RIVERSIDE, Calif. -
Freshman Jerry Keel pitched eight strong innings and struck out a career-high six batters as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (20-22, 7-7 Big West) defeated the UC Riverside Highlanders (15-26, 4-10 Big West) 7-3 to clinch the series at the Riverside Sports Complex on Saturday night.
Keel allowed just two runs all evening and got all of the run support he needed early on as the Matadors scored three in the top of the second inning. On a 1-0 pitch, sophomore right fielder Miles Williams crushed his team-leading sixth home run of the season to give Northridge a 1-0 lead. The homer was arguably the farthest of his young career, as the ball cleared the center field wall over 400 feet away.
With two outs in the inning, Tommy Simis reached on an errant throw by the third baseman and advanced to second on the play. Kyle Attl followed with his first hit of the series, an RBI double down the left field line. Ryan Raslowsky then singled up the middle to score Attl and give Northridge a 3-0 lead.
The Highlanders threatened to tie the game in the bottom half as they did in the series opener between the two sides, but Keel was able to work out of an important jam to keep the momentum. After a Clayton Prestridge triple brought in UCR's first run, the Highlanders loaded the bases against the freshman.
Keel buckled down on the mound, however, and got an infield popup, a strikeout and a ground out to retire the side.
UC Riverside chipped away at the lead again in the bottom of the fifth, trimming the margin to 3-2 in the process. Vince Gonzalez doubled to right field and drove in Devyn Bolasky on the play.
Northridge extended the lead back to three runs by scoring two in the top of the eighth to give Keel some insurance on the scoreboard. After a Cal Vogelsang double, Williams singled in the run before Marty Bowen brought him around on an error in the infield.
Keel emerged from the dugout for one final inning of work and struck out the side to cap his night. On the evening, Keel (5-1) issued just one walk and worked around seven hits to pick up the victory.
The Highlanders did score a run in the ninth inning as well, but Northridge was able to close out the game and the series.
Trevor Frank (1-6) went 8.0 innings for the Highlanders in a losing effort but did collect four strikeouts.
Vogelsang, Barry and Williams all went 3-for-5 at the plate for the Matadors in the game. Vogelsang had a pair of doubles and scored twice while Williams drove in two and scored two times as well. Raslowsky (2-for-3) singled twice and drew a walk in the game and has now reached base in eight out of nine trips to the plate in the series.
With the win, Cal State Northridge improved to .500 in Big West play for the first time since the Matadors were 7-7 in conference action during the 2010 season.
The Matadors and Highlanders will wrap up their three-game series on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Sports Complex.