CSUN Baseball (32-21, 10-12 BWC) suffered a 4-1 defeat to UC Irvine (30-24, 10-12 BWC) on Friday evening at Anteater Ballpark. Junior infielder Fred Smith had two of the Matadors’ three hits in the contest and Yusuke Akitoshi drove in CSUN’s only run in the top of the ninth. After being held to one hit and no runs through eight, the Matadors brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in their final at bat but the Anteaters would hold on for the victory in the series opener.
Coming in with a six-game winning streak against conference opponents, the Matadors would have a difficult time solving UCI starter Elliot Surrey throughout the night. The senior left-hander made the most of his final start in an Anteater uniform, crafting an outstanding effort on the mound with a complete game win. Surrey struck out 10 Matador hitters while allowing just one base runner to reach scoring position through the first eight innings.
Facing a pitcher at the top of his game, Matador starter Joe Ryan pitched effectively in his five innings of work to help keep his team in the ballgame. In the early going, Ryan pitched strong with three shutout frames and at one point set down 10 of 11 batters.
The Anteaters finally broke though in the fourth against Ryan to plate the game’s first run. Ryan surrendered a one-out infield single to Mitchell Holland and Adam Alcantara followed with a double to the left center field gap. On the play, Holland scored from first on a close play despite a strong relay from the Matador defense. After Justin Toerner tracked down the ball in the outfield, he fired the ball to Akitoshi who then threw to the plate but Holland slid in just safely before Albee Weiss could apply a tag.
Moments after the first run came in, Ryan attempted to pick off Alcantara at second, however his throw sailed into the outfield. In his haste to move up, Alcantara would be thrown out at third after Toerner recovered the ball quickly and sent in a good throw to Smith. The Matador second baseman delivered the ball to Nolan Bumstead at third who then recorded the out. The unconventional 1-8-4-5 pick off prevented any further damage, as Ryan retired Cole Kretuer on a lineout to end the frame.
The Matadors looked for the equalizer in the fifth, after a UCI error. Allowing just two base runners through four, Surrey began the fifth by forcing Bumstead to pop up into shallow right. Despite a triangle of UCI defenders, the ball dropped in the outfield, giving Bumstead an opportunity to move up to second. CSUN would be unable to capitalize after the error, however, as Surrey pitched himself out of trouble by setting down the next three hitters.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Anteaters got back in the run column to extend their advantage to 3-0. Matt Reitano drove in his team’s second run on a one-out RBI triple and Evan Cassolato drove in another run on a squeeze play. Batting at the number nine spot, Reitano finished 3-for-3 at the plate with two extra base hits.
Conner O’Neil entered in the sixth inning in relief of Ryan and pitched a scoreless frame but the Anteaters put up a single tally in the seventh. Reitano delivered a one-out RBI single to bring in Wyatt Castro to give UCI a 4-1 edge.
Pitching with lead, Surrey continued to baffle the Matadors on the mound. After the error in the fifth, Surrey retired 12 consecutive CSUN batters as he took a shutout into the ninth.
Showing resolve, the Matadors battled to the final out in the top of the ninth. Smith collected the Matadors’ first hit since the third with a double to left field to kick off the inning. After Toerner moved Smith up to third with groundball to the right side, Akitoshi drove in the Matadors’ first run with a tapper back to Surrey.
Down to their last out, Branden Berry kept the game alive with a single to right and Dylan Alexander worked a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Facing a potential rally, Surrey nailed down the win with his 10th strikeout of the night, fanning Bumstead to end the contest.
With two hits on the night, Smith posted his team-leading 21st multiple-hit game of the season. He also extended his on-base streak to 12 games.
The Matadors face the Anteaters in game two of the series on Friday night at 6:30 p.m.