April 6, 2008
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Strong relief pitching and flawless defense motored Cal State nNorthridge to an 8-3 win over Big West rival Cal Poly, sending the matadors to their first sweep in a conference series since 2004. C.J. Belanger broke out of a recent slump in a big way, going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI and three runs scored to lead the Matador attack.
Belanger smacked a single, double, and triple on the day. Justin DeMarco also continued an outstanding series with a pair runs batted in, giving him seven RBI for the weekend.
The Mustangs jumped out to an early lead when they converted four hits into two runs against Northridge starter Davin Tate. The Matadors halved the lead in the bottom half, though, when TS Reed slashed a single through the infield and worked his way around on a stolen base, a wild pitch, and a throwing error by Cal Poly catcher Josh Thomas.
Pete Mendez was the relief pitcher in the top half of the second and he did his job, rebounding after putting two men on to end the inning on a lineout double play.
Northridge got back to the bats in the second, getting Dominic D'Anna and Ryan Pineda aboard on a hit by pitch and walk, respectively, to start the inning. Justin DeMarco and Reed hit back-to-back RBI singles to send the Matadors into a 3-2 lead.
The scoring continued in the third. A leadoff walk came back to bite Mendez; Logan Schaeffer reached second on a balk and went to third on a ground out to second base. He later scored on an RBI single from Wes Dorrell. The Matadors answered in the bottom half, with Richard Cates smacking a leadoff single and eventually coming around on a D'Anna single.
Following D'Anna, Pineda lofted a fly ball into right field that was playable, but DJ Gentile mishandled the ball along the right field line, allowing Pineda to reach safely. The miscue would prove costly, as C.J. Belanger emphatically broke out of his recent slump with a triple into the right-center field gap, clearing the bases. DeMarco cashed in Belanger on a ground out, running the Northridge lead to 7-3. Reed struck out to end the rally.
The action lulled through the middle innings, as Cal Poly starter Steven Fischback and Northridge reliever Billy Ott tossed dueling scoreless innings into the bottom of the sixth. In that frame, C.J. Belanger dumped a leadoff single into right field and DeMarco, attempting to bunt him over, reached on a throwing error by third baseman Thompson. TS Reed bunted DeMarco over on a safety squeeze attempt, and Swanson scored Belanger on a chopper in the infield that went as a fielder's choice that stretched the Matador advantage to 8-3.
Bryce Schoening succeeded Ott in the middle of the middle of the seventh and Ryan Juarez came out for the eighth, but the relievers continued to hang zeroes across the top of the scoreboard. Ott, Schoening, Juarez, and P.J. Rousey, who came on for the ninth, combined for six scoreless innings.
Mendez was the winner and none of the Matadors qualified for a save despite their superb performances. Also of note was Justin DeMarco's sixth-inning sac bunt, which gave him nine for the year. He is now just two behind the single-season record of 11.
Northridge can boast an even conference mark for the first time since 2002, when the club went on to win the Big West and its automatic NCAA regional bid.
Northridge next takes the field on Tuesday when they host UC Santa Barbara for a mid-week, non-conference engagement. The Gauchos own the league's best overall record and an 0-4 advantage in the 2008 season series. First pitch from Matador Field on Tuesday is slated for 3 p.m.