NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Chester Pak hit the first two home runs of his collegiate career and John Salas threw a complete game as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (31-20, 15-6 Big West) beat the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (27-21, 12-9 Big West) 7-1 on Mother's Day at Matador Field. With the win, the Matadors drew within two games of first-place Cal State Fullerton with six games remaining.
"Especially on Mother's Day, and I know it sounds so cliche, it felt great and I saw the ball well today," said Pak. "Throughout the day I forced myself to look up, see if I saw a slider up. Fortunately, I got two."
Salas was strong on the mound from the get-go for Northridge, striking out three batters in the first two innings. He also had help from his defense early on, as Kyle Attl fielded a line drive at shortstop and turned a double play to keep the game scoreless in the top of the third.
"Johnny did a great job. He's been pretty consistent for us all year," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "He did a great job stepping up and we really needed that today."
Pak used the momentum built to put the Matadors ahead in the bottom of the third. On an 0-2 pitch, Pak hit a ball up in the zone over the left field fence for his first collegiate home run.
"Chester made an adjustment about four or five weeks ago and really leveled out his swing and his numbers picked up. Although the power numbers haven't been there, he's hit some doubles but not what we know he is capable of," added Curtis. "He has the potential to be a really dynamic player."
Northridge took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning after stringing together quality at-bats with two outs. After Nathan Ring reached on a fielder's choice and moved up to third on Joshua Goossen-Brown's single, the pair executed a double steal and Ring slid under the tag at the plate to score a run.
On the first pitch of the seventh inning, UC Santa Barbara was able to get a solo home run from Robby Nesovic to cut the deficit to one run. It was the only blemish in the run column for Salas, who matched his career high with six strikeouts and allowed just five hits in the game.
With a slim lead in the bottom of the seventh, the Matadors scored three runs to break the game open. Alexis Mercado drew a four-pitch walk to open the inning before Pak connected for his second home run of the game, hitting the first pitch of the at-bat to deep left center field. A third run in the inning scored when Goossen-Brown was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Northridge plated two more insurance runs for Salas in the bottom of the eighth. Both Nicolas Osuna and Kyle Attl produced RBI singles for the Matadors to push the final margin to 7-1. Salas retired the side in order in the top of the ninth to help CSUN salvage the final game of the series against UCSB.
Salas (4-5) walked just one batter on the day and pitched his second complete game of the season for CSUN in the win. Andrew Vasquez (1-3) struck out eight for UCSB but allowed four runs and walked three in 6.0 innings.
"I tried to keep the ball down, just get ahead in the count and keep them guessing. That's what I had to do the whole game and I got a lot of ground balls, a lot of flyouts," said Salas. "Unfortunately, their guy hit a ball that was a little more over the middle and it went out to center. That was the only bad thing, every other time I was able to keep the ball down and get them out in front."
Pak led the Matadors at the plate by going 3-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored. Michael Livingston went 2-for-3 with a double for the Matadors and also scored a run.
The Matadors will make their final road trip of the regular season next weekend, traveling north to face Cal Poly for three games at Baggett Stadium. The teams will open the series on Friday, May 17, at 6 p.m. before playing a 1 p.m. game on Saturday and Sunday.