CSUN Hosts West Virginia This Week, Adds Game Vs. WSU

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The Cal State Northridge Matadors welcome the West Virginia Mountaineers for the first three-game series between the two programs in history. While the Matadors lead the series with West Virginia 1-0, that lone game was played at a neutral site in 2000. The teams have not met since then. This weekend also represents the final non-conference series of 2014 for the Matadors, who will play four more individual games after this weekend before the start of the Big West Conference slate. Following the series with West Virginia, the Matadors will host Bakersfield and Stony Brook next week and will take on Washington State and Pepperdine in midweek games the following week. All three games of the series against West Virginia will include live stats available on GoMatadors.com. Due to network capabilities at Matador Field, the games will also include a free Internet radio broadcast if possible.

Matadors Add Game vs. Washington State
Due to the loss of a game on February 28th due to rain, the Cal State Northridge Matadors have rescheduled a single game against Washington State for Monday, March 24, at 2 p.m. The Matadors and Cougars were originally scheduled to play a four-game series at the end of February but it was shortened to three games due to the major rains that came to the San Fernando Valley. The Matadors were originally going to schedule a doubleheader for this weekend against West Virginia, but with the Cougars in town next weekend to play UCLA the two teams were able to schedule the make-up contest. For more information about any schedule changes for CSUN Baseball, please visit GoMatadors.com and follow @CSUNBaseball on Twitter.

GAMES #19-21: Matadors (7-11) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (8-5)

Thursday, March 13 - 3 p.m.
Friday, March 14 - 3 p.m.
Saturday, March 15 - 1 p.m.

Matador Field (1,000) - Northridge, Calif.

Live Stats: Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page
Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page (If Possible)
In-game Twitter Updates:

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 West Virginia
The West Virginia Mountaineers enter the weekend with a record of 8-5 and have played all 13 games away from home. The Mountaineers were defeated by UNLV on Tuesday night 4-3 but are winners of six of their last seven games. Following the series with the Matadors, West Virginia will travel back east to take on Marshall and UNC Wilmington before playing its home opener on March 25th against Pitt.

The Mountaineers are led at the plate by Bobby Boyd, who is hitting .368 and has started in every game this season. He leads the team with 21 hits and 13 runs scored and also has nine stolen bases so far. Ryan McBroom provides the power for West Virginia and leads the way with four home runs and 18 runs batted in. In addition, McBroom is batting .360 and is one of three batters with 18 hits. As a team, the Mountaineers are hitting .291 with eight home runs and have outscored their opponents 61-37.

The pitching staff for the Mountaineers has been nothing if not efficient in the early part of the season. Starters Sean Carley, John Means and Harrison Musgrave are a combined 8-1 on the year and have allowed just 11 earned runs. Carley is 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA in 27.0 innings, Means is 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 22.0 innings and Musgrave is 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA in 25.1 innings. Corey Walter is the late-inning reliever for West Virginia and has a total of 6.2 innings under his belt in six appearances. Walter is 0-2 on the year with a 1.35 ERA but also has two saves to his credit. He's allowed just two runs, one of which was earned. As a staff, the Mountaineers have a 2.25 ERA and are holding the opposition to a .204 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 and has a .981 fielding percentage with 13 errors in 18 games.

Matadors in the Big West Rankings
With the first month of the season now completed, the Big West Conference has released its fourth statistics standings of the year. The Matadors are currently ninth in batting average (.227), slugging percentage (.257), and on-base percentage (.307).The Matadors are seventh with 48 walks and check in at fifth in the league after being hit by a pitch 16 times. The team is second in the Big West Conference with 18 sacrifice bunts and is third with 20 stolen bases. Defensively, the Matadors are third in the Big West with a 2.89 ERA and are averaging over seven strikeouts recorded per game. The pitching staff is fourth with 112 strikeouts recorded after 16 games. CSUN has committed just eight errors so far this year and has the best fielding percentage in the league at .987.

Individually, Alexis Mercado is tied for fifth in the conference with four doubles on the year. Ryan Raslowsky has been hit by a pitch four times and has nine stolen bases, ranking sixth and first, respectively. William Colantono (9th, 9) is among the leaders in walks drawn. Ranny Lowe has been hit by five pitches and ranks third in the league while Brett Balkan's five sac bunts lead all others. Shay Maltese finds himself at ninth in the conference with a 1.56 ERA. Jerry Keel is currently tied for fourth in the Big West with nine strikeouts looking on the year and is seventh with 23 total strikeouts. Statistics are current as of March 10, 2014.

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. He also pitched 6.2 innings against Seattle University and recorded six strikeouts. Against Washington State, Keel went 7.0 innings without allowing a run and struck out six. On the year, he has a 3.71 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.

No Trouble in the Balkans
Senior Brett Balkan has taken the reigns as the starting shortstop and was one of two Matadors with three hits over the opening weekend and he is currently among the team leaders with six 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. He went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored in the first game of a doubleheader against Seattle. In the marathon at LMU, Balkan had a hit, two walks, two runs scored and an RBI. On the season, Balkan is hitting .219 with a double in 17 starts.

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 the team leader with 19 hits and also drew a couple of walks to help CSUN take two games against the Wildcats. He belted out six hits, including a pair of triples, in the series against Seattle and had five runs batted in. He also had a couple of hits and an RBI against Washington State and drove in two runs in the 13-inning game at Loyola Marymount. Pak is currently batting .288 with a team-high 10 RBIs in 18 games.

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. In the series against Seattle, he had a hit in three of the four games and had a career day in the first game of the doubleheader, going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Mercado connected on the first CSUN home run of the season and had a total of seven hits, including a pair of doubles, against the Redhawks. He also had a double and a run batted in against Washington State in the series-opening win. He is batting .259 with eight RBIs in 2014.

The Lowe-Down
Senior center fielder Ranny Lowe is providing a spark at at all spots in the order for the Matadors this season. After batting in the three-hole for the early part of the year, Lowe became the leadoff hitter for the series against Seattle and immediately made an impact on the lineup. Against the Redhawks Lowe recorded six hits, scored two runs and drove in his first run of the campaign. He also picked up his first stolen base of the season and went 5-for-9 across CSUN's doubleheader with Seattle on February 22. In the opener against Washington State, Lowe stole second base in the 10th and came around to score on a walkoff single. On the season, Lowe is batting .212 in 17 games.

Every Run Counts
After erupting for 22 runs in the series against Seattle, the Matadors posted just four runs in a series win over Washington State. Against the Cougars, a doubleheader featured 1-0 wins for each team and each game was decided by just one run. 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. In the series against Seattle the first team to score four runs won each game and with three runs in the first inning of game one of Saturday's doubleheader, CSUN scored more than two in a game for the first time this year. At this early point of the season, CSUN is 4-5 in games decided by one run and 1-3 when the margin is two runs.

Scheduling Story
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. CSUN also played a midweek game at defending national champion UCLA. Other top teams on the schedule include Washington State, Pepperdine, Fresno State, Sam Houston 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.

Rookie Report
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.

Chasing History
Cal State Northridge is now 29 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 one sacrifice bunt away from joining the Top 10 as he has 14 through his first two-plus seasons at Cal State Northridge.