NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
In the final game of the 2013 baseball season, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (31-26, 15-12 Big West) fell 9-6 in a thriller to third-ranked Cal State Fullerton (48-8, 23-4 Big West) on Saturday afternoon at Matador Field. Miles Williams hit a three-run home run and Cal Vogelsang, Nathan Ring and Kyle Attl made their last home game memorable by combining for five hits against the Titans.
"We have a team that has competed all year," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis. "We need to get better offensively. Pitching, we've been strong all year, we've played great defense. We saw Garza and Eshelman [yesterday] on the same day, got runs off both of them, got to a tie game in that game. Today, tied it up and took the lead off of two, three of the best starters in the league so that gives us something to build off of."
Things looked to be getting out of hand early in the game as the Titans opened up a 5-0 lead by the midway point in the action. Cal State Fullerton scored a run in the third on an RBI single by J.D. Davis and added two runs in the fourth and a pair in the fifth.
Carlos Lopez drove in a run with a double before scoring on Matt Chapman's single to center with two outs in the fourth. Two more scored in the top of the fifth for the Titans on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Hutting and an RBI double by Austin Diemer.
That is when the tide turned in the direction of the Matadors as Northridge scored four runs in the bottom of the inning to get within a run at 5-4. Chester Pak led off the rally with an infield single on the first pitch from Grahamm Wiest and moved up to third on a first-pitch single down the left field line by Attl.
The next hitter, Williams, launched the first pitch he saw down the left field line for a three-run home run that snuck inside the foul pole. The junior finished the season with eight home runs and 27 RBIs in just 24 games after missing nearly two months with a foot injury.
"To be honest with you, they said the injury was going to be season ending so that hit me real hard. I want to thank the trainers and coaches for keeping me up," said Williams. "Right now I'm coming back and going to get ready for next year."
The Matadors added two runs in the sixth inning to take the lead at 6-5. After the first two batters grounded out, Williams and Nicolas Osuna singled to set the stage for a two-out burst.
Michael Livingston hit a sharp ground ball to the third baseman that appeared to end the inning before the home plate umpire signaled for catcher's interference, allowing the Matadors to load the bases for Ring. The senior outfielder followed with a single off the glove of the diving shortstop and into left field to score two runs for Northridge.
The Titans were able to rally, however, for the final four runs of the game to win 9-6. Fullerton saw an RBI double for Diemer in the seventh, a pinch-hit RBI single for Clay Williamson in the eighth and run-scoring hits for Chapman and Davis in the ninth.
Northridge brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs but was unable to score.
Jordan Johnson (0-1) took the loss for the Matadors despite striking out three batters in 2.0 innings in relief. Jose Cardona (2-1) earned the win for Fullerton after pitching a scoreless seventh inning. Michael Lorenzen worked out of trouble in the ninth for his 18th save of the year.
The three seniors for Northridge, Vogelsang, Attl and Ring, all had productive days in their final game in a Matador uniform. Vogelsang went 2-for-4 at the plate to finish the season with a .316 batting average. Attl went 1-for-4 with a run scored and made a pair of plays at shortstop. Ring went 2-for-5 with a run scored, two RBIs and an assist from center field.
"It's just another chapter in my life that is coming to a close," said Ring. "I'd like to thank Northridge for recruiting me and giving me an opportunity to play here. It was a good ride, a good four years. We made a good, hard run this year and it was a lot of fun."
Cal State Northridge finished the season with its best record since 2002 and earned a fourth-place finish in the Big West Conference. The Matadors were picked to finish eighth before the start of the season and turned in campaign for the ages, knocking down several roadblocks in the process. Following the game, Curtis had one more thought on the senior class.
"Those three guys are three special guys. They do the job on the field, they do the job in the classroom. They're leaders for us, they're working hard in the weight room and on practice day," said Curtis. "Senior Day is a tough day to see guys like that go, but that's the process. They're gonna move on, all three of them are gonna be in shape to graduate next fall, and we're gonna do everything we can to get them opportunities to play at the next level."