Matadors’ designated batsman Ryan Ball kicked the plate in the 12th inning of a 7-7 ball game against Anteater pitcher Tanner Brooks. Almost 21 hours after the game’s first pitch, one was out and no one was on the base.
After a hit in first place, Ball fought for full points. Brooks then got on the set and threw a changeup. Ball swung and pulled a fly ball into the right field. Nathan Church, the anteater right outfield, ran back to the wall and jumped to make the catch.
But the ball just cleared its glove and went over the fence – a walk-off home run for ball.
As Ball circled the bases, his teammates all ran out onto the field and circled him as he reached home plate. Ball gave the Matadors an 8-7 win and gave UC Irvine their first conference loss of the season.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Ball said in a telephone interview. “And honestly, I was kind of numb to walking around. I didn’t really feel anything, I don’t really remember much, but it’s definitely something I will never forget. “
The sights after the home run pic.twitter.com/jhm1vpZexV
– CSUN Baseball (@CSUNBaseball) April 3, 2021
The game started at 3 p.m. on Friday, but had to be interrupted after 11 innings and more than four hours of play due to darkness. The next day around noon we continued.
The Matadors took an early lead in the second inning as they struck around and scored five runs. Brandon Bohning opened the rating with an RBI single that brought in Sean Skelly. The Matadors also had RBIs from Ball, Carlos Arellano and Kai Moody, which had two.
Sean Skelly makes a sliding catch against the UC Irvine Anteaters at Matador Field in Northridge, California on Friday, April 2, 2021. The Matadors won the game 8–7 in 12 innings. (Blake Williams)
CSUN starting pitcher Blake Sodersten struck in the eighth inning and only allowed two runs, which came on a home run by UCI catcher Dillon Tatum.
“I think I fell behind in counting and the hitter only hit while sitting on a fastball and went out and hit it really well,” Sodersten said in a telephone interview. “So I tip my hat for him because he hit the fastball over the fence.”
Sodersten started the eighth inning, but he went the leadoff hitter. Head coach Dave Serrano then went to the bullpen and passed the ball to Blaine Traxel, who threw a goalless inning.
Sodersten ended the day with seven innings while allowing two runs on four hits with eight strikeouts and three walks.
“I have just committed to the strike zone,” said Sodersten. “I kept to the plan that I wanted to throw my fastball in the zone and let the clubs off, let my pitches work for me and just really trust my defense behind me.”
In the ninth inning, the Matadors then passed the ball to the closer Blake Schriever with a lead of four runs. Schriever recently moved up to second place on CSUN’s all-time saves list and has been one of CSUN’s top pitchers for the past two seasons.
It felt like it was game over, but the anteaters disagreed.
Adrian Damla opened the inning with a leadoff single. After a line into right field, Tatum went and Justin Torres doubled up to make it a three-run game. Tatum then hit on a wild pitch, but Josh Sheck struck to give the Matadors two outs in the inning.
But after two consecutive doubles by Jake Cosgrove and Nathan Church tied the game 6-6, Mike Peabody sank right field to give the Anteaters a 7-6 lead.
It was a stunning five-run inning for the Anteaters against one of the most effective closers in the NCAA.
At the end of the ninth, one behind, Jose Ruiz opened the inning with a single. Nathan Barraza pinch-ran for Ruiz and was brought into second place by Dalton Vanhille. Barraza then finished third on a pass and Robert Bullard came on with a pinch hit.
On a 1-1 count, Bullard stabbed through the left side of the infield to tie the game 7-7. The Matadors then loaded the bases with two outs and had a chance to win, but the ball flew into the middle and the inning was over.
Jackson Cunningham pitches against the UC Irvine Anteaters at Matador Field in Northridge, California on Friday, April 2, 2021. Cunningham, pitching during the extra innings, was credited with the win after throwing three innings of the Matadors’ 8-7 win. (Blake Williams)
Jackson Cunningham was called in to line up the 10th inning and kept the Anteaters goalless for three innings – two on Friday and the other on Saturday.
The Matadors had a chance of winning in the 11th inning when Denzel Clarke hit the plate with two outs and a runner in second place. Clarke hit a ball past the anteater’s third baseman who would have won the game, but it was only inches bad. The chance ended when he hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop to end the inning and the umpires then stopped play.
Denzel Clarke swings in a pitch against the UC Irvine Anteaters at Matador Field in Northridge, California on Friday, April 2, 2021. The Matadors won the game 8–7 in 12 innings. (Blake Williams)
After the win on Saturday, the Matadors improved their record to 4-5. Game two of the series began 50 minutes after the first game ended.
The Matadors play a double header on Sunday, with the first game starting at 11 a.m.