NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors continue their seven-game road trip this week with games at Fresno State and UC Irvine. The Matadors will take on the Bulldogs for the first time since 2007 when the teams meet on Tuesday night before heading to Orange County to battle the Anteaters in a Big West Conference series. The opener at UC Irvine on Friday, April 11, will also be streamed live online by ESPN3 and WatchESPN. The Matadors took one out of three games over the wekeend at UC Riverside and now enter the alternating portion of the schedule where every other series will be played at Matador Field. Links for live stats, audio and video for the games in Fresno and Irvine this week will be made available on the baseball schedule page at GoMatadors.com.
GAME #32: Matadors (13-18) at Fresno State Bulldogs (17-15, 7-8 MW)
Tuesday, April 8 - 6:35 p.m.
Beiden Field (5,757) - Fresno, Calif.
GAMES #33-35: Matadors at UC Irvine Anteaters (21-10, 5-1 Big West)
Friday, April 11 - 6:30 p.m. - ESPN3/WatchESPN
Saturday, April 12 - 1 p.m.
Sunday, April 13 - 1 p.m.
Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark (2,900) - Irvine, Calif.
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 Fresno State
The Fresno State Bulldogs enter the week with a record of 17-15 overall but are having a rough stretch of late, winning just twice in their last 10 games. This past weekend, the Bulldogs won one out of three games against UNLV at home in Mountain West play. Fresno State started off the season hot, winning two out of three at UC Irvine to open the year and sweeping then-No. 18 Texas A&M at home. The Bulldogs have had trouble scoring runs lately, as three of their last four losses have been shutouts. Fresno State leads the all-time series between the two teams 54-27.
Jordan Luplow leads the Bulldogs at the plate with a .342 batting average, 10 doubles and five home runs. He is also second on the team with 20 runs scored and has driven in 22 this season. Taylor Ward is batting .336 with a team-best 24 RBIs and is second with four homers. Chris Mariscal is a third hitter with an average over .300 (.323) and ties with Luplow for the team lead at 41 hits. As a team, the Bulldogs have a .265 batting average with 14 home runs and have outscored their opponents 141-122 in 2014.
William Munro will get the start on the mound for the Bulldogs on Tuesday night. He currently has five starts under his belt, including a complete-game shutout earlier this season. Munro is 2-0 on the year with a 2.56 ERA and 17 strikeouts recorded in 31.2 innings. He will match up against Cal State Northridge right-hander Calvin Copping. As a team, the Bulldogs have a 3.03 ERA and are holding the opposition to a .238 batting average.
Following the game with CSUN, Fresno State will hit the road for a three-game series at New Mexico this weekend.
A Closer Look at UC Irvine
The UC Irvine Anteaters are coming off of a three-game sweep at Hawai'i over the weekend and are now 21-10 overall and 5-1 in Big West play. Prior to welcoming the Matadors on Friday, the Anteaters will play a Tuesday night game against San Diego at Anteater Ballpark. UC Irvine holds a 34-26 lead in the all-time series with the Matadors and won two out of three games in Orange County between the two sides last season. Friday night's game will be televised by ESPN3 and will also be available through the WatchESPN app. It will be the first time Cal State Northridge will appear on the platform under the Big West's deal with The Worldwide Leader.
The Anteaters are currently led offensively by Connor Spencer, who has a .359 batting average and has started in every game this year. Spencer leads the team with 42 hits and also has six doubles, three triples, a home run and 22 runs batted in. Taylor Sparks leads the team with eight doubles, 21 runs scored and 23 RBIs this year while also hitting for a .331 average. As a team, the Anteaters are hitting .278 and have outscored their opponents 134-104.
No starting rotation has been announced for UC Irvine yet, but it is safe to say that Andrew Morales will get the ball on Friday night. Morales is 6-0 on the season with a 0.45 ERA and has not allowed an earned run over his last 25.1 innings. innings. Elliot Surrey (4-2, 2.56 ERA) and Evan Brock (5-2, 3.61 ERA) are the likely candidates to start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
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 currently has a .980 fielding percentage with 24 errors in 31 games, which is among the leaders in the nation.
Matadors in the Big West Rankings
With the third week of league play getting underway, the Big West Conference has released its eighth statistics standings of the year. The Matadors are currently seventh in batting average (.253), ninth in slugging percentage (.290), and seventh in on-base percentage (.336).The Matadors are fifth with 98 walks and check in at fourth in the league after being hit by a pitch 35 times. The team is third in the Big West Conference with 31 sacrifice bunts and is third with 33 stolen bases. Defensively, the Matadors are fifth in the Big West with a 3.51 ERA and are averaging nearly seven strikeouts recorded per game. The pitching staff is fourth with 208 strikeouts recorded after 31 games. CSUN has committed just 24 errors so far this year and has the best fielding percentage in the league at .980.
Individually, Nick Blaser is fourth in the Big West with a .378 batting average this year. Ryan Raslowsky has 13 stolen bases to rank second in the league. William Colantono (9th, 16) is among the leaders in walks drawn and Chester Pak is second with five sacrifice flies. Brett Balkan is fourthin the conference after being hit by a pitch eight times and his eight sac bunts lead all others. Jerry Keel is currently ninth in the Big West with 14 strikeouts looking on the year while Brycen Rutherford is eighth with a 1.84 ERA. Statistics are current as of April 7, 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. In a controlled start against Stony Brook, Keel retired all 13 batters he faced. On the year, he has a 4.40 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 47.0 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. 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. At Pepperdine, he went 2-for-3 with a two-run double to help the Matadors come from behind. In the finale at UC Riverside, Balkan had a career-high three hits and two RBIs to lead the Matadors to a win. This year, Balkan is hitting .269 with two doubles in 30 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 among the team leaders with 30 hits and also drew a couple of walks to help CSUN take two games against the Wildcats. He belted out six hits, including two 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 turned in a career performance in the finale against West Virginia, going 4-for-6 with a home run and three RBIs. He also had four hits in the come-from-behind win over Long Beach State. Pak is currently batting .288 with 36 hits and ties for the team lead with 17 runs batted in.
Leaving His Merc
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 .224 with eight RBIs in 2014.
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. He had six hits in the series at UC Riverside, including three in the opener. On the season, Lowe is batting .267 with 18 runs scored in 30 games.
The Bryce is Right
Senior right-handed pitcher Brycen Rutherford has been a welcome addition to the CSUN rotation this season after earning spot starts at the end of last year. In 2014, Rutherford has emerged as the Saturday starter and has six starts under his belt going into the weekend. As a junior Rutherford was masterful in a midweek start at San Diego, holding the Toreros hitless into the bottom of the seventh. This season, Rutherford has a 2-2 record with a 1.84 ERA in 49.0 innings. He is also one of 12 pitchers in the country to have recorded a quality start (6.0 innings with three earned runs or fewer) each time out this year.
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 point of the season, CSUN is 7-8 in games decided by one run and 3-4 when the margin is two runs. As of April 7th the Matadors have played in 22 games decided by two runs or fewer, the most in the nation.
Cal State Northridge is now 23 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 now sixth in the CSUN History Book as he has 18 sacrifice bunts through his first two-plus seasons at Cal State Northridge.