NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors return to California after taking a three-game series at Bethune-Cookman last week. The Matadors are winners of their last two after dropping a 2-1 decision on Opening Day. CSUN limited the Wildcats to just three runs in three games and boast a team ERA of 0.96 going into games this week against No. 12 UCLA and Seattle University. All three programs have winning records going into the week. CSUN will begin its week at Jackie Robinson Stadium where the Matadors had a 4-1 win last season.
Following the midweek clash, CSUN will return to campus to host the Redhawks in a four-game series to open the home slate. The 2014 home opener is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. and will be followed by a doubleheader on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and the series finale on Sunday at 12 p.m. All five games will feature live stats coverage and a free Internet radio broadcast available on GoMatadors.com and CSUN Front Row.
GAME #4: Cal State Northridge Matadors (2-1) at No. 12 UCLA Bruins (2-1)
Tuesday, Feb. 18 - 6 p.m.
Jackie Robinson Stadium (1,820) - Los Angeles, Calif.
GAMES #5-8: Cal State Northridge vs. Seattle University Redhawks (3-1)
Friday, Feb. 21 - 2 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 22 - 10:30 a.m. (Doubleheader)
Sunday, Feb. 23 - 12 p.m.
Matador Field (1,000) - Northridge, Calif.
Live Stats: Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page
Audio: Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page
In-game Twitter Updates: @CSUNBaseball, @CSUN_InGame
Follow Your Matadors While On-the-Go
Fans can now follow all of the action for Cal State Northridge's 19 varsity sports right from their phone or tablet! CSUN Front Row, the official mobile app of Cal State Northridge Athletics, is available for free for your iOS and Android devices. Rather than having to navigate to GoMatadors.com from your phone, you can now catch up on the latest scores, schedules and news right from a single app. You can also access live stats coverage of a majority of CSUN home events, as well as audio and video links when available. For more information, search for CSUN Front Row on the App Store or Google Play or visit GoMatadors.com/frontrow.
A Closer Look at No. 12 UCLA
The 12th-ranked UCLA Bruins come into the week fresh off of a series win over the Portland Pilots in Los Angeles over the weekend. The Bruins lost at home on Opening Day 1-0 after allowing a run in the top of the first. They rebounded for wins of 12-1 and 4-3 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Cal State Northridge was the last team to defeat UCLA at Jackie Robinson Stadium coming into the season after the Matadors topped the Bruins 4-1 last May. Over the years, the Bruins own a slim margin in the all-time series 38-37 with the teams playing to a tie just once. Calvin Copping is scheduled to make his first appearance of the season as the probable starter for the Matadors on Tuesday night.
The Bruins have six starting batters with at least a .300 average through the first three games of the season. Brian Carroll leads the way with a .455 average and five hits in 11 at bats. Shane Zeile is hitting .444 with a pair of doubles and Trent Chatterton has made an early charge with four runs batted in already. As a team, UCLA has a .312 batting average with 13 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.
Grant Dyer is scheduled to start for UCLA on the mound on Tuesday night. So far this year, Dyer has pitched 1.0 inning with one strikeout and no runs allowed. He has also walked a batter in his only appearance. Relief pitcher David Berg already has 5.0 innings under his belt with three strikeouts and one hit allowed.
UCLA has a team ERA of 1.24 entering the game and is coming off of the first national championship on the diamond in school history. The Bruins started the same nine position players in each game of the series against Portland and is looking to make a run to Omaha for a second consecutive season in a loaded Pac-12 Conference. Following the game with the Matadors, the Bruins will remain home to face the Cal Poly Mustangs in a three-game series this weekend.
A Closer Look at Seattle University
The Seattle University Redhawks enter the week at 3-1 after taking three of four games at UC Davis over the opening weekend. The Redhawks do not have a midweek game before playing the Matadors in a four-game series this weekend at Matador Field. In the four games at UC Davis, Seattle U outscored the Aggies 26-13. The last time CSUN and Seattle U met, the two sides split a four-game set to open the 2011 season in Northridge.
The Redhawks are led on offense by Cullen Hendrickson. Hendrickson has a .357 average through four games with seven runs batted in. Three of his five hits this year have gone for extra bases and two have been home runs. Brian Olsen has started all four games for Seattle U and has driven in six runs of his own. As a team, the Redhawks are batting .216 with seven doubles and two home runs.
Connor Moore, Andrew Olson and Austin Hansen started the first three games of the series for Seattle U on the mound while Mac Acker was the starter in the series finale at UC Davis. All four will likely figure into the rotation for the Redhawks this weekend at Matador Field. Moore was the Opening Day starter and did not allow a run in 7.0 innings of work. Acker went 6.0 strong innings on Sunday with five strikeouts to earn the win. As a team, the Redhawks have a 3.09 ERA and are keeping opponents to a .230 batting average.
Redefining the "Matador Defense"
The Matadors continue to pride themselves on playing smart and sound baseball defensively. In addition to improving its winning percentage each of the past three seasons, Cal State Northridge has also set program records for fielding percentage twice in that span. There were 16 Matadors last season that were perfect in their chances in the field and five others that had two errors or fewer all season. Last year Northridge recorded a .976 fielding percentage, which was good for third in the Big West Conference and also set a mark for the best ever in CSUN history. The Matadors also picked up 16 outfield assists in 2013 and look to build on that quality moving forward. The team did not commit an error in the three-game series at Bethune-Cookman, helping the pitching staff by limiting the Wildcats to just three runs.
