NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors hit the road for their next five games, starting with midweek clashes at CSU Bakersfield and Loyola Marymount University. The Matadors enter the week at 6-5 after taking two out of three from Washington State at Matador Field over the weekend. This week, CSUN will renew rivalries with a pair of opponents in the Roadrunners and Lions. The action gets started on Tuesday, March 4, at Hardt Field in Bakersfield. The next night, the Matadors will travel to Page Stadium to take on Loyola Marymount under the lights for the first time in program history. Following the games, the Matadors will travel to take on No. 20 Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, in a three-game series this weekend. Both midweek games will feature live stats coverage and a free Internet radio broadcast available on GoMatadors.com and the CSUN Front Row app.
GAME #12: Matadors (6-5) at CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners (5-6)
Tuesday, March 4 - 6 p.m.
Hardt Field (2,000) - Bakersfield, Calif.
GAME #13: Matadors at Loyola Marymount Lions (4-7)
Wednesday, March 5 - 6 p.m.
Page Stadium (1,000) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Follow Your Matadors While On-the-Go
Fans can now follow all of the action for Cal State Northridge's 19 varsity sports right from their phone or tablet! CSUN Front Row, the official mobile app of Cal State Northridge Athletics, is available for free for your iOS and Android devices. Rather than having to navigate to GoMatadors.com from your phone, you can now catch up on the latest scores, schedules and news right from a single app. You can also access live stats coverage of a majority of CSUN home events, as well as audio and video links when available. For more information, search for CSUN Front Row on the App Store or Google Play or visit GoMatadors.com/frontrow.
A Closer Look at CSU Bakersfield
The CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners enter the week with an overall record of 5-6 and have played all but two games this season in Bakersfield. The Roadrunners have lost four in a row at home, however, and were swept in three games by the UC Riverside Highlanders over the weekend. So far this year, CSU Bakersfield has victories over Milwaukee and Towson. Last season, the Matadors won the season series against the Roadrunners 2-1, winning once at Matador Field and again at Hardt Field.
The Roadrunners are led offensively by Jordie Hein, who has a .424 batting average and has started and appeared in all but one game so far this season. Hein ties for the team lead with 14 hits and leads the way with 10 runs scored. Chance Gusbeth has started every game this year for CSUB and has a double, two triples and a home run to his credit. Gusbeth has contributed 11 RBIs and also has 14 hits with a .326 batting average. Garrett Pierce is second on the team with his .342 average and has 13 hits.
James Barragan is slated as the probable starter for the Roadrunners on Tuesday night. Barragan is currently 0-1 on the year with a 3.00 ERA. He has appeared in two games this season and will be making his second start on Tuesday. Barragan has pitched 9.0 innings and has recorded five strikeouts while conceding seven walks and allowing five hits. Max Carter has come out of the bullpen five times this season for the Roadrunners and is 0-1 with a 000 ERA. He has allowed just one unearned run and has a save in 6.0 innings of work.
Tuesday night will be the first of three games between the Matadors and Roadrunners this season. The teams will face each other on Tuesday, March 18, in an afternoon game at Matador Field before closing out the season series on Tuesday, April 29, with another 6 p.m. game in Bakersfield.
A Closer Look at Loyola Marymount
The Loyola Marymount Lions enter the week with a 4-7 record and will visit UCLA on Tueday night before entertaining the Matadors on Wednesday. The Lions recently put up lights at Page Stadium, making 2014 the first season to include night baseball at LMU. The Lions suffered five straight losses before sweeping a doubleheader from Utah at Page Stadium this past weekend.
The Lions are led at the plate by Kevin Garcia and Austin Miller. Garcia has played and started in seven games this season and Miller is one of four to feature in all 11. Garcia leads the team with a .333 batting average and has a pair of doubles while Miller is hitting at a .306 clip and has four doubles, two triples and four runs batted in to his name.
No starting pitcher has been announced yet for LMU, but it will likely be a staff day after the team's Tuesday night game at UCLA. As a team, the Lions have a 3.81 ERA but have recorded 93 strikeouts.
Redefining the "Matador Defense"
The Matadors continue to pride themselves on playing smart and sound baseball defensively. In addition to improving its winning percentage each of the past three seasons, Cal State Northridge has also set program records for fielding percentage twice in that span. There were 16 Matadors last season that were perfect in their chances in the field and five others that had two errors or fewer all season. Last year Northridge recorded a .976 fielding percentage, which was good for third in the Big West Conference and also set a mark for the best ever in CSUN history. The Matadors also picked up 16 outfield assists in 2013 and look to build on that quality moving forward. The team did not commit an error in the three-game series at Bethune-Cookman and has a .990 fielding percentage with four errors in 11 games.
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
With the third weekend of the season now completed, the Big West Conference has released its third statistics standings of the year. The Matadors are currently eighth in batting average (.251), slugging percentage (.296), and on-base percentage (.331).The Matadors are sixth with 33 walks and check in at seventh in the league after being hit by a pitch 11 times. The team leads the Big West Conference with 13 sacrifice bunts and is third with 14 stolen bases.
Defensively, the Matadors are third in the Big West with a 2.30 ERA and are averaging over six strikeouts recorded per game. The pitching staff is fifth with 70 strikeouts recorded after 11 games. CSUN has committed just four errors so far this year and has the best fielding percentage in the league at .990.
