Matadors Welcome Wildcats for Season-Opening Series

Matadors Welcome Wildcats for Season-Opening Series
This Week's Matador Baseball Release in PDF Format

This Week In Matador Baseball

Fri., Feb 22 * Northwestern * Matador Field * 2:00 p.m.
Sat., Feb 23 * Northwestern * Matador Field * 1:00 p.m.
Sun., Feb 24 * Northwestern * Matador Field * 12:00 p.m.

Projected Starters

Friday: Joe Muraski, So. LHP (NU) vs. Jimmy Jolicoeur, Jr. RHP (CSUN)
Saturday:Erik Jokisch, Fr. LHP (NU) vs. Phil Hann, Sr. RHP (CSUN)
Sunday: David Jensen, So. LHP (NU) vs. Davin Tate, SO. RHP (CSUN)

Matadors Open '08 Season
The Cal State Northridge baseball team opens the 2008 season this weekend with several new faces and, despite the winter layoff that was universally conferred upon NCAA baseball teams for the first time this year, looks prepared for what appears to be a favorable schedule.

The Matadors welcomed 18 newcomers for the upcoming season: 17 freshmen and one transfer, left-handed pitcher Bryce Schoening. With just five returning starters in the field and one returning reserve, position battles will continue even through this week in preparation for the new season.

Richard Cates, who posted a .302 batting average in 2007, is back at his post at third base, and John Parham and Jowen-James Murray-Thornton, who each had breakout seasons in 2007 despite splitting time at catcher, are also back. Parham will likely get the nod at catcher while Murray-Thornton transitions to first base. C.J. Belanger was relegated to right field in 2007 but will switch to center field, which is a better fit for the athletic sophomore. Jason Dabbs is back for his sophomore campaign and will be in the mix for the everyday shortstop gig.

Several freshmen have been impressive in their first collegiate preseasons. Infielders Justin DeMarco, TS Reed, Matt Warr, and Ryan Pineda have each made cases for significant playing time and each has versatility that will keep them in the mix. Catchers Chris Hannick and Alex Espinosa are on board to bolster the catcher corps, and Todd Eskelin, Matt Carvutto, Jeff Pruitt, Scott Stidham and Drew Muren provide depth in the outfield. At least one of these freshmen will be an opening day starter in the outfield.

On the mound, Northridge returns eight players to a staff that was very effective at time in '07. Jimmy Jolicoeur, Phil Hann, and Davin Tate have held off several eye-catching freshman and will be the starters for opening weekend, but Paul Tremlin, Drew Muren, Ryan Juarez, Schoening, and Peter Mendez have been impressive newcomers thus far.

Matadors Field Historic Freshman Class
The Matadors open the 2008 season with 17 freshman on their roster, and that figure has turned out to be significant on a national level.
A national poll of Sports Information Directors revealed that, with a few days left to make roster decisions, just one NCAA Division I team (UNC Asheville) can boast a freshman class as big as that of Northridge. The Matadors' 17 freshmen make up more than 50% of the Northridge roster.

Jolicoeur to Start on Opening Day
Jimmy Jolicoeur will be the Matadors' opening day starter on Friday and hopes to continue the Matadors' historical trend on opening day. All-time, the Matadors are 29-18-2 in opening day games. The Matadors lost their first game of the season in 2007 before claiming two in a row to take the series from UNLV, and they claimed a victory on opening day in 2006, defeating #12 Arizona State in Tempe. A loss would mean back-to-back opening day defeats for the first time since 1983.

A three-game sweep on opening weekend would be the fifth in team history. The Matadors last swept on opening weekend in 2002 when they accomplished the feat against San Francisco before going on to win the Big West Championship.

Scouting the Wildcats
The Wildcats return all but three position players from its 2007 team that finished 22-32 and ninth in the Big Ten, including infielder Jake Owens, who led his squad in '07 with a .385 batting average and 85 hits. The senior also posted a team-high 18 stolen bases and brought home 39 runs, second-best on the squad. Owens was one of three Wildcats to play in all 54 games in 2007, joining fellow returner Jake Goebbert and graduated power hitter Antonio Mule. Goebbert batted .337 with 37 RBI as a freshman in 2007. Joe Muraski is one of two pitchers to return 10 or more starts in 2008 and will be the Friday starter for Northwestern. The lefty posted a 6.25 ERA and a 4-4 record in 2007. The other returning starter, Cole Livermore, will begin the season in the bullpen. Freshman southpaw Eric Jokisch will start on Saturday and sophomore David Jensen, from nearby Whittier, makes it three left-handers for Northwestern with a Sunday start.

Statistically Speaking
C.J. Belanger is one of a few Matadors within striking distance of the Matador record books in 2008. Belanger's six triples in 2007 gave him the best fourth-best single season total in Northridge history and with his next three-bagger he will enter the all-time career top ten for the category. Currently, seven players are locked at seven triples for their careers. Robert Fick is at eight, and if he can get to ten, he will be alone in fifth place all-time. Just last season, Belanger paired up with Jorge Andrade, jr. to become the first Northridge duo since Adam Kennedy and Terrmel Sledge to combine for as many as nine triples.

Belanger's base running ability also has him within sight of the single-season stolen bases list, where three players hold down the eighth position with 20 steals. Jeff Pruitt is another speedy outfielder with the wheels to reach the mark.

Matadors By The Numbers
499 - After tallying the program's 1,400th win in the final weekend of 2007, the Matadors have another milestone on the horizon: 500 wins in conference play. Northirdge will have to wait a few weeks before getting a crack at the mark- they open their Big West slate on March 28th at UC Santa Barbara.

17 - The Matadors' 17-man freshman class is the largest in the country and represents more than 50% of the team's roster.

0 - Among the Matadors' three-man corps of left-handed pitchers, none has recorded an inning as a Matador. Peter Mendez and Taylor Austin are each freshmen and Bryce Schoening is a junior transfer from Fullerton College.

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