NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Trailing by a pair of runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Cal State Northridge fought back to place the tying run at third base before falling to No. 6 Cal Poly 3-2 on Senior Day at Matador Field. Chester Pak and Brett Balkan had two hits for the Matadors (18-35, 6-15 Big West), while the Mustangs (45-10, 19-5 Big West) clinched the outright Big West Conference championship for the first time in their history.
"First and foremost, congratulations to Cal Poly. That is a class baseball program and their coaches do a fine job," said CSUN Head Coach Greg Moore. "Today was about honoring our seniors with our work and there was no surprise that our guys played every pitch today."
The game proved to be a battle from the first pitch, as CSUN starter Jordan Johnson worked around Mustang hits in each of the first three innings. He was rewarded by his offense, which scored in the bottom of the second to take a lead over Cal Poly for the first time in the series.
With two outs in the second inning, Nick Blaser doubled into the left field corner against Cal Poly's Justin Calomeni. Alexis Mercado followed with a single through the right side of the infield to put the Matadors ahead 1-0.
Cal Poly responded with a run in the top of the fourth to tie the game. Zack Zehner opened the inning with an infield single and eventually scored on an RBI ground out by Peter Van Gansen.
The Mustangs then took the lead with two runs in the top of the sixth, thanks in part to an error that kept runners on the bases. Zehner drew a walk to start things off and was safe at second on a bunt attempt from Jimmy Allen as Johnson's throw to second sailed into center field. Chris Hoo brought home one run with a ground out and another came across on a single to right center by John Schuknecht.
The Matadors kept the damage to a minimum, however, and began the upset bid in the bottom of the ninth. After the first two batters of the inning were retired, Pak hit a double off the top of the wall in left field.
Balkan followed with a single through the right side of the infield before Pak scored on a single from pinch hitter Nick Murphy. After Murphy stole second, Blaser walked to load the bases but a ground ball to first was fielded cleanly and the Mustangs were finally able to end it.
Pak finished the game 2-for-4 with a run scored while Balkan went 2-for-3. In the series against the Mustangs, Pak went 8-for-12 with three doubles, a triple, four runs and three RBIs.
Johnson (3-5) wook the loss for the Matadors after allowing three runs in 6.0 innings of work. Reliever Danny Zandona (4-0) pitched 3.1 scoreless innings to pick up the win for the Mustangs and Reed Reilly was credited with his 10th save of the year.
The Matadors will return to action for the final three-game series of the season when the team travels to Cal State Fullerton next weekend. All three games of the series will be broadcast on ESPN3 and WatchESPN, and the opener is scheduled for Thursday, May 22, at 6 p.m.