RIVERSIDE, Calif. -
Four runs over the last three innings were too much to overcome as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (12-18, 1-4) dropped the second game of a Big West series against the UC Riverside Highlanders (14-12, 3-2) on Saturday night at the Riverside Sports Complex. The Matadors were able to cut into the lead on a pair of occasions but the Highlanders responded each time to claim the series heading into Sunday's finale.
"We didn't execute late in the game and they did a good job of applying pressure," said CSUN head coach Greg Moore. "We need to finish innings and we need to finish plays [in order to win tomorrow]."
UC Riverside put the first run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third after Joe Chavez reached on a bunt single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Devyn Bolasky. The Highlanders went ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth when Thomas Walker scored on a rundown with two outs.
The Matadors halved the deficit with a run in the top of the fifth inning after Michael Livingston hit a double over the right fielder's head with one out. Brett Balkan followed with a single through the right side of the infield and Livingston eventually scored on a passed ball.
The Highlanders responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to go ahead 4-1. Walker hit a triple to right center that scored David Andriese before coming across on a sacrifice fly from pinch hitter Alex Rubanowitz.
In the home half of the seventh, Chavez opened the inning with a solo home run on the first pitch he saw to give UCR a 5-1 cushion.
Cal State Northridge got a run back in the top of the eighth but it would not be enough to spark the needed rally. With two outs in the inning Ryan Raslowsky, Chester Pak and Nick Blaser hit consecutive singles to pull the Matadors within three runs at 5-2.
A final insurance run scored for UC Riverside in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single for Matthew Ellis with two outs.
CSUN starter Jerry Keel (0-6) was saddled with the loss after allowing four runs in 5.1 innings. Zach Varela (4-1) picked up the win with two runs, one earned, in 8.0 innings of work.
Raslowsky went 2-for-3 at the plate with a sacrifice bunt and run scored while Blaser picked up the lone RBI for the Matadors.
The Matadors and Highlanders will close out their three-game series on Sunday, April 6, with a 1 p.m. game at the Riverside Sports Complex. Links for live stats and audio can be found at GoMatadors.com.