Individually, Alexis Mercado is tied for third in the conference with four doubles on the year. Ryan Raslowsky has been hit by a pitch three times and has four stolen bases, ranking sixth and fifth, respectively. William Colantono (8th, 7) is among the leaders in walks drawn. Ranny Lowe has been hit by three pitches and ranks sixth in the league while Brett Balkan's five sac bunts lead all others. Brycen Rutherford finds himself at sixth in the conference with a 1.31 ERA. Jerry Keel is currently tied for fourth in the Big West with seven strikeouts looking on the year and is ninth with 17 total strikeouts.
Junior left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel enters the season as the anchor of the pitching staff in 2014. The former Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Freshman All-American is the Friday starter once more for Northridge and picked up right where he left off in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman. Although he took the loss, he pitched 7.0 strong innings with five strikeouts in a 2-1 decision. He walked three batters and allowed five hits, including just one double. He also pitched 6.2 innings against Seattle University and recorded six strikeouts. Against Washington State, Keel went 7.0 innings without allowing a run and struck out six. On the year, he has a 2.18 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.
No Trouble in the Balkans
Senior Brett Balkan has taken the reigns as the starting shortstop and was one of two Matadors with three hits over the opening weekend and he is currently among the team leaders with four runs batted in. He drove in a run in CSUN's 2-1 win in the second game at Bethune-Cookman and added an insurance RBI in the 2-0 win in the finale. Balkan collected seven defensive assists on the weekend, including on a relayed throw to the plate to catch a runner trying to score. He went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored in the first game of a doubleheader against Seattle. On the season, Balkan is hitting .275.
Not a One-Man WolfPak
Junior Chester Pak picked up a couple of hits in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman and drove in the winning run in the top of the 11th inning in the second game. Pak is currently one of three Matadors on the team with nine hits and also drew a couple of walks to help CSUN take two games against the Wildcats. He belted out six hits, including a pair of triples, in the series against Seattle and had five runs batted in. He also had a couple of hits and an RBI against Washington State. Pak is currently batting .297 with a team-high seven RBIs in 11 games.
The Bull Market
Junior Alexis Mercado came up with big hits when the Matadors needed them in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman. His lone hit in the second game of the series was a double in the top of the 11th that eventually resulted in the game-winning run. He had a single, RBI and stolen base in the finale for CSUN, driving in the eventual winning run in the top of the sixth in a 2-0 victory. In the series against Seattle, he had a hit in three of the four games and had a career day in the first game of the doubleheader, going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Mercado connected on the first CSUN home run of the season and had a total of seven hits, including a pair of doubles, against the Redhawks. He also had a double and a run batted in against Washington State in the series-opening win. He is batting .268 with six RBIs in 2014.
Senior center fielder Ranny Lowe is providing a spark at the top of the order for the Matadors this season. After batting in the three-hole for the early part of the year, Lowe became the leadoff hitter for the series against Seattle and immediately made an impact on the lineup. Against the Redhawks Lowe recorded six hits, scored two runs and drove in his first run of the campaign. He also picked up his first stolen base of the season and went 5-for-9 across CSUN's doubleheader with Seattle on February 22. In the opener against Washington State, Lowe stole second base in the 10th and came around to score on a walkoff single. On the season, Lowe is batting .244 in 11 games.
Every Run Counts
After erupting for 22 runs last weekend against Seattle, the Matadors posted just four runs in a series win over Washington State. Against the Cougars, a doubleheader featured 1-0 wins for each team and each game was decided by just one run. In the three games at Bethune-Cookman the two teams combined for eight runs, with the winner of each game needing just two to get the job done. In the series against Seattle the first team to score four runs won each game and with three runs in the first inning of game one of Saturday's doubleheader, CSUN scored more than two in a game for the first time this year. At this early point of the season, CSUN is 4-2 in games decided by one run and 1-2 when the margin is two runs.
Northridge has brought in a number of new faces to the program this year as 13 players are looking to make their debut for the Matadors. Left-handed pitcher Gabriel Corniel returns after taking a redshirt season as a freshman and he will be joined by eight transfers hoping to make an immediate impact. Ranny Lowe is a fifth-year senior that should get the bulk of time in centerfield while Nick Murphy will push for a starting role behind the plate. Nick Blaser and Nico Garbella are both versatile utility players that can be used anywhere on the diamond. Northridge will also hope to feature talented freshmen in the lineup and out of the bullpen to add to their depth at all positions.
The Matadors will face another challenging schedule this season as the team prepares itself for the Big West Conference slate and the postseason beyond. The season started with a three-game series at Bethune-Cookman, a program that has captured 15 MEAC championships since 1996. CSUN also played a midweek game at defending national champion UCLA. Other top teams on the schedule include Washington State, Pepperdine, Fresno State, and TCU in non-conference games. The Matadors will also take on Stony Brook, a team that is just one season removed from the College World Series, for one game at Matador Field. The Big West schedule will feature home series against Long Beach State, Hawai'i, Cal Poly and UC Davis while CSUN will take on UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton on the road. In all, the Matadors will take on three teams, CSF (1), UCLA (10), TCU (23), in the USA Today Preseason Top 25 and two others (Cal Poly, UCSB) that received votes.
Cal State Northridge is now 30 wins from reaching the 1,600-mark in program history. The Matadors posted 31 wins a season ago, their highest win total in over a decade. With their first victory in 2014, the Matadors handed head coach Greg Moore the first win of his tenure at CSUN. Junior left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel is currently third in the school record book with a 2.34 career ERA and needs eight wins to enter the Top 10 while reliever Louis Cohen sits in a tie for ninth with six career saves. Ryan Raslowsky is one sacrifice bunt away from joining the Top 10 as he has 14 through his first two-plus seasons at Cal State Northridge.