February 16, 2011

Matadors Open 2011 Season at Home

Feb. 16, 2011

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

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Play Ball!

Friday's matchup against the Seattle University Redhawks will mark the beginning of the 53rd season of Matador Baseball and the first at Cal State Northridge for head coach Matt Curtis. Northridge opens up the 2011 campaign with a season-long eight game homestand against Seattle University and Valparaiso and both include a doubleheader on the Saturday of each series. Select home and road Matador baseball games will be broadcast via Internet radio and can be accessed through GoMatadors.com.

Dissecting the 2011 Squad After finishing the 2010 season with a 29-27 overall record and a 9-15 mark in Big West Conference play, this year's team has its sights set on improving on the first winning season since 2002 and reaching the postseason again. The Matadors return 18 letterwinners from a year ago, led by senior outfielder Ridge Carpenter, and add 14 fresh faces to the program. Along with Carpenter, Northridge returns a core group of seniors poised to lead the team throughout the season, including infielder TS Reed, right-handed pitcher Paul Tremlin, infielder Justin De Marco, and right-handed pitchers Shawn Wilyman and Ryan Juarez.

Despite losing four key players that received All-Big West Conference honors last season, including First Team second baseman Ryan Pineda to the major league draft, the Matadors return over half of their roster in 2011. Northridge also adds seven transfers this season, including top newcomers in junior infielder Adam Barry and junior pitcher Carlos Gonzalez, Jr. This mix of transfer talent and veteran experience gives CSUN more depth around the diamond and in the bullpen as they gear up for a run at the Big West crown.

Coach Curtis takes over the reigns in his first season at Cal State Northridge and inherits a relatively young team, as just under half (14) of his players have more than two years of collegiate baseball experience. Curtis believes that the Matadors' strength lies in pitching and he adds five hurlers to his staff, run by pitching coach Tim Leary, to join eleven returning pitchers from a year ago. As Curtis brings his experience to the Big West, the Matadors will be looking to continue the success they enjoyed last season and translate it to the conference slate.

A Golden State of Mind

Of the 56 games on the schedule in 2011, only five will be played outside the state of California. Northridge welcomes Seattle University, Valparaiso, Lafayette and UNLV to Matador Field this season, but only make a return trip to Las Vegas before the year is through. The Matadors compete in the four day YMBL Cardinal Classic on the campus of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas from Mar. 3 through 6. They then travel to Las Vegas to face UNLV for one game on April 5 at the halfway mark of the season, with the entire second half of the schedule against teams from California. In total, Cal State Northridge faces just six opponents that play their home games outside of the Golden State.

First Impressions

With the Matadors only hours away from starting their 53rd season of competition, CSUN will look to build on last year's Opening Day success when they defeated Bethune-Cookman by a score of 18-4 at the MLB Urban Invitational. Cal State Northridge is 30-20-2 all-time on Opening Day, with their last loss coming at then #8-ranked Pepperdine 4-3 in 2009. The Matadors are even more impressive at home, putting up a record of 35-17 (.673 pct.) in home openers and own a slim margin in road openers at 25-24-3. Northridge opens this season by hosting a four-game series with Seattle University. CSUN hits the road for the first time at the end of the month when they travel to Beaumont, Texas for the YMBL Cardinal Classic at Lamar University.

Under New Management

The Cal State Northridge Matadors will be under the direction of a new coaching staff in 2011, led by first-time head coach Matt Curtis. Curtis joins the program from Fresno State, where he was an assistant coach for the Bulldogs for 10 years and was a part of five straight Western Athletic Conference title teams and the 2008 NCAA College World Series champions. Joining Curtis at CSUN is pitching coach Tim Leary, a former first round draft pick in 1979 by the New York Mets who won a World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. Also new to the coaching staff is CSUN alum and former Matador second baseman Shaun Larkin. Larkin was a member of Northridge's 2002 Big West Championship team and will work primarily with the infielders and hitters.

A Closer Look at Seattle

The Seattle University Redhawks begin their second season of baseball competition after being reinstated as a varsity sport in 2008 and are currently reclassifying as an NCAA Division-I program.

Last season, Northridge traveled north to face the Redhawks for a four-game series in Seattle. CSUN extended their winning streak to five following the series sweep, and this weekend's matchup marks the return trip for Seattle and the program's first series at Matador Field. The Matadors took the first game in 2010 thanks to Marty Bowen's game-winning hit in the top of the 13th inning. The second day featured a doubleheader with Justin De Marco hitting a grand slam in the first game and former Matador Dominic D'Anna hitting an eigth inning homerun to win game two. CSUN finished the sweep with an 18-8 victory in the final game of the series.

The Redhawks are led by a duo of infielders in sophomore Cullen Hendrickson and senior Josh Kalalau. Hendrickson finished second on the team last season with a .290 batting average and added five homeruns and 24 RBIs but did not play when these two teams met. Kalalau started 49 of 50 games for Seattle and led the team in runs (31) and homeruns (8). After this series, Seattle University returns home for a seven game homestand beginning with Notre Dame on Feb. 25. The Matadors stay home to host Valparaiso for four games next weekend.

Survey Says....

