Five runs in the final two innings broke open a tight contest at Les Murakami Stadium, as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (22-17, 8-4 Big West) defeated the University of Hawai'i Rainbows (8-27, 3-9 Big West) 10-5 on Sunday afternoon. Two runs scored on an error in the eighth and Joshua Goossen-Brown capped off the day with his first home run of the season, a three-run blast, in the top of the ninth for CSUN.
With the win, the Matadors completed their first sweep on the road against a Big West Conference opponent since accomplishing the feat at Pacific in 2004. Northridge is now in sole possession of second place in the conference and two games back of Cal State Fullerton with 15 league games remaining.
"I'm really proud of the guys. I've been saying all week how difficult a place this is to play," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "I try not to look too much at the standings. It's real early for that. We just try to take every game one at a time, they're all worth one."
Northridge opened the scoring in the top of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead for the second consecutive time in the series. With Chester Pak on third base, William Colantono executed a safety squeeze to bring home the run.
The Rainbows answered with a run in the second to tie the game, but things could have gotten much worse for CSUN starter John Salas. Following a pair of singles to open the inning, Hawai'i had runners on the corners with no outs. Salas buckled down and got a soft comebacker for the first out of the inning.
An RBI ground out for Kalei Hanawahine tied the game at 1-1 before Salas induced a popup to third base to escape further danger.
The Matadors regained the lead with a run in the fourth thanks to an RBI double to left center by Alexis Mercado, but the Rainbows evened the score at 2-2 in the home half on a sacrifice fly by Andre Real.
Northridge opened the game up for the time being with three runs in the fifth after connecting quality at-bats together with one out. Michael Livingston and Kyle Attl singled before Attl stole second base to give CSUN two runners in scoring position.
Nathan Ring then singled in a run and Goossen-Brown brought in Attl with a ground out to the right side of the infield. With a runner on second and two outs, Chester Pak laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line and was safe at first as Ring came all the way around to score.
Hawai'i put across a run in the bottom of the fifth on a Stephen Ventimilia double to center field and one in the seventh on a Trevor Podratz pinch-hit single in the seventh to draw within a run at 5-4. That's as close as the Rainbows would get, however, as a defensive miscue and a mistake pitch would put an exclamation point on the series for Northridge.
In the top of the eighth with two outs Hawai'i elected to intentionally walk Mercado, who had seven hits in the series to that point, in order to face Colantono with two runners on. Colantono smacked the first pitch of the at-bat to the left fielder, who deflected the ball as it went over his head. Both runners came around to score on what was ruled as a two-base error on Hanawahine instead of a double.
The final three Northridge runs came around to score on one swing of the bat as Goossen-Brown connected on a 1-1 pitch from Max Duval and deposited it over the left field wall for his first home run of the year.
Goossen-Brown then came in to pitch for CSUN in the bottom of the ninth and allowed a run before closing out the 10-5 victory.
Brandon Warner (1-0) pitched 2.0 innings of relief and allowed one run on one hit to get his first win of the year. Corey MacDonald (4-4) conceded seven runs (five earned) in 8.0 innings of work to take the loss for the Rainbows.
Goossen-Brown had a career day at the plate or the Matadors, driving in four runs for the first time. Seven Northridge starters scored at least a run in the game and Ring led the way with three hits in the game.
"Offensively, a lot of guys did a lot of little things. A lot of executions, we cleaned up our bunting game and got a hit-and-run accomplished. Colantono got his opportunity and came off the bench with a safety squeeze," added Curtis. "Mercado and Goose had a tremendous series with consistent at-bats in the middle of the order. Mercado really stepped up and if he can continue to do that he is going to be a force in the lineup. I'm really proud of the way he caught this weekend and swung the bat."
The Matadors will conclude their current eight-game road trip with a Tuesday afternoon contest at Loyola Marymount. First pitch from Page Stadium in Los Angeles is set for 3 p.m.