09 Dec 2021 | 03:22 | Baseball
BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—Jayson Newman hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning to help lift CSUN Baseball (10-15, 10-15 Big West) to a series-opening win over CSU Bakersfield (14-10, 11-6 Big West), 9-4 on Friday at Hardt Field. Denzel Clarke drove in three runs and finished with two hits including a two-run home run while Mason Le hit his first career home run in the eighth inning. Blake Sodersten earned his second-straight win after working 5.1 innings, allowing four runs.
CSUN would have to claw back from two different deficits early in Friday’s contest. In the first inning, the Roadrunners cracked the scoring column with an RBI single from Evan Berkey. Sodersten also surrendered a second run in the first inning off a sacrifice fly from Tyler Jorgensen but managed to escape further trouble by retiring Nick Grossman.
The Matadors quickly responded in the second inning when Ryan Ball drew out a one-out walk then Clarke hammered a two-run home to left-center field to tie the game at 2-2.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the third inning when the Roadrunners pulled in front again, this time capitalizing on a Sodersten wild pitch that scored Jashia Morrissey. Once again, Sodersten limited the damage by sitting down the next two batters, leaving runners at the corners.
Clarke struck again in the top of the fourth to tie the game up. After Ball walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Clarke laced a double to right-center field to plate the tying run.
CSUN leaned on the long ball once more in the top of the fifth when a key two-out hit gave the Matadors’ their first lead. Kai Moody drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive before Jose Ruiz worked a walk of his own. Newman stepped to the plate next and deposited a three-run blast over the right-center wall to put CSUN ahead 6-3.
Sodersten had to work out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth as two hits and a walk resulted in CSUB’s fourth run of the afternoon. However, he retired Grossman with runners at first and second to keep the lead at 6-4.
Le provided insurance with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and a solo home run in the eighth inning to push the lead further to four runs. Ruiz later added to the hit parade with a two-out RBI double to make it a 9-4 game in the eighth.
Jackson Cunningham provided a lift to the Matadors with another strong outing on the mound. Cunningham relieved Sodersten in the sixth with one out and two runners on base. The senior struck out Morrissey then defended his position well by sprinting to cover first base off a grounder from Eric Charles in a close play.
Cunningham retired three of four batters in the seventh and two of three hitters in the eighth before Zuko Tillman came on in relief with two outs. Tillman recorded the final four outs on Friday to nail down the CSUN win.
Reaching base with a walk in the sixth, Robert Bullard stretched his on-base streak to 13 games while Clarke extended his on-base streak to 11 in a row. Le has also hit safely in 10-straight contests.
With a 2-for-4 day at the plate, Clarke continued his hot hitting for the Matadors. Over the last nine games, Clarke has hit .485 and compiled 16 hits, 10 runs, nine RBI, four doubles and three home runs in 33 at-bats. His home run in the second inning was his team-leading fifth of the season.
Cunningham worked 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and no runs to go with two strikeouts. Tillman yielded just a hit in 1.1 innings of work.
ACCORDING TO HEAD COACH DAVE SERRANO
“Today’s win was about overcoming ourselves early on to some extent. After driving up this morning, it seemed though early we weren’t ready to play. I thought the offense picked up Blake Sodersten in what I felt wasn’t a good outing for him. Denzel Clarke’s two-run home run and Jayson Newman’s three-run blast were huge. Besides the offense putting runs on the board, I thought Jackson Cunningham’s outing in relief turned the momentum back on our side. Bakersfield has a good team and our guys will have to come ready to battle the next two days to feel good about themselves.”
The Matadors continue their series with CSU Bakersfield on Saturday with a doubleheader starting at noon. Both games will stream on ESPN3.