February 24, 2012

Northridge Continues Homestand Against Wildcats, Huskies

Weekly Release in PDF Format

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The Cal State Northridge Matadors remain at home this week as they play five games in four days at Matador Field. Starting with a Friday afternoon contest against the Northwestern Wildcats, the Matadors will play a scheduled doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. The second game of the doubleheader will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first. The series against Northwestern wraps up on Sunday with first pitch at 1 p.m. Northridge will welcome the Washington Huskies for the only Monday game on the schedule at 1 p.m. Links for radio coverage and live stats for this week's games are available at GoMatadors.com.

GAMES #5-8 (Home Games #2-5):

Northridge Matadors (2-2, 0-0 Big West) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 B1G)

Friday, Feb. 24 to Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012 - 2 p.m./11 a.m. (Doubleheader)/1 p.m.
Matador Field (1,000) - Northridge, Calif.

Live Stats: GoMatadors.com

Audio: TBD
In-game Twitter updates: @CSUNBaseball

GAME #9 (Home Game #6):
Northridge Matadors vs. Washington Huskies (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12)

Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 - 1 p.m.
Matador Field (1,000) - Northridge, Calif.
Live Stats: GoMatadors.com
Audio: TBD
In-game Twitter updates: @CSUNBaseball

Can't Make it Out to the Field?
Follow the Matadors online all season long at GoMatadors.com on your computer or smartphone. A majority of this season's games will feature an Internet radio broadcast provided by Stretch Internet that can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection, including tablet computers, Android products and Apple iPhone. If you miss a game, you can access the broadcasts on demand for free by clicking the "On Demand" tab in the CSUN audio portal. As a shortcut, fans can open the audio portal by clicking on the headphones icon at the top of any page of GoMatadors.com.

Games this season will also include live stats coverage that can be accessed by clicking the "Live Stats" link on the baseball schedule page. Links to radio coverage (for both teams, if applicable) will also be on the schedule page. As always, game-by-game coverage and news updates can also be found on Twitter by following @CSUNBaseball and @GoMatadors.

First Impressions
With a 6-4 win over Sacramento State on Feb. 17, the Matadors have won on Opening Day for the third straight season. In head coach Matt Curtis' first game at CSUN, the Matadors posted a 2-0 victory over Seattle University in 2011. Northridge also defeated Bethune-Cookman in a neutral site game to open 2010. The last CSUN loss on Opening Day came to then-No. 8 Pepperdine in 2009, and the Matadors have not lost a home opener since the 2008 campaign. Through 53 seasons on the diamond, the Matadors own a 32-20-2 mark in season openers. Northridge is an impressive 36-18 in its first home game of the season is 26-26-3 in road openers.

Results from Last Week
The Matadors split four games during the first week of the season and picked up their first series win of the year. After winning on Opening Day at Sacramento State, the Matadors dropped the middle game to the Hornets to force a rubber game in the series finale. On Opening Day, junior Brett Balkan recorded a two-run single in the top of the ninth and also collected six assists from his spot at third base to help Northridge to a 6-4 win. Junior Alex Muren (1-0) was credited with the win and freshman Cole Hallum picked up a save in his collegiate debut.

Northridge lost the second game of the series despite strong pitching from senior Vincent Roberts and freshman Jerry Keel, who combined for six strikeouts, but allowed two runs. The Matadors could not get the bats going, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Hornets. The story was different in the series finale as the Matadors came out swinging. Feuled by a towering three-run home run by sophomore Miles Williams, Northridge was able to take a 5-3 game and leave Sacramento with a series win under its belt. Junior Jacob Petersen (1-0) earned his first win of the season and is now 5-0 in his Matador career while freshman Jacob Leyba pitched a scoreless ninth inning to get the save in his first appearance for Northridge.

In the season's first midweek game, the Matadors lost a tough battle to #22 UCLA in CSUN's home opener. With strong winds aiding both offenses, the Bruins took a 19-7 win at Matador Field thanks to a nine-run eighth inning. Senior Todd Eskelin hit his first home run for Northridge since the 2009 season and freshman catcher Alexis Mercado got his first career hit and RBIs on a two-run single.

A Closer Look at Northwestern
The Northwestern Wildcats enter the four-game series at Matador Field with a 1-2 record under head coach Paul Stevens, who is in his 24th season as the head coach of the program. Northwestern dropped two of three last weekend in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, its lone win coming over Pittsburgh 12-11 in 10 innings.

Through three games this season, the Wildcats are led on offense by center fielder Luke Dauch. He is 5-for-7 with two doubles, a triple and three runs scored. He also has two RBIs and owns a .714 batting average. Kyle Ruchim leads the team with four RBIs and also has two sacrifice hits on the year. Nick Linne has a .500 average (6-for-12) and leads the team with four runs scored.

The Matadors will see right-handed pitcher Luke Farrell in the series opener on Friday afternoon. Farrell has one start on the season and allowed eight runs on nine hits in five innings for a no decision. He has recorded six strikeouts and issued just three walks. On Saturday, Northridge will face Zach Morton (0-1, 4.50 ERA) and Brandon Magallones (1-0, 6.75 ERA) in games one and two of the doubleheader, respectively. In the series finale the Wildcats will turn to Francis Brooke (0-0, 3.60 ERA). Morton, Magallones and Brooke are all right-handers as well.

The Matadors are 5-4 in the all-time series against Northwestern and won the last meeting between the two schools 17-9 at Matador Field in 2008. Following the series at CSUN, the Wildcats will travel to Port Charlotte, Fla. for the Snowbird Classic.

A Closer Look at Washington
The Washington Huskies are currently 2-1 on the season, but play four games this week before the one-game set at Matador Field on Monday, Feb. 27. The Huskies host Seattle University before a three-game series at UC Irvine this weekend after taking two out of three on the road at San Diego State last week. Head coach Lindsay Meggs is in his third season with the program.

