NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors return home for the final time this season when the team welcomes the No. 6 Cal Poly Mustangs for a three-game series at Matador Field this weekend. The Matadors enter the week fresh off of a Mother's Day win at UC Santa Barbara, while the Mustangs are riding high following a series win over UC Irvine and a midweek win at Saint Mary's. This weekend will mark the final home games for six seniors in the CSUN baseball program: Ranny Lowe, Shay Maltese, Michael Coates, John Salas, Brycen Rutherford and Brett Balkan.
Prior to Sunday's 1 p.m. game against Cal Poly, the Matadors will honor the group of six with a ceremony on the field and fans are encouraged to get to the game early for the festivities. All three games this weekend against the Mustangs will feature live stats coverage and a free Internet radio broadcast on GoMatadors.com. To access the audio and live stats, visit the baseball schedule page online.
Matadors (18-32, 6-12) vs. No. 6 Cal Poly Mustangs (42-10. 16-5)
Friday, May 16 - 3 p.m. - RHP Brycen Rutherford vs. LHP Matt Imhof
Saturday, May 17 - 1 p.m. - LHP Jerry Keel vs. RHP Casey Bloomquist
Sunday, May 18 - 1 p.m. - RHP Jordan Johnson vs. RHP Justin Calomeni
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: @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. 6 Cal Poly
The sixth-ranked Cal Poly Mustangs enter the week with an overall record of 42-10 and are currently a half-game out of first in the Big West Conference with a 16-5 mark through 21 games. The Mustangs were at one point ranked the top team in the nation before dropping four consecutive road games against Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UC Riverside (April 26 - March 2). The Mustangs have since bounced back with six victories in their last seven games, including an important series win at home against UC Irvine last weekend. Most recently the Mustangs outlasted Saint Mary's on the road, holding on for a 6-5 win in Moraga on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs are led at the plate by Mark Mathias, who has a robust .377 batting average and has appeared in all but one game this season. He leads the team with 69 hits and also has 10 doubles and 33 runs batted in. Nick Torres provides power for Cal Poly and has a .310 average with a team-high 14 doubles, five home runs and 43 RBIs. Brian Mundell is also regarded as a tremendous hitter for the Mustangs and is batting .289 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 39 runs batted in while starting every game. As a team, the Mustangs have a .297 batting average with 18 triples and 15 home runs while outscoring the competition 308-169.
Left-handed pitcher Matt Imhof will get the start for the Mustangs on Friday afternoon. Imhof is 8-4 in 13 starts this season and has thrown a complete-game shutout. In 84.2 innings, Imhof has a 2.44 ERA and 116 strikeouts. Right-handed pitcher Casey Bloomquist will pitch on Saturday and looks to improve upon his 1.52 ERA and 11-1 record. Another righty, Justin Calomeni, is scheduled to pitch on Sunday afternoon for Cal Poly and brings in a record of 8-2 in 13 starts with a 3.56 ERA. Calomeni has recorded 65 strikouts while walking only 17 batters in 65.2 innings. As a team, the Mustangs' pitching staff has a 2.92 ERA and is holding opponents to a .237 batting average through 52 games.
This weekend marks the final series of the year for Cal Poly, as the team has the final weekend of 2014 off. The Mustangs will await the conclusion of the regular season across the country while gearing up for an almost-certain bid to the NCAA Tournament. Cal Poly is hoping for a strong weekend to boost its chances of hosting a regional when the tournament gets underway on May 30.
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. At this point in the season CSUN has 13 outfield assists, led by Nick Blaser's seven. The team currently has a .974 fielding percentage with 50 errors in 50 games, which is among the leaders in the Big West Conference.
Matadors in the Big West Rankings
With just two weeks left in the season, the Big West Conference has released its 13th statistics standings of the year. The Matadors are currently sixth in batting average (.257), eighth in slugging percentage (.304), and seventh in on-base percentage (.328). The Matadors are fifth in the conference with 429 hits on the year, seventh with seven triples, and check in at sixth in the league after being hit by a pitch 49 times. The team is seventh in the Big West Conference with 45 sacrifice bunts and fifth with 43 stolen bases. Defensively, the Matadors are seventh in the Big West with a 3.87 ERA and are averaging over six strikeouts recorded per game. The pitching staff is fifth with 316 strikeouts recorded after 50 games and is second in the Big West with 110 strikeouts looking. CSUN has committed just 50 errors so far this year and has the fourth-best fielding percentage in the league at .974.
Individually, Nick Blaser is ninth in the Big West with a .327 batting average this year. Ryan Raslowsky has 15 stolen bases to rank third in the league and four behind the leader. William Colantono (22) is among the leaders in walks drawn and Chester Pak is third with six sacrifice flies. Brett Balkan and Ranny Lowe are tied for eighth in the conference after being hit by a pitch 10 times and Balkan's 10 sac bunts put him in sixth in the league. Jerry Keel is currently fourth in the Big West with 27 strikeouts looking on the year while Brycen Rutherford is eighth with an opposing batting average of .221. Statistics are current as of May15, 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. He also had a no decision at TCU after pitching 8.0 shutout innings and leaving the game in a 0-0 tie. On the year, Keel has a 3.47 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 83.0 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. In the series opener against UC Davis, he went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. This year, Balkan is hitting .288 with four doubles and 22 RBIs in 48 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 51 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 and three hits, including a pair of doubles, in the Mother's Day win at UCSB. Pak is currently batting .273 and leads the team with 24 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. Mercado had a double, RBI and two walks in CSUN's win over UC Davis as well. He is batting .232 with seven doubles and 11 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. In the win over UC Davis, Lowe went 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs scored and a double. In the opener at UCSB, Lowe went 4-for-5 to turn in his first four-hit performance as a Matador. On the season, Lowe is batting .260 with 25 runs scored in 49 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 12 starts under his belt going into the week. 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 4-5 record with a 3.04 ERA in 80.0 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 9-12 in games decided by one run and 3-6 when the margin is two runs. As of May 12th the Matadors have played in 30 games decided by two runs or fewer, which is among the most in the nation.
Cal State Northridge is now 18 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 Shay Maltese sits in a tie for seventh with seven career saves. Ryan Raslowsky is now fifth in the CSUN History Book as he has 20 sacrifice bunts through his first two-plus seasons at Cal State Northridge. Brett Balkan's 10 sac bunts this year rank sixth all-time in a single season at Cal State Northridge.