NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Cal State Northridge trailed by as many as six runs but Chester Pak delivered a walk-off single to right center as the Matadors (17-15) rallied for an 8-7 win over the Washington Huskies (8-22) on Monday afternoon at Matador Field. On a day dominated by severe winds in the San Fernando Valley, the Matadors came away with the big hits late to win their fourth straight game.
"Obviously [Washington] getting out to that early lead is not what we were looking for but at the same time, when you look at the conditions, it says there's going to be runs scored," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "It's not necessarily a panic situation. We felt like if we just took good at-bats that we were going to score some runs."
With steady winds above 20 mph and gusts far surpassing that mark the two sides combined for 23 hits, 11 of which went for extra bases. Both teams completed a cycle in the contest, recording at least one single, double, triple and home run.
However, the game was scoreless after three innings of play due to stellar pitching performances by Troy Rallings for Washington and Brycen Rutherford for CSUN. Rallings threw four innings in his first collegiate start and struck out seven Matadors. Rutherford recorded three strikeouts and allowed a pair of runs in 4.1 innings on the mound.
"Their starter did a great job, you got to tip your hat to him," added Curtis. "His stuff was good, he was pounding the bottom of the strike zone."
The Huskies scored first against Rutherford, pushing across a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning. First baseman Brian Wolfe led off the inning with a wind-aided triple to right center that hit the top of the wall before Michael Camporeale homered to right center two pitches later.
Washington extended its lead to 6-0 in the top of the fifth inning, scoring four runs on four hits. After the first hitter in the inning was set down on strikes, the Huskies got back-to-back singles from Jayce Ray and Andrew Ely before a two-run double by Robert Pehl.
Two batters later, Camporeale launched his second home run of the day, a fly ball carried by the wind over the right field fence.
The Matadors halved the deficit in the bottom of the fifth and began their long, yet successful comeback bid. Alexis Mercado opened the frame with a double to right center and moved up to third base on a balk.
Anthony Lombardo then grounded the ball to the third baseman, whose throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag. After William Colantono walked, the Matadors found themselves with the bases loaded and no outs.
Michael Livingston singled to second base the ball struck Colantono for interference before Kyle Attl doubled in two runs. Nathan Ring then grounded out to the shortstop, allowing Livingston to score as the lead was cut to 6-3.
In the top of the sixth, the Huskies added a run to the scoreboard after Parker Guinn doubled down the left field line. With two outs Ray singled to second base and Livingston faked a throw to first. Guinn then continued his run toward the plate and Livingston's throw home went high as Guinn scored.
Northridge responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to close the game to 7-5. With one out, Pak tripled to right center and Mercado singled up the middle to bring in the run. The next batter, Lombardo, doubled to right center to score Mercado from first.
The Matadors added a run in the bottom of the seventh on a solo home run by Ring and scored the tying run on a one-out single up the middle by Colantono in the eighth.
"I was finally able to get a fastball to hit on the outside part [of the plate] so I was able to let it get deep and I was trying to go to right field the whole time," said Ring.
While the Matadors were still trailing 7-6, DJ Milam entered the game as the pitcher for CSUN and turned in a trademark performance. He set the Huskies down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings to allow Northridge to continue its climb back into the game.
With the score tied 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Ring led off with a walk. Joshua Goossen-Brown then showed bunt and slapped a ball to third to move Ring up to second. On the play, the third baseman's throw to second to try to get Ring went into center field and the senior advanced to third.
Washington opted to intentionally walk Kyle Ferramola to load the bases and take their chances with Pak. The redshirt sophomore, who was 1-for-4 up to that point, was no stranger to walk-off scenarios. In his freshman season in 2012, Pak had either scored or driven in the winning run in four CSUN walk offs.
"I wanted to see if he came with the offspeed first because that's what he was doing," said Pak. "I took the first pitch to see what he did and he came with the fastball. I took the first pitch and tried to see something up, saw something up and poked it to right field."
On a 1-2 pitch Pak singled past a drawn-in infield, scoring Ring and drawing his teammates out between first and second for a celebration.
Five Matadors had multiple-hit games, led by Mercado with three. Livingston, Goossen-Brown, Pak and Lombardo each had two hits on the day and both Attl and Ring drove in a pair of runs.
For his work in relief, Milam (3-0) picked up the win for Northridge. Tyler Kane (0-2) took the loss for the Huskies after allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits in one-plus inning on the mound.
The Matadors will return to action on Wednesday, April 10, with a 6 p.m. game at CSU Bakersfield. The game is a makeup of a previously postponed contest from February 19.