Cal State Fullerton’s softball team will hit the road for a three-game series against the Cal State Northridge Matadors beginning Friday, April 8.
At 7-2 in the Big West Conference and 22-13 overall, the Titans have found success in conference play that has led to an early tie for first place among the Big West standings.
Inversely, CSUN has struggled this season with a 3-6 conference record and an overall record of 13-23. Despite playing competitive softball for most of the season, the Matadors have largely finished on the losing end and are in the middle of a six-game losing streak, including series sweeps at the hands of the University of Hawai’i and Long Beach State.
The Titans are coming off back-to-back walk-off wins over UC Riverside that featured a run rule ending the game in five innings and a walk-off home run from Deshea Hill. Fullerton took two of three games in the series after a previous five-game winning streak.
The Titans have won every conference series they have played so far this season.
A large part of Fullerton’s success this season has been the dominating performances from right-handed pitcher Myka Sutherlin. The junior transfer from Gilbert, Arizona has a 2.55 ERA in 82.1 innings pitched this season. Her conference stats are even better, as she boasts an incredible 1.56 ERA in 31.1 innings pitched against Big West opponents.
Sutherlin’s best performance of the season was on March 26 against CSU Bakersfield when she tossed the 57th no-hitter in Fullerton softball history. She did, however, recently have a rough outing against Riverside that saw her only get one out while allowing six runs. Sutherlin bounced back, though, against UCR with a scoreless four innings of relief and five strikeouts for the win the next day.
Sutherlin credited having a short-term memory in her bounce-back effort. She said the team and coaching staff told her to “forget about what happened on Friday and just come out on Saturday like a new pitcher and just pitch how I’ve been pitching.”
Despite the early success, Hill suggested that the team cannot take teams lightly. Holding that top spot in the conference, she acknowledged that every team is going to be gunning for the Titans and giving CSUF their best shot.
CSUN is currently tied for seventh in the Big West and was swept by the other two teams atop the standings. However, like Hill said, these games are still crucial for the Titans as they try to maintain pace with Hawai’i and Long Beach.
The Matadors’ pitching staff has been very good during conference play, boasting a team ERA of 2.53. While pitching has kept them in games, CSUN has turned to outfielder Jaymi Steward to anchor the offense.
Steward leads CSUN in almost every statistical category this season, hitting .308 with four home runs, 19 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .458. The Matadors have the ninth best offense in the conference with a meager .210 team batting average, but Steward will likely provide a handful for Titans.
The three-game series will be played from April 8-9, with a doubleheader on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Friday.
Navtej Hundal contributed to this article.