Baseball

Game 1

10 unanswered runs from the Cougars’ bats and a quality start from redshirt junior left-hander Damon Jones paced WSU to an 11-7 series-opening win over the Matadors.

The Matadors jumped on Jones early in the first leg of Saturday’s doubleheader. A pair of walks, followed by a bloop double in the top of the first allowed CSUN to push across the first run of the game and take an early lead. The Matadors tacked on another run after a soft ground ball single leaked through the gap between second and first base to bring in the lead runner from third Jones then stranded the bases loaded to end the inning andescape further damage.

However, Jones settled down after surrendering a 2-0 lead and allowed just one baserunner on three strikeouts through the next five innings.

“He changed his mindset. He changed his attitude,” said WSU Head Coach Marty Lees. “He went from being a little passive and nibbling to I’m tired and I’m going to go get them.”

As Jones found his groove, the WSU offense hit its stride in the second and third innings. Sophomore catcher Cory Meyer drew a leadoff walk to start the frame and subsequently advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Junior outfielder J.J. Hancock plated him and advanced to third base when a high fly ball hit to left field was dropped after the Matadors’ outfielder lost a battle with the whipping wind and rain. Hancock then scored on another wild pitch to even the score at two.

In the bottom of the third, singles by freshman infielder Dillon Plew and junior third baseman Shane Matheny put runners at the corners. Plew then bolted for home plate in the next at-bat, and junior third baseman James Rudkin executed a squeeze bunt to put the Cougars ahead 3-2.

WSU then began to pour it on at the plate, adding three more runs in the fourth inning and four in the sixth inning to extend its lead to 10-2.

Jones was lifted in the seventh inning in favor of sophomore right-hander Parker McFadden, and CSUN responded to the pitching change.

Three walks and four wild pitches from McFadden and a Matadors’ single made it a 10-4 game, and Lees brought in junior right-hander Colby Nealy to stem the tide with runners on first and second with one out.

Nealy surrendered a three-run dinger to right field to the first batter he faced to make it a 10-7 game, but the Bothell native retired the next two hitters to end the frame.

The Cougars added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh to extend their lead to four and Nealy got in gear, pitching into the ninth inning before giving way to left-hander Scotty Sunitsch. Inheriting a pair of runners on first and second with one down, the closer rolled a double play to end the game and pick up his sixth save of the s

 

Game 2

Behind six shutout innings from junior right-hander Ryan Walker, WSU emerged from the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader with a tight 3-0 win.

Walker allowed just five hits and one walk on six strikeouts to pick up his second win of the season and said he benefitted from talking with Jones in-between games to get a feel for the CSUN hitters.

Walker said he focused on hitting his spots and being consistent and Lees said that he succeeded in pounding the zone and keeping the ball down in what he considered to be his best start against left-handed batters this season.

With the game scoreless in the top of third, a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt gave the Matador’s runners on first and third with one out. CSUN senior shortstop Fred Smith laced a hard ground ball between second and first base that looked to be through, but Plew made a diving stop ranging to his right and flipped the ball to sophomore shortstop Andres Alvarez at second to start a six-four-three double play to escape the inning

“”I haven’t been that excited in a while,” Walker said. “I feel like that was huge and it’s nice to know that we have a trustful defense and whenever I have a ground ball I don’t worry about it at all.”

Defense was on display all afternoon for the Cougars. Outfielders Dugan Shirer and Johnny Sage snared long fly balls at the fence to prevent extra bases for the Matadors in the top of the fourth.

One inning later, Alvarez charged a two-hop ground ball to make a bare hand grab on the ball and nab a runner at first. Later in the sixth inning, Hancock cut off a line drive in the right field gap to keep a CSUN single from turning into a double, a defensive play Lees said was a key point in the game.

“They were great,” Walker said of his defense. “There was a lot of big outs, big double plays. I mean we wouldn’t have a zero up there if it wasn’t for them so they really got my back today.”

Redshirt junior right-hander Tei Vanderford took the ball in game two for CSUN. Vanerford came into the game with a 1.64 ERA and threw a complete game shutout against No. 14 Vanderbilt earlier in the season.

Rudkin said the team was not concerned about Vanderford’s success.

“I think for us it’s just about how we play,” Rudkin said. “I think we’re good enough that if we just play our game and play good baseball we can beat anybody.”

The Cougars took the lead for good off Vanderford in the second inning.

Hancock lead off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a groundout by freshman first baseman Jon Burghardt. After a walk by Alvarez, Hancock was cut down at the plate on an attempted squeeze bunt by Sage to keep the scoreless. A walk by Shirer in the next at-bat loaded the bases and Plew brought in the first run of the game with another base on balls.

Hancock provided the Cougars with an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning, doubling off the right centerfield wall to plate Plew and Rudkin and up their lead to 3-0.

With Sunitsch having thrown in the first game of the doubleheader, junior right-hander Joe Rosenstein fired a scoreless ninth to finish off the Matadors and pick up his first career save.