NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Two perfectly executed squeeze bunts at critical points in the game helped the Cal State Northridge Matadors (21-24, 8-9 Big West) defeat the UC Irvine Anteaters (28-19, 12-8 Big West) 6-3 to even their three-game series on Saturday afternoon at Matador Field. Nathan Ring added a two-run double in the fifth inning that proved to be the game-winning hit as the Matadors defeated the Anteaters for the first time since the 2008 season.
UC Irvine opened the scoring in the game against Northridge starter Jerry Keel in the top of the second inning. After Keel retired the side in order in the first, the Anteaters recorded three straight singles to take a 1-0 lead.
Keel was able to pitch his way out of the jam, however, by picking off the runner from first and getting a groundout and strikeout to end the inning.
Northridge used that momentum to take the lead in the bottom of the second, a lead they would not relinquish. With one out, Marty Bowen was hit by a pitch and Chester Pak drew a walk before Kyle Attl singled to center field to tie the game.
Freshman third baseman Michael Livingston then dropped down the first of two squeeze bunts for Northridge, scoring Pak from third to give the Matadors a 2-1 lead.
Keel worked himself out of trouble again in the third inning after a leadoff single and a walk. The freshman got Tommy Reyes to ground into a double play and struck out Jordan Fox looking to end the threat.
Northridge added to its lead in the bottom of the third after Cal Vogelsang and Adam Barry were hit by pitches. With one out, Vogelsang and Barry were moving on a double steal and Vogelsang scored on the play as the catcher's throw down to third sailed into left field.
The Matadors took their largest lead of the afternoon at 5-1 in the fifth inning. Ryan Raslowsky singled to open things off and Steven Keller singled with two outs to put the runner in scoring position. Ring then laced a double into the left field corner to clear the bases and give Northridge an insurmountable lead.
The Anteaters began to chip away at the lead and scored a run in the seventh on a fielder's choice RBI by D.J. Crumlich. UC Irvine then brought the game to within two runs in the eighth inning on a pinch hit RBI single for Jerry McClanahan.
Looking for an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, Bowen put down a bunt that stayed on the chalk on the third base line that scored Ring with one out.
After a leadoff single in the ninth for UC Irvine, Northridge reliever Louis Cohen recorded three outs to end the game and give the Matadors the win.
Keel (6-1) pitched 7.2 innings for the Matadors and matched his career high with six strikeouts. Northridge is now 6-0 in Keel's last six starts, all Big West Conference games.
Crosby Slaught (6-5) lasted 3.0 innings and hit three batters with pitches in the loss. Cohen went 1.1 innings with a strikeout for his fifth save.
Keller finished the game 2-for-4 with a run scored and Attl went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Ring had a 1-for-4 day at the plate with two RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base.
The series concludes on Sunday, May 13 at 1 p.m. The series finale between the Matadors and Anteaters will be video streamed online for free through BigWest.TV. The game is also part of "Think Pink Day," with all fans in attendance wearing pink receiving free admission.