Sophomore pitcher Jerry Keel did not allow an earned run and struck out five hitters en route to a complete game victory as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (20-17, 6-4 Big West) defeated the University of Hawai'i Rainbows (8-25, 3-7 Big West) 4-1 on Friday night at Les Murakami Stadium. Catcher Alexis Mercado went 3-for-5 at the plate and freshman Nicolas Osuna drove in a pair of runs to lead CSUN to its third series-opening win in conference play.
"Jerry did what he normally does: move his fastball around, mix speeds, keep guys off balance," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "That was big. That's a Friday guy stepping up and doing what a Friday guy needs to do: have a great outing, save the bullpen and take it the distance. You're not going to get that everyday but when you do, it's really valuable."
Keel was dominant on the mound from the start of the game and worked around five hits and one walk to turn in his third career complete game, all of which have come on the road. The only blemish in the run column came in the bottom of the third inning after an RBI single gave Hawai'i a 1-0 lead.
"It feels great. Coach Curtis talked all week about not getting sidetracked or distracted," said Keel. "I made sure I got my sleep in this morning and went to study hall then came out and set a tone for this series and hopefully we'll get a 'W' tomorrow."
After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, Keel allowed a two-out single to Andre Real. Real then moved up to second on a passed ball and scored an unearned run on a single to right by Pi'ikea Kitamura.
The Matadors answered immediately, however, and took the lead for good in the top of the fourth. Chester Pak and Mercado singled to start things off for Northridge before the pair executed a double steal to get into scoring position with one out. Osuna followed with a two-run single to center field to put CSUN ahead 2-1.
"Honestly, I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle and get at least one run in" said Osuna. "It just so happens he left a fastball up and it ran into my bat and I got a nice single up the middle.
Northridge scored another in the top of the fifth thanks to Mercado's third single of the night. With Nathan Ring on third and two outs, Mercado lined the first pitch he saw through the left side of the infield to score the run.
"I was just trying to get the barrel on the bat with a pitch I could handle and it worked out," said Mercado.
A final insurance run was added in the top of the seventh inning. Ring singled with one out and promptly stole second base before scoring on a single by Joshua Goossen-Brown during a hit-and-run.
Riding the wave of momentum, Keel buckled in for the late stages of the game and needed just six pitches in the eighth and 16 in the ninth to close out the Rainbows.
With the win, Keel improved to 5-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.30. Hawai'i starter Scott Squier (0-6) allowed three runs in 4.0 innings of work despite striking out five Northridge hitters.
In addition to three hits, Mercado also stole a pair of bases for CSUN. Osuna finished the night 2-for-4 with two RBIs and designated hitter Michael Najera had two hits of his own.
The Matadors and Rainbows will continue their series on Saturday, April 20 with another night game at Les Murakami Stadium. First pitch on Saturday night is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. HST.