NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — Cal State Northridge outfielder Nate Ring collected five hits while the pitching staff held Golden Spikes candidate Kris Bryant 0-for-5 for only the second time in his collegiate career as the Matadors defeated San Diego 8-4 Tuesday afternoon at Matador Field.
Northridge (11-12) won its fifth consecutive game with Ring knocking four singles and a two-run double in the seventh inning that put the Matadors ahead for good.
Playing its fifth game in five days, San Diego (16-9) struggled offensively as Bryant and the first five hitters in the Toreros’ lineup combined to go 1-for-21. Northridge starter Brandon Warner (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K) and a combination of five relievers held Bryant hitless for only the fifth time this season and stopped his 26-game streak of reaching base at least once that dated back to the final weekend of last season.
The Matadors scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to pull away from San Diego after it had tied the game with two runs in the top of the seventh inning. Louis Cohen picked up the win while Anthony Cortez picked up his first collegiate save after he was called on to face Bryant with two on and two out in the ninth inning. Cortez got Bryant to strikeout on a pitch low and away.
The Game Changer:
Northridge pieced together a 2-0 lead when Ring scored in the second and fourth innings, but it looked to bust the game open in the sixth inning after loading the bases with one out. On an 0-1 pitch, all three runners took off running as Alexis Mercado squared to squeeze bunt.
The junior catcher laid the bunt down and forced pitcher Trevor Bayless to come get the ball bunted toward the first base line. Bayless looked home, but reconsidered after a hesitation. Just inside the first base line, Bayless threw off his back foot and fired the ball way short, bouncing it off the back of Mercado’s legs and into foul territory. Two runners scored and the runner from first advanced to second base before the ball could be retrieved.
The umpires initially ruled everyone safe, but San Diego head coach Rich Hill came out and asked the umpires to confer. After a meeting of the minds, John Padilla ruled Mercado had interfered with Bayless’ throw to first. All three runners were ordered to return to their initial base. Matadors’ head coach Matt Curtis quickly came firing out of the dugout in disbelief at the call. He argued with Padilla for more than five minutes before first base umpire Bob Williams came in and he too got a disbelieving earful from Curtis.
When Curtis finally returned to the dugout, Bayless was able to get a flyout to end the inning. San Diego used the great escape to propel its offense. Louie Lechich delivered an RBI double after Connor Joe singled and Andrew Daniel walked. Following an intentional walk of Logan Davis loaded the bases, pinch hitter Austin Bailey hit a high chopper to the right side that scored the tying run. The Toreros were unable to get the go-ahead run across but had all the momentum.
“Sometimes the calls don’t go your way, but those aren’t things that should dictate our attitude, our approach, and ultimately our success or failure,” Curtis said. “There’s always going to be those situations.”
Instead of falling prey to the situation, the Matadors showed some resiliency. They loaded the bases for Ring, who delivered a two-run double to left field to put them back ahead, 4-2. The following inning, Northridge (with the assistance of two San Diego errors to open the frame) added four insurance runs, including two on a Josh Goossen-Brown double to left field.
“Over the last two years, I don’t think the teams we’ve had here would have reacted the same way,” Curtis said. “I think that’s an encouraging sign of where we’ve been trying to go…with not so much technique and not so much talent and not so much execution, but just a mentality that we’re just going to keep coming.”
Northridge senior outfielder Nate Ring talks about his five-hit performance. He also discusses the team bouncing back against a controversial call and carrying a five-game win streak into conference play:
Matadors head coach Matt Curtis talks about Nate Ring’s big game and the middle of the lineup hitting well heading into conference play:
San Diego head coach Rich Hill discusses San Diego’s defensive faults, his deep bullpen and Kris Bryant having a rare poor performance:
- Louie Lechich – 2-for-4, 2 2B, RBI
- Austin Bailey – 1-for-2, 2B, 3 RBI
Cal State Northridge
- Nate Ring - 5-for-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, SB
- Josh Goossen-Brown – 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI
- Kyle Attl - 2-for-4, R, RBI, SB, CS
- Brandon Warner – 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K
The Bottom Line:
Cal State Northridge finally got over the hump against a quality opponent. Earlier this season, CSUN had late opportunities against Pac-12 foes USC, Washington State, Oregon and UCLA before falling by a close margin in each of the contests. It’s a huge boost for the Matadors to get a quality win right before starting their Big West schedule Thursday against a middling Long Beach State team.
The win against a 16-9 San Diego squad validates the four-game weekend sweep against Utah Valley, which included three tight games. With a five-game winning streak, Northridge is only one-game under .500 and playing some of its best baseball this season.
The middle of the lineup is starting to come alive. Nate Ring had four singles and a double that scored the go-ahead runs in the seventh inning. But more importantly to the team’s overall success, Josh Goossen-Brown collected two hits, including a two-run double. During the Matadors winning streak, Goossen-Brown has raised his average to .224 with five hits, including his first extra-base hit in over a month. Since that extra-base hit on February 22, Goossen-Brown had been 4-for-36.
With Michael Livingston and Kyle Attl, who both had two hits Tuesday, getting on base in front of the heart of the lineup and Goossen-Brown’s bat coming around, Northridge now has a formidable top of the lineup that can manufacture or slug runs on the board. That’s exactly what it needs to go along with Jerry Keel’s strong pitching on Fridays and the emerging John Salas, who pitched eight scoreless innings in his latest start. Cal State Northridge may have been picked sixth in the Big West, but it definitely has a team that could be a team to surprise in the top half.
There are greater concerns in the other dugout as a San Diego team picked to win the West Coast Conference continues to show holes. The defense committed three more errors. The Toreros have now committed 55 errors — a whopping 2.2 per game. Middle infielders Chris Woolley, Logan Davis, Andrew Daniel and Austin Bailey have combined for 29 of the errors. While they all pose offensive threats when inserted in the lineup, what the Torero pitching staff really needs is some support in the field.
Coach Rich Hill raves about his bullpen being a strength, but he’s constantly having to turn to it quickly. The Toreros have Michael Wagner and Dylan Covey at the front of the rotation and then a ton of guys without set roles behind them. The Sunday starter has rotated and been decided based on who is available rather than being set in stone. For some pitchers, that works. For others, a constant, consistent routine maximizes potential.
Louie Lechich is one guy that San Diego needs to step up and commandeer a set role, whether that be as a Sunday starter or a weekend starter. He has started five games, but he has yet to make it five innings. Can he be stretched out to being a starter while also continuing to contribute with the bat as the primary centerfielder?
The Toreros are still working on that right combination of players, which is why the versatile Kris Bryant continues to move all over the field defensively (playing right field on Tuesday) as Hill shuffles different guys into the lineup. And who is going to step up if Bryant doesn’t have a phenomenal game? On Tuesday, he recorded only his second collegiate 0-for-5, but it’s not like the rest of the guys around him were doing much either as the first four hitters combined for an 1-for-21 performance. Though it is only one game, it’s not the type of game you want to have before you are set to open a weekend (Thursday through Saturday due to Easter) series with the No. 1 ERA team in the nation, Oregon State.
It was very encouraging to see Austin Bailey perform well upon entering as a pinch hitter after he has struggled to begin the season. He pushed across the tying run with a groundout and lined a two-run double in his second at bat to push his batting average above .200. Bailey was a 41-game starter as a freshman and had a .955 fielding percentage, which is better than the three other middle infielders are currently fielding. If his bat warms up, Bailey could potentially be another, more defensive-minded option for Hill.
Also check out the 25-shot photo gallery from Tuesday afternoon’s matchup.