CSUN Baseball (20-5) opens up Big West Conference play this weekend with a three-game series at Cal State Fullerton at Goodwin Field. The series begins on Friday night at 7 p.m. while Saturday’s contest starts at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s finale is slated for 1 p.m. Friday night’s contest will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the rest of the series will be streamed live on Big West.TV.
Heading into Big West play, the Matadors have tied the 1996 team for the most wins through 25 games in program history. CSUN earned a series split in its four-game series at Portland last weekend to run its record to 20-5. The Pilots scored four runs in the ninth inning to upend the Matadors in game one of the series, 6-5, but CSUN rebounded with a 2-1 victory in 15 innings in game two. The Matadors earned a 2-1 win on Friday night but fell in the finale, 7-3, on Saturday.
CSUN received terrific pitching throughout the series. Junior Conner O’Neil struck out a career-high nine batters in seven innings in the opener while senior Rayne Raven tossed a season-high 7.1 innings, collecting eight strikeouts in game two. Junior relief pitcher Samuel Myers went 7.2 scoreless innings, earning the win in game two while preserving a tie game for most of his outing. On Friday night, sophomore Kenny Rosenberg recorded his first career complete game win, posting nine strikeouts and allowing just four hits.
For his efforts against the Pilots, Rosenberg earned his second Big West Conference Player of the Week honor of the season on March 28. The southpaw has posted a 1.96 ERA in six starts as he also leads the team with 57 strikeouts. Over the last five weeks, the Matadors have earned a Big West Conference Player of the Week nod four times. Rosenberg picked up the award on Feb. 29 followed by senior right-handed pitcher Angel Rodriguez on March 7 and junior Fred Smith receiving a Field Player of the Week nod on March 14.
CSUN leads the conference with a .281 team batting average with Smith leading the Matadors with a .363 batting average at the top of the order. After a solid series in Portland where he picked up six hits, shortstop Yusuke Akitoshi is batting .308 with 24 runs scored, 10 RBI, five doubles to go along with a conference-best 15 stolen bases. In the middle of the order, Branden Berry is tied with Albee Weiss for the team lead home runs with six. Berry is also boasting an impressive .345 average at the plate and .500 on-base percentage while he leads CSUN with 22 runs batted in.
The Matadors send Rosenberg (4-0) to the mound in the series opener against the Titans with O’Neil (4-0, 1.91 ERA) and Raven (1-1, 2.59 ERA) scheduled to follow on Saturday and Sunday respectively. As a team, the Matadors are both second in the conference in ERA with 2.76 and in opponent batting average with .218.
Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with CSUN 68-49 as the Titans have won eight of the last nine meetings. The Matadors dropped two of three games to Fullerton last season at Matador Field.
A Closer Look at Cal State Fullerton
The 2015 Big West Conference Champion Titans are 13-11 on the season including 9-6 in games contested at Goodwin Field. Fullerton dropped two of three to Long Beach State last weekend in a non-conference series but rebounded to defeat UCLA, 14-7, on the road on Tuesday night. Last season, Cal State Fullerton advanced to the NCAA College World Series.
Senior Dalton Blaser leads the Titans in batting with a .333 average at the dish to go along with two home runs and 14 RBI. Fellow senior Tanner Pinkston has been the team’s top run producer with 17 RBI while he has also scored 19 runs and hit .258. On the mound, Fullerton boasts a conference-best 2.36 team ERA. Junior right hander Blake Quinn (3-1, 1.59 ERA) takes to the hill in game one followed by freshman righty Colton Eastman (4-2, 2.09 ERA) and sophomore right-handed throwing Conner Seabold (1-2, 2.63 ERA) to round out the series.