NORTHRIDGE – Cal Poly junior starting righthander Steffi Best struck out four in her lengthiest collegiate appearance, but a leadoff home run from CSUN first baseman Kiarra Crockett-Pope during the bottom half of the 11th handed the Matadors a 4-3, doubleheader-opening victory on Friday. Cal Poly, however, rebounded to win game No. 2, turning an early deficit into a 3-2 victory at Matador Diamond as sophomore righthander Dakota Casper (above) stranded nine Matadors.
During Friday's opening game – Cal Poly's lengthiest since defeating UC Davis, 8-7, in 13 innings (April 29, 2017) – the Mustangs saw their initial nine hitters retired in order by CSUN starting righthander Jillian James (14-10) until sophomore center fielder Noellah Ramos singled to start the fourth. Senior third baseman Noa Yakir next reached on a fielder's choice, but James set down the next three Mustangs to strand two.
Scoring opportunity missed by Cal Poly, CSUN responded in the bottom of the fourth as right fielder Megan Stevens followed a leadoff single from center fielder Mackenzie Babbitt with her 12th home run of 2019. A two-base Mustang throwing error later in the inning led to CSUN's third run with first baseman Kiarra Crockett-Pope crossing the plate.
Mustang starting righthander Steffi Best recovered and allowed just a single hit to CSUN in the fifth and sixth innings to provide Cal Poly the opportunity to tie the game.
James helped the Mustangs kickstart their rally, first hitting Ramos with one down before Yakir reached on a fielder's choice. Two batters later, freshman designated player Lily Amos delivered a run-scoring single down the left field line to score Ramos. Senior right fielder Crimson Kaiser then followed with a two-run double as Cal Poly knotted the scoreline, 3-3.
After Cal Poly was retired in order during the top of the seventh, Best closed the bottom half by stranding the CSUN bases loaded.
Into extra innings, the programs combined to advance just three baserunners into scoring position with Cal Poly turning a 5-4-2 double play to erase Matadors at the corner bases in the 10th. In the bottom of the 11th, however, Crockett-Pope homered off the Matador Diamond scoreboard in left center.
During Friday's second matchup, Cal Poly (9-32, 3-8) notched the game's opening run in the first inning, but CSUN notched the first run during the bottom half of the second as second baseman Haileigh Gonzalez singled home pinch runner Sarah Duran with two down.
CSUN (20-24, 4-7) starting lefthander Kenedee Jamerson (5-8) faced just one Mustang over the minimum until the top of the fourth, when freshman left fielder Lily Amos reached on a Matador fielding error before Kaiser doubled over the head of Stevens in right fielder. With both Mustangs in scoring position, junior first baseman Hailey Martin's groundout brought home Amos to tie the matchup, 1-1. Young followed with a double that plated Kaiser before scoring herself on a single from junior designated player Shelby Jeffries as Cal Poly grabbed a 3-1 advantage.
The Matadors grabbed a run back in the bottom of the fourth as Gonzalez doubled to right center with two down to bring home Jamerson. Casper (2-7), however, retired CSUN in order to close the fifth before stranding two Matadors to complete the sixth and seventh innings.
Casper struck out two in the 90-pitch effort.
Cal Poly and CSUN close the three-game series with a 1 p.m. matchup on Saturday, April 20. Action will be broadcasted via ESPN3.