NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors take a break from Big West Conference action this week and will play their next five games away from Matador Field. The road trip begins on Tuesday night at San Diego State before continuing this weekend at No. 23 TCU. The Matadors will play the Aztecs in San Diego for the first time since 2012 and will battle the Horned Frogs for the first time in school history. CSUN is coming off of its first Big West series win of the season after taking two out of three from Hawai'i over the weekend. The Matadors will look to keep the momentum rolling when they visit the Aztecs and Horned Frogs, two teams on a tear at the moment. All four games will include live stats and audio coverage on GoMatadors.com, while TCU will also provide a paid video broadcast.
GAME #40: Matadors (15-24) at San Diego State Aztecs (28-12)
Tuesday, April 22 - 6 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Stadium (3,000) - San Diego, Calif.
GAMES #41-43: Matadors at No. 23 TCU Horned Frogs (26-13)
Friday, April 25 - 6:30 p.m. CT
Saturday, April 26 - 4 p.m. CT
Sunday, April 27 - 1 p.m. CT
Lupton Stadium (4,500) - Fort Worth, Texas
Live Stats: Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page
Audio: Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page
Video: Link Available on Baseball Schedule Page ($)
In-game Twitter Updates: @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 San Diego State
The San Diego State Aztecs enter the week with a 28-12 overall record and are 10-8 in Mountain West play. Over the weekend, the Aztecs took two out of three games at UC Irvine. Earlier this year, SDSU defeated the Matadors 12-0 in Northridge and since that meeting the Aztecs have gone 16-8. San Diego State leads the all-time series with the Matadors 43-39 and is 26-16 at Tony Gwynn Stadium against CSUN. The Aztecs have won each of the last four meetings between the two sides.
The Aztecs are led at the plate by Ty France, who is hitting .382 and has started every game this season. His 18 doubles rank among the leaders in the nation and he also has four home runs and 32 RBIs. Tim Zier is batting .329 in 40 games with nine doubles and 22 RBIs while Brad Haynal leads the team with six home runs and is second with 31 RBIs.
Right-handed pitcher Cody Thompson will get the start for San Diego State on Tuessday night. Thompson has started two games so far this year and has also made 10 appearances out of the bullpen. In 28.0 innings of work, Thompson is 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA and 21 strikeouts. Michael Cederoth is the closer for the Aztecs and has converted 15 saves so far this season. His 2.41 ERA ranks second on staff and he has 41 strikeouts in 33.2 innings pitched.
Following the game on Tuesday night against the Matadors, the Aztecs will remain at home to host San Jose State in a three-game set this weekend.
A Closer Look at No. 23 TCU
The No. 23 TCU Horned Frogs have won 11 of their last 12 games and are 26-13 overall with a 10-5 mark in Big 12 competition this season. They have won their last four in a row and three of the four were shutouts. This past weekend, TCU took all three games at then-No. 4 Texas and allowed just one run in the process. The Horned Frogs will visit Texas Tech on Tuesday night before hosting the Matadors for the first time in program history this weekend.
TCU is led at the plate by Boomer White, who is currently batting .364 and leads the team with 31 runs scored and 27 RBIs in 39 games. Kevin Cron has a .270 average on the year but leads the way with 11 doubles, two triples and four home runs. Cron is second on the team with 26 runs batted in. As a team, the Horned Frogs are hitting for a .279 batting average and have outscored the opposition 181-114.
No rotation has been set for TCU going into the weekend, but Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison each have 10 starts on the year. Finnegan leads the starters with a 1.56 ERA and is 7-2 while Morrison is 5-3 with a 1.61 ERA. Tyler Alexander (4-3, 2.89 ERA) and Jordan Kipper (5-2, 3.88 ERA) are also starting candidates. Riley Ferrell is the closer and has nine saves in 18 relief appearances this season. Ferrell is 1-0 out of the bullpen and has a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings.
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 .975 fielding percentage with 37 errors in 39 games, which is among the leaders in the nation.
Matadors in the Big West Rankings
With the fifth week of league play getting underway, the Big West Conference has released its 10th statistics standings of the year. The Matadors are currently sixth in batting average (.256), eighth in slugging percentage (.298), and seventh in on-base percentage (.333). The Matadors are sixth with 115 walks and check in at sixth in the league after being hit by a pitch 39 times. The team is third in the Big West Conference with 40 sacrifice bunts and is fourth with 37 stolen bases. Defensively, the Matadors are seventh in the Big West with a 3.78 ERA and are averaging nearly seven strikeouts recorded per game. The pitching staff is fourth with 259 strikeouts recorded after 39 games. CSUN has committed just 37 errors so far this year and has the third-best fielding percentage in the league at .975.
Individually, Nick Blaser is fifth in the Big West with a .356 batting average this year. Ryan Raslowsky has 13 stolen bases to rank third in the league. William Colantono (9th, 19) is among the leaders in walks drawn and Chester Pak is third with five sacrifice flies. Brett Balkan is third in the conference after being hit by a pitch nine times and his nine sac bunts lead all others. Jerry Keel is currently third in the Big West with 22 strikeouts looking on the year while Brycen Rutherford is fourth with an opposing batting average of .205. Statistics are current as of April 21, 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 a 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. In a start against Hawai'i, Keel struck out 10 in 8.2 innings to become the first CSUN pitcher with double-digit strikeouts in a game since 2008. On the year, he has a 3.84 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 61.0 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 .278 with two doubles in 38 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 44 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 .293 and ties for the team lead with 21 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 .221 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 .257 with 20 runs scored in 38 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 a weekend starter and has nine 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 3-3 record with a 2.37 ERA in 60.2 innings. He was also one of 10 pitchers in the country to throw a quality start in each of his first seven outings in 2014.
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 8-9 in games decided by one run and 3-5 when the margin is two runs. As of April 14th the Matadors have played in 25 games decided by two runs or fewer, which is among the most in the nation.
Cal State Northridge is now 21 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 tied for fifth in the CSUN History Book as he has 19 sacrifice bunts through his first two-plus seasons at Cal State Northridge.