The 2011 Cal State Northridge baseball team received 13 points and was picked to finish in ninth place this season by the Big West coaches, as announced by the conference office in late January. Cal State Fullerton was the unanimous choice as the preseason favorite, receiving all nine first-place votes for 81 points. The Titans won their 15th Big West crown in 2010 and made their 32nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine and UC Riverside each received 65 points to tie for second in the poll. Cal Poly was selected to finish fourth and Long Beach State nabbed the fifth spot with 47 points despite finishing in last place in the conference in 2010. The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara received 36 points in the poll to check in at sixth, and the Matadors will face UCSB five times in 2011. Pacific came in seventh as they narrowly edged UC Davis by four points in the poll. Cal State Northridge begins Big West play on April 1 at UC Irvine.

A Look Ahead

At the conclusion of this weekend's series with Seattle University, the Cal State Northridge Matadors will continue their season-long eight game homestand when they take on the Valparaiso Crusaders at Matador Field. The four-game series will begin Friday Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. with a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. The set will wrap up on Sunday the 27th with the final game scheduled to take place at 1 p.m.

Four days later, CSUN will travel to Beaumont, Texas to participate in the YMBL Cardinal Classic on the campus of Lamar University. The Matadors face New Mexico State, Lamar and San Francisco in the four day tournament and will go up against the host Cardinals on days two and four. No team had a losing season last year, with the USF Dons finishing with a 29-29 record. The trip to Texas will be the farthest the Matadors play from the friendly confines of Matador Field during the regular season and they will not leave California again until a clash with the Rebels of UNLV in Las Vegas on April 5. The YMBL Cardinal Classic will be the only regular-season tournament on the slate for Northridge this season.

The Flyin' Hawaiian

Senior outfielder Ridge Carpenter continues to be a threat on both sides of the ball for the Matadors in 2011. Last season, Carpenter hit for a .298 batting average with 59 hits, 10 doubles, two triples, two homeruns and 37 runs scored for Northridge. Over the summer, he was ranked as one of the top ten recruits competing in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League for his success as a member of the Kauai Menehunes. His speed and skill led him to be named the best base-runner in the Big West in a College Baseball Insider poll of conference coaches. Carpenter finished the year with 20 stolen bases and will use his speed in the outfield for CSUN this season.

Leaving His De Mark on CSUN

Senior infielder Justin De Marco returns to Northridge for his fourth season with the Matadors in 2011. He comes into this season looking to duplicate the success he had in the batter's box and in the field last season, when he raised his batting average 50 points to .301, drove in 27 runs and hit 13 doubles. His first career grand slam proved to be the game-winner in the Matadors' 10-5 win in the first game of a doubleheader at Seattle University last season. De Marco knows how to get the job done, collecting 26 sacrifice hits in his three years at CSUN so far, the most all-time in Matador baseball history. His 29 walks drawn were good for fifth-most in the conference last year and he finished the year with a .907 fielding percentage.

The Anchor in the Outfield

Redshirt junior Drew Muren returns for his third full season at Northridge after being selected in the 35th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. Muren's versatility in the field, at the plate and on the base paths make him a threat to any opponent. He accounted for 140 putouts in the field last season and turned three double-plays from centerfield. His prowess in the outfield did not go unnoticed by the Big West Conference coaches, as they voted him the best defensive outfielder in a College Baseball Insider poll earlier this year. In the batter's box, Muren had a .290 batting average with 60 hits, nine doubles and two triples, finishing with 17 multiple hit games.

Strength of Staff

Cal State Northridge adds five pitchers to its veteran pitching staff in 2011. Returning Matadors include seniors Ryan Juarez and Paul Tremlin, each in their fourth full season with the program. Juarez and Tremlin combined for 10 CSUN victories a year ago and struckout 57 and 52 batters respectively. Other returners include senior Shawn Wilyman, and juniors Chris DeBoo and Justen Gorski. Joining the staff are two freshmen, Harley Holt and Louis Cohen, as well as three transfers, Joshua Goossen-Brown, Vincent Roberts and Carlos Gonzalez, Jr. In all, the Matador squad this season consists of 16 pitchers who will look to keep opponents off the scoreboard in 2011.

The Man in the Middle

A mainstay in the middle infield for the Matadors, senior TS Reed brings stability and production to second base for Northridge in 2011. Reed is one of four seniors on the squad that have spent their entire collegiate careers at Cal State Northridge, and his veteran leadership will help the team come together this year. After spending most of his time at shortstop a year ago, Reed will likely move to the other side of the diamond to play second base for Coach Curtis. Last year, he set a career high by hitting for a .323 average with 54 hits in 167 at-bats. Reed also scored 25 runs and notched 25 RBI and was the only Matador to record five hits in a game, a perfect 5-for-5 effort in Northridge's 14-2 victory over Sacramento State on Mar. 27. With nine career sacrifice hits, Reed sits in a five-way tie for fourth all-time at CSUN.

Seven Days...

Sophomore Nate Ring returns for the Matadors this season as both an infielder and outfielder. Ring started 28 games in 2010 and appeared in 44, and hit for a .306 average in 111 at-bats. At one point, Ring had an 11-game hitting streak, the third longest on the team, and finished the year with 11 multiple hit games and five multiple RBI games. His 13 doubles tie for most among returners from a year ago and his batting average is second only to Reed's. Ring only committed one error in the field for Northridge last year and will likely be used in utility situations for Coach Curtis in 2011.