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
With the first weekend of the season come and gone, the Big West Conference has released its first statistics standings of the year. Due to begin locked in a defensive showdown in all three games at Bethune-Cookman, the Matadors do not find themselves among offensive leaders going into the second week. The team is currently seventh in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, and runs batted in. The Matadors rank sixth with two doubles and 10 walks while checking in at second in the league after being hit by a pitch six times. The team is tied for third with three sacrifice bunts and is second with six stolen bases.
Defensively, the Matadors lead the Big West with a 0.96 ERA and are second after holding opponents to a .189 batting average. The pitching staff is fifth with 22 strikeouts recorded after three games. CSUN is also the only team in the conference to have zero errors after one weekend of play.
Individually, Daniel Timmerman ranks seventh in the league with a .545 on-base percentage. Ryan Raslowsky has been hit by a pitch twice to tie for the league lead while leading the way with three stolen bases. Jordan Johnson and Shay Maltese are at the top of the leaderboard with identical 0.00 ERAs and Maltese also leads the league after holding opponents to a .083 batting average last weekend. Brycen Rutherford checks in at eighth in the Big West with six strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work.
Junior left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel enters the season as the anchor of the pitching staff in 2014. The former Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year and Freshman All-American is the Friday starter once more for Northridge and picked up right where he left off in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman. Although he took the loss, he pitched 7.0 strong innings with five strikeouts in a 2-1 decision. He walked three batters and allowed five hits, including just one double. Keel finished the 2013 season with a 7-3 record with a 2.59 ERA in 93.2 innings.
No Trouble in the Balkans
Senior Brett Balkan is coming off of an injury-shortened 2013 and has quickly made an impression this season. Taking the reigns as the starting shortstop, he was one of two Matadors with three hits over the opening weekend and he is currently the team leader with two runs batted in. He drove in a run in CSUN's 2-1 win in the second game at Bethune-Cookman and added an insurance RBI in the 2-0 win in the finale. Balkan collected seven defensive assists on the weekend, including on a relayed throw to the plate to catch a runner trying to score. On the season, Balkan is hitting .231.
Not a One-Man WolfPak
Junior Chester Pak picked up a couple of hits in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman and drove in the winning run in the top of the 11th inning in the second game. Pak is currently second on the team with two hits and also drew a couple of walks to help CSUN take two games against the Wildcats. Last season, he hit .272 with 18 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
The Bull Market
Junior Alexis Mercado came up with big hits when the Matadors needed them in the opening series at Bethune-Cookman. His lone hit in the second game of the series was a double in the top of the 11th that eventually resulted in the game-winning run. He had a single, RBI and stolen base in the finale for CSUN, driving in the eventual winning run in the top of the sixth in a 2-0 victory. Mercado finished last season with 29 runs scored and a home run and led the team with 16 doubles.
Every Run Counts
Although the offense hasn't come alive yet for the Matadors in 2014, the team owns a 2-1 record heading into the week. In the three games at Bethune-Cookman the two teams combined for eight runs, with the winner of each game needing just two to get the job done. Cal State Northridge's pitching staff has done an excellent job protecting the slim leads so far this year, owning a 0.96 ERA and averaging just over seven strikeouts per game.
Northridge has brought in a number of new faces to the program this year as 13 players are looking to make their debut for the Matadors. Left-handed pitcher Gabriel Corniel returns after taking a redshirt season as a freshman and he will be joined by eight transfers hoping to make an immediate impact. Ranny Lowe is a fifth-year senior that should get the bulk of time in centerfield while Nick Murphy will push for a starting role behind the plate. Nick Blaser and Nico Garbella are both versatile utility players that can be used anywhere on the diamond. Northridge will also hope to feature talented freshmen in the lineup and out of the bullpen to add to their depth at all positions.
The Matadors will face another challenging schedule this season as the team prepares itself for the Big West Conference slate and the postseason beyond. The season started with a three-game series at Bethune-Cookman, a program that has captured 15 MEAC championships since 1996. This week, CSUN will play a midweek game at defending national champion UCLA. Other top teams on the schedule include Washington State, Pepperdine, Fresno State, and TCU in non-conference games. The Matadors will also take on Stony Brook, a team that is just one season removed from the College World Series, for one game at Matador Field. The Big West schedule will feature home series against Long Beach State, Hawai'i, Cal Poly and UC Davis while CSUN will take on UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton on the road. In all, the Matadors will take on three teams, CSF (1), UCLA (10), TCU (23), in the USA Today Preseason Top 25 and two others (Cal Poly, UCSB) that received votes.
Cal State Northridge is now 34 wins from reaching the 1,600-mark in program history. The Matadors posted 31 wins a season ago, their highest win total in over a decade. With their first victory in 2014, the Matadors handed head coach Greg Moore the first win of his tenure at CSUN. Junior left-handed pitcher Jerry Keel is currently third in the school record book with a 2.34 career ERA and needs eight wins to enter the Top 10 while reliever Louis Cohen sits in a tie for ninth with six career saves. Ryan Raslowsky is three sacrifice bunts away from joining the Top 10 as he has 12 through his first two seasons.