NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — Robby Nesovic pitched six strong innings and pitched in a pair of hits, including a two-run double, to help UC Santa Barbara take a 6-2 win at Cal State Northridge’s Matador Field Saturday afternoon.
The Gauchos (27-20, 12-8) took advantage of three Northridge errors to score an error-asssisted run in the third inning and another in the fifth inning. Joey Epperson also hit a solo homer to left field to lead off the fifth inning, giving Nesovic a 3-0 lead.
Nesovic helped expand that lead in the seventh inning when he hit a bases-loaded double into the left-centerfield gap that scored a pair. Another run came around to score when Cameron Newell blooped one behind second base to make it 6-0.
Northridge (30-20, 14-6) battled back with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but left runners on the corners. The Matadors loaded the bases with no outs in the next inning, but failed to capitalize as reliever Greg Mahle was able to escape unscathed.
Nesovic (3-2) picked up his third win of the season while Calvin Copping (5-4) took the loss for the Matadors.
The Game Changer:
After falling behind 6-0, Cal State Northridge scored a pair in the seventh inning. The following inning, Cal Vogelsang doubled to lead off. A walk and a hit by pitch loaded the bases with no outs and the Matadors were one big hit away from being right back in the game.
Matt Curtis pinch hit Kyle Ferramola against lefty Greg Mahle. Instead of bringing in closer Dylan Hecht, UC Santa Barbara coach Andrew Checketts elected to stay with Mahle. The 6-foot-2, 210 pounder, who has been relegated to only pitching this season due to a left knee injury, struck out Ferramola.
Nicolas Osuna then lined a shot to right field for an out and Northridge elected not to send the runner from third even though the Gauchos threw the ball into second base rather than home. Mahle got Michael Livingston to ground out to second base to end the inning and then turned the ball over to closer Dylan Hecht, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Best Defensive Play: When Cameron Newell took off from first base, Northridge second baseman Michael Livingston went to cover the bag. But the batter, Luke Swenson, swung at the pitch and sharply hit a grounder up the middle on the hit and run. Livingston laid out for the ball, gloved it and flipped it to Kyle Attl at second base. The umpire said the flip was too late, but Attl was able to throw to first to just barely nab Swenson with the 4-6-3 out.
Livingston and third baseman Nicolas Osuna also made back-to-back diving stops to end the eighth inning. Osuna dove to his left into the hole and snagged a one-hopper from Joey Epperson while Livingston made another backhanded stab to his right. This time he threw it to first himself to get Brandon Trinkwon.
Best Pitch/Pitcher: Robby Nesovic entered with a 6.19 ERA, but he was strong through six innings. Through the first six frames, he allowed six hits and no runs. It was only after a lengthy top half of the seventh inning, when he doubled home a pair of runs, that he ran into trouble. He walked the first two batters in the seventh inning and was pulled. The bullpen promptly gave up a run-scoring double and allowed the other runner credited to Nesovic to score on an infield single.
UC Santa Barbara head coach Andrew Checketts talks about Robby Nesovic’s performance and the decision to leave Greg Mahle in rather than inserting closer Dylan Hecht in earlier. He also discusses what the Gauchos have to do down the stretch to potentially have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament:
Cal State Northridge head coach Matt Curtis talks about the Matadors missed opportunities and the importance of trying to win Sunday’s finale to gain momentum going into the final two weeks of the season:
UC Santa Barbara winning pitcher Robby Nesovic talks about what he saw in the at bat when he doubled home two runs. He discusses playing both ways and what the Gauchos have to do to keep playing well.
UC Santa Barbara
- Joey Epperson – 1-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, HBP
- Robby Nesovic – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, Win; 2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI
- Cameron Newell – 3-for-4, RBI
Cal State Northridge
- Cal Vogelsang– 3-for-4, 2B
- Chester Pak– 1-for-1, R, BB, 2 HBP
- Brandon Warner – 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K
The Bottom Line:
Cal State Northridge was doing everything it could to make a name for itself on the national scene to try to get the Matadors into the minds of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. However, after back-to-back losses for the first time since the end of March, the Matadors are on skating on thin tournament hopes. With seven games remaining, they are probably going to need to win six of those — unfortunately, they have two of the Big West frontrunners remaining on the schedule in a series at Cal Poly and one at home with No. 4 Cal State Fullerton.
The Matadors didn’t help themselves out by making three errors. Calvin Copping didn’t have his best stuff and had two throwing errors himself. But when the opposition gives you a golden opportunity to get back in the game by loading the bases with no outs, you have to find a way to get some runs in. Coming away empty handed in the eighth inning might have been the death touch for this Northridge team.
However, Northridge is currently still in second place in the Big West, three games behind Cal State Fullerton (after Fullerton mopped UC Riverside 12-0). If the Matadors can stay within three games, they will still control their own destiny coming down the stretch. Anything over three games heading into the final weekend and a fork will be needed for their season.
UC Santa Barbara, on the other hand, is making a strong push down the stretch. With the win, the Gauchos have now four straight Big West series. They are in a very similar situation in regards to the NCAA Tournament and a potential at-large berth…win, win and win some more. Santa Barbara has more games remaining as it has midweek games against Washington State, at Loyola Marymount and at No. 8 UCLA.
The Gauchos remaining Big West series are against lower rung Pacific and UC Davis, so sweeps are certainly possible with the way UCSB has been playing recently. That makes those midweek games all the more important. Two wins against Pac-12 squads, including a win on the road at a top 10 team? Those would definitely boost the RPI.
Santa Barbara’s first priority remains picking up a sweep on Sunday. The Gauchos had an extremely long in-the-outfield, post-game meeting for a team that had just picked up a series win. Sweeping is something the Gauchos have struggled to do as of recent and it is something that was definitely emphasized after Saturday’s win, according to head coach Andrew Checketts. They know what is at stake.
For both clubs, it is simple: Win…win…win and you get in. Take some “L”s and you might be taking time off earlier than you want.