Washington is led offensively by starters Brandon Berry and Robert Pehl, who have combined for 11 hits and seven RBIs through the first three games. Berry has a team-high eight hits, including a triple and a home run, and a slugging percentage of 1.000. Pehl leads the team with four RBI and has tallied a double this season. Jayce Ray is also a key to the offense in the early going, as he has gone 6-for-14 (.429) with three runs scored.

On the pitching side of things, the Huskies have starters George Asmus and Aaron West, who both allowed an earned run in 5.0 innings in their first starts of the year. Neither has been given a decision in a game yet as relievers Mac Acker and Zach Wright have both been credited with wins. Acker has pitched 2.0 innings over three appearances and has not allowed a run while Wright has an ERA of 6.75 and has given up two runs on two hits in 2.2 innings this year. The team leader in strikeouts is Tyler Davis, who set down six batters in his only appearance this season.

Following the series with the Matadors, the Huskies will return home to Husky Ballpark to take on Saint Joseph's in a four-game series next weekend. The Matadors will head down for four games at the San Diego State Invitational from March 1-4. Northridge opens the weekend against San Diego on March 1 at 3 p.m.

Where There's a Williams, There's a Way
Sophomore Miles Williams has been on an all-around after the first week of games. Williams has a team-high .467 batting average and also leads the Matadors with four RBIs after four games. In the final game against Sacramento State, Williams blasted a three-run home run off of the third story of the parking structure adjacent to John Smith Field. Against #22 UCLA, Williams showed his defensive threats as well, throwing out a runner at the plate trying to score in the second inning.

Good to Be Back
Senior outfielder Todd Eskelin has made his presence known as a key piece of the offense through the first week of games. Playing his first significant time since the 2009 season, Eskelin is off to a good start. He is currently second on the team with a .455 batting average and has a double and a home run. His three-run home run against then-#22 UCLA was his first round-tripper since the 2009 season and gave him 14 RBIs for his career. He has also scored five runs, a team high, and also leads the team with five walks. Through four games, Eskelin is has compiled an impressive .818 slugging percentage. He is the only Matadors with a hit in each game this season.

Attl Boy!
Junior shortstop Kyle Attl is coming into his own in his third season with the program. He is hitting .200 thus far and has collected a hit in each of the last three games. In addition to a sacrifice hit, Attl also has three singles and an RBI. He drove in his first run of the campaign with an RBI single against then-#22 UCLA in the team's home opener. Known also for his defensive abilities, Attl has also made nine assists in the infield without making an error.

Bad Moon Rising
Junior right-hander Alex Muren earned his first victory of the season in Northridge's 6-4 Opening Day win over the Sacramento State Hornets. He pitched 6.2 innings and struck out two on the day, holding opposing hitters to a .167 batting average. Muren, a Ramona, Calif. native, now has compiled a record of 5-2 in his Northridge career and has an even 40 strikeouts over two-plus seasons.

Breathing a Simis of Relief
Redshirt junior Tommy Simis is transitioning nicely into his role as the team's starting second baseman. Through four games this year, Simis is hitting an even .200 and has recorded a hit in three straight games. He has also drawn a walk and been hit by a pitch twice, finding ways to get on base when the Matadors need it. On the defensive side of the ball, Simis has helped Northridge turn three double plays in the first week of action.

On an Even Keel
Freshman left-hander Jerry Keel made a positive impact on the coaches and fans alike in his first career appearance over the weekend at Sacramento State. Coming into the game as a reliever, Keel pitched six innings and allowed one run while striking out four hitters. Although he gave up nine hits, Keel was able to consistently work out of trouble and forced the Hornets to strand nine runners on base. Keel, originally from Palmdale, Calif., owns the team lead with his four strikeouts.

Barry Nice
Junior Adam Barry returns for his second season at Northridge in 2012. After leading his team to the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League championship last summer and setting numerous individual league hitting records in the process, Barry was selected as a Third Team Summer Collegiate All-American Team by Perfect Game USA. Originally a football player at the University of Wyoming, Barry has settled nicely into his role on the diamond with the Matadors. With the second-highest batting average among returners (.288), Barry's bat will be important on offense again this season. In 2011, he hit 10 doubles, scored 13 runs and drove in 14 RBI, while also stealing eight bases in nine attempts. Barry also tied for first in the Big West with a 15-game hitting streak last year.

Rookie Report
Northridge has brought in a number of new faces to the program this year, including four junior transfers. Cal Vogelsang, Brett Balkan, Dylan Young and Harper White all bring in collegiate experience, while CSUN also sees the return of redshirts Louis Cohen and Chester Pak, who sat out their first year in 2011. In addition, the Matadors welcome 12 freshmen to the squad that look to get action in their first season with Northridge. In total, CSUN has added six infielders, six pitchers, three catchers, and an outfielder to give more depth and strength to the program. Many of the rookies on the team this season can also be used in other positions, adding versatility to the lineup as well.

Scheduling Story
The Cal State Northridge Matadors have a number of prominent programs on the schedule this season in both the non-conference and Big West portions of the calendar. Among featured games on the slate this year include a home-and-home series with perennial power UCLA and CSUN will also welcome Pac-12 contender Washington to Matador Field. Northridge will compete in an invitational at San Diego State and will face the University of San Francisco, an NCAA tournament team in 2011. The Indiana Hoosiers make their first trip to the San Fernando Valley in early March before the Matadors embark on a greuling road trip that includes series at the University of Portland, St. Mary's and preseason No. 25 Cal State Fullerton. In addition to facing the Titans, who hosted a regional in the NCAA tournament in 2011, the Matadors will host the UC Irvine Anteaters, who came within one out of making a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.