DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -
In a series that featured a pitchers duel in each game, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (2-1) were able to come away with the series finale 2-0 over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats on Sunday afternoon at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Although they scored just five runs over the weekend, the Matadors boasted a team ERA of 0.96 to help CSUN to its first road series win in the Eastern Time Zone in school history.
"Any time you travel across the country to play an opening series, there are a few challenges that are inherent," said CSUN head coach Greg Moore. "These guys did a good job of steadying themselves and staying with their plan. The way the defense attacked the ball was impressive. There was crisp execution on the defensive side, especially over the last two days."
The Matadors had a chance to put across the first run of the game in the top of the third when Daniel Timmerman walked and reached second with two outs. A ground ball by Ryan Raslowsky was then redirected off the pitcher's glove, but Timmerman was thrown out at home trying to score on the play.
The Wildcats put Northridge starting pitcher Jordan Johnson in a serious jam in the bottom half of the third, loading the bases with one out thanks to a pair of walks and a bunt single. Johnson rebounded, however, and induced a routine double play ball to second base to escape the trouble unscathed.
Brett Balkan produced the first hit for the Matadors in the top of the sixth inning when he drove an 0-1 pitch to center field for a single. After Raslowsky reached on a fielder's choice and stole second with two outs, Alexis Mercado hit an RBI single through the left side to put CSUN ahead 1-0.
In the top of the 7th, Balkan came through once more. After Timmerman singled and stole second, Balkan drove him in with a single down the left field line to give CSUN a 2-0 advantage.
Bethune-Cookman nearly tied the score in the bottom of the seventh inning after loading the bases with two outs. CSUN relief pitcher Anthony Cortez was able to get a ground ball to Raslowsky at second to strand all three runners on base.
The Wildcats took a chance in the bottom of the eighth to put a run on the scoreboard, but a fine defensive play by the Matadors prevented it. With a runner on first, Austin Garcia doubled to left center. Ranny Lowe sent a strong throw back in that was relayed by Balkan to catch Josh Johnson at the plate.
Johnson (1-0) threw 5.1 innings and allowed just three hits while recording five strikeouts to pick up the win. Scott Garner (0-1) was charged with both runs and took the loss for Bethune-Cookman. Michael Coates pitched a scoreless ninth inning for CSUN to earn his first save of the year.
The Matadors will finish their season-opening road trip with a contest at UCLA on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Jackie Robinson Stadium at 6 p.m. CSUN will then play its home opener on Friday, Feb. 21, against Seattle University at 2 p.m. at Matador Field.
"My hope is that the players will do their homework on the plane, get up tomorrow and go to class, then have a great practice in the afternoon," added Moore. "Right now we need to get back, bandage ourselves up and get ready to go for Tuesday."