But with an important non-conference road victory against a top 10 squad in UCLA hanging in the balance, Keel took the ball and toed the rubber at Jackie Robinson Stadium Tuesday evening. The big 6-foot-6 southpaw did his part to pitch in for a great team 4-1 win over the Bruins.
Keel pitched a scoreless eighth inning before turning the ball over to closer Josh Goosen-Brown, who picked up his ninth save of the season with a quick ninth inning.
The Matadors scored three runs on one hit in the first inning and plated one run on three hits the rest of the game. They rode their arms to a victory despite only four hits and leaving nine runners on base in the first six innings — including a whopping seven in scoring position.
“Give Northridge credit,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “I really thought they outplayed us. They outcompeted our club tonight.”
UCLA got on the board in the fourth inning when Eric Filia led off with a double and scored on a hotshot back up the middle by Kevin Williams.
The Bruins twice threatened to take the lead in the seventh inning. Both Filia and Pat Valaika hit deep flies that each came up about 10 feet shy of a three-run homer that would have put UCLA ahead 4-3. Instead the Bruins gave away a fourth run to Northridge in the next half inning.
Chester Pak reached on an error to open the inning and then displayed some baseball smarts. In a sacrifice bunt situation, Pak took a very small lead, but then stole second base when Zack Weiss relaxed and used a high, slow leg kick. Pak advanced to third on a sacrifice and then scored on a wild pitch when Weiss and catcher Justin Hazard got their signals crossed up. Hazard popped out expecting a pitch out, but Weiss delivered a pitch inside that went to the backstop.
The run forced the Bruins to score three runs against the backend duo of Keel and Goossen-Brown. UCLA was able to get a hit against each, but never brought the tying run to the plate.
The Game Changer:
UCLA starter Cody Poteet didn’t make it out of the first inning. The Matadors took a 3-0 lead in the opening frame before head coach John Savage had seen enough. An infield single and two walks loaded the bases to open the game. Poteet was able to get a double play, but Northridge took a 1-0 lead on the play.
A hit by pitch put runners on the corners. Cal Vogelsang broke early from first base. Poteet chased after him and then turned and tried to fire home when Kyle Attl took off for home. The Matadors shortstop beat the throw and everyone was safe. Vogelsang came around to score when Alexis Mercado followed with a double to left field. And that was it for Poteet. James Kaprielian took over and became a master of the escape.
He pitched 3 1/3 innings without allowing a run despite inheriting Mercado at second base and Northridge having a runner reach third base in each of the next three innings. Kaprielian gave UCLA a chance but that offense couldn’t get much going against starter Brycen Rutherford and reliever Oscar Sandoval.
Best Defensive Play: Kevin Kramer made the best back-handed play I’ve seen this season. He ended the seventh inning by diving behind third base, snagging a hotshot that Alexis Mercado ripped down the line. Kramer gloved the one-hopper with his body parallel to the ground, hopped up and skipped it across the diamond where first baseman Pat Gallagher made a nice pick.
Best Pitch/Pitcher: UCLA head coach John Savage likes to get David Berg some work during the midweek game regardless of the score. Berg is the type of pitcher that is better the more he throws. He wants the ball every game because it keeps him sharp. He definitely looked sharp in the top of the ninth on Tuesday.
Berg had a 1-2-3 ninth inning to extend his scoreless streak to 26 2/3 innings. He used his sinking 80-82 mph fastball and a nasty, biting slider. The slider was the best I’ve seen it. Like a driver that misses his/her turn, but goes for it anyway, the pitch started at the hip of right-handed batters before taking a drastic left turn.
He now has a 0.67 ERA with a 0.76 WHIP for the season. Since two rough outings (by Berg standards) in the first two weeks, the sophomore sidewinder has a remarkable 0.36 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP in 47 innings.
Cal State Northridge head coach Matt Curtis talks about the importance of a non-conference win against a top 10 team:
John Savage, head coach of the Bruins, discusses why he had such a quick hook with Cody Poteet and how Poteet’s start put the team behind the eight ball. He also talk.
Cal State Northridge
- Oscar Sandoval – 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K, Win
- Michael Livingston – 2-for-3, R, 2B, 2 BB
- Kyle Attl – 1-for-3, R, SB, 2 BB
- Justin Hazard – 2-for-3, BB
- Kevin Williams – 2-for-4, RBI
- Jake Ehret – 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB
The Bottom Line:
While UCLA is going to be in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome of this game, this was a huge game for Cal State Northridge’s potential NCAA at large berth.