in the Matadors' series victory at Pacific. She had two hits in game two of a doubleheader against New Mexico on April 8 and added two more hits in the Matadors' win over Cal Poly. She had four sacrifice hits at the Cathedral City Classic and is tied for sixth in the league with eight on the season. For the year, Sloniker has five doubles, the team's only triple and she has scored 10 runs. 

Luck Be Thielges Tonight

Junior and Las Vegas native Mikayla Thielges ended a long homerless streak for the Matadors by blasting a two-run shot during CSUN's series with Cal State Fullerton. She enters the weekend with a .250 batting average and .417 on-base percentage. She collected two hits and two RBIs at UCLA and leads the team with 21 RBIs on the season. She hit two home runs during the Matadors' time in San Diego and in her first meeting with Utah State, she smashed a career-high two home runs. She now has 19 career home runs, the ninth-most in school history. Among league players, Thielges ranks fourth in home runs (7), checks in at seventh in on-base percentage and ranks 10th in slugging percentage (.473). She has also been hit by a pitch 15 times this season, which is the most beanings in the Big West Conference.

Tait That Something

Junior Shelly Tait picked up her first win as a Matador in Northridge's 2-1 victory over Long Beach State on April 21. In a complete game effort, Tait scattered five hits and allowed one earned run without walking a batter. For the season, Tait is 1-5 with a 5.36 ERA and a .276 opponent batting average in 31.1 innings of work. Against Big West opposition, she is 1-3 with a 4.48 ERA and .256 opponent batting average in 20.1 innings. 

Brianna the Elder

Redshirt freshman Brianna Elder brings a 3.47 ERA in 44.1 innings into the games against the Highlanders. Since the start of league play, Elder has continued to pitch effectively for CSUN. She has a 4.26 ERA in 24.2 innings while also holding opponents to a .318 batting average. She had a career-high six strikeouts and eight inning pitched in an extra-innings loss to UC Davis. In her first career appearance as a Matador, Elder helped lead the club in a win over Utah State. Against the Aggies, Elder started and went 4.1 innings allowing four hits, one unearned run and one walk to go along with two strikeouts. She tossed her first complete game and allowed one earned run in eight innings of work at the Northridge Classic.

La Reina De CSUN 

Senior Alyssa Ray posted two RBIs in the Matadors' 5-2 victory over Cal State Fullerton. She perfectly executed a suicide squeeze and then drew a bases loaded walk. She had two hits and scored a career-high two runs in game two of a doubleheader with New Mexico. She hit her first career home run, a two-run shot against Nevada, and finished with five RBIs during CSUN's time in San Diego. She added a two-hit, two-RBI performance in Northridge's win over Fresno State. At the Kajikawa Classic, Ray started all five games at third base and finished the weekend with a .571 batting average. She had her first career hit, an RBI ground-rule double, against Nebraska and then had two hits, including another ground-rule double, against Western Michigan. She ended the weekend with a double against Arizona and is second on the team with the four doubles. For the year, Ray is batting .198 with four doubles and nine RBIs. She also leads all Big West Conference players with a 129 defensive assists and carries a .923 fielding percentage into the weekend.