The Matadors earned their 900th all-time home victory after sweeping both games of their doubleheader with Northern Colorado on Saturday afternoon at Matador Field. Conner O’Neil became the all-time school leader in career saves after recording the final five outs of game one in a 4-2 victory. The Matador pitching staff tied a school record with a combined 19 strikeouts in game two as starter Kenny Rosenberg struck out 16 batters and allowed one hit in 7.2 innings to help CSUN to a 6-0 win. Yusuke Akitoshi had five hits on the day while Jose Ruiz, Nolan Bumstead and Jayson Newman each had four.
“Any time you play 18 innings in a day it comes down to execution,” said head coach Greg Moore. “The team that puts out the most pressure usually finds a way. In the [seventh inning of game two] we needed execution. We had to put the bunts down to speed the game up. Baseball is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s the 35-foot roller that makes all the difference in a game.”
In the opener, the Matadors jumped out to the early lead with a two-run second inning. Branden Berry and Bumstead led off the frame with singles to start the inning, giving Newman an opportunity to single in the game’s first run. With runners at the corners, Bobby Schuman knocked in his first career RBI with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Starter Joe Ryan kept the Bears off the scoreboard through three innings until Brett Minnick deposited a two-run shot over the left field wall to square the contest at 2-2. Ryan retired the side in the fifth and gave way to the bullpen in the sixth. Joey Deceglie tossed 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing only a hit in the eighth.
The game remained tied heading to the bottom of the seventh. After stranding a pair of batters in the fifth and sixth innings, CSUN broke through with the go-ahead score. Akitoshi launched a 0-1 pitch over the left field fence for an opposite field home run. CSUN added another run in the eighth on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Fred Smith to push the lead to 4-2.
Entering the eighth inning with the tying run on second and one out, O’Neil retired the final two batters of the inning and struck out two in a scoreless ninth to record his 15th career save. Already the owner of the school’s all-time single season save record with 12 last season, O’Neil moved ahead of Phil Polanco (2002-04) and Josh Goosen-Brown (2011-13) for the most career saves in just his second season with the team.
Rosenberg took to the hill in game two and baffled the Bears hitters throughout the day. The sophomore left-hander retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced and kept Northern Colorado hitless through the first six innings.
Meanwhile, CSUN compiled six hits through six innings but was unable to break through against starter Conner Leedholm as the game remained scoreless. In the seventh however, the Matadors put pressure on the Bears’ defense with solid execution at the plate to break the tie.
After Dylan Alexander worked a walk to lead off the inning, Akitoshi laid down a perfectly placed bunt to pitcher Allen Cook down the right field line that the Matador senior was able to beat out at first base. In similar fashion, Smith followed with a bunt down the left field line to load the bases. Two batters later, Albee Weiss hit a slow grounder to third base that allowed pinch runner Nolan Flashman to score from third.
CSUN broke the game open later in the inning with a big hit with the bases loaded. Still a 1-0 game, Bumstead launched a home run to left field for his second career grand slam to make it 5-0. The sophomore hit the last Matador grand slam in a victory over UC Riverside in April 2015.
Now with a big lead, Rosenberg pitched into the eighth and struck out two more to push his total to 16. Samuel Myers got the final out of the inning and struck out the side in the ninth inning to give CSUN 19 on the day. The strikeouts are the most by a CSUN team since 1991 when Craig Clayton fanned 19 against Hartford.
“Its fun for me because its been a while since I’ve gone to compete. We have a great group of guys and the energy from the dugout was incredible,” said Rosenberg about his performance. “Credit Dylan for calling a fantastic game, Albee as well, and Bumstead also for making a couple of tough plays at third and hitting that grand slam. In a word, it was a lot of fun.”
On the day, sophomores Rosenberg and Deceglie earned their first career Matador victories.
The Matadors conclude their four-game series with Northern Colorado on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Matador Field.