This has been called the week of truth for the Cal State Northridge baseball team.
The Matadors play four California Collegiate Athletic Assn. games this week as they approach the midway point of their conference schedule. With his team already four games behind the conference leaders in the loss column, Northridge Coach Terry Craven knows this part of the season is a critical one for his team.
Therefore, Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to visiting UC Riverside was not taken lightly.
Sometimes, the truth hurts.
“We’re having a tough time getting something going,” Craven said. “We’ve now seen every team in the conference at least one time, and I still feel our team is just as good as any of them.
“But we are finding ways to lose.”
The latest loss was the sixth straight for Northridge, one shy of a school record. It left the Matadors at 10-15 overall, 3-6 in conference--and in big trouble.
“We did the same thing last year,” Riverside Coach Jack Smitheran said. “We started off 1-7 and immediately blew ourselves out of the conference race.”
Northridge is on the verge of the same fate this season. Now trailing Cal State Dominguez Hills and Riverside by five games in the loss column, the Matadors are running out of time to make a move.
And they know it.
“The exact things that we work on in our practices are the things that are not allowing us to win,” Craven said. “All we can do is hope the execution comes.”
It came--and went--against Riverside.
After the Highlanders built a 2-0 lead on solo home runs by Joe Koh and David Mayhall, Northridge rallied for a tie in the sixth.
Todd Mustin broke a string of more than 14 scoreless innings when he scored on a ground out by Gary Williams, and John Balfanz produced a tie with a run-scoring double to left.
Then the Matadors executed themselves with their execution in the seventh inning.
Mark Young came in from third with the go-ahead run for Riverside when Northridge catcher Scott McIntyre mishandled a called strike for a passed ball. McIntyre, who was hit in the head by a ball during pregame drills, told Craven that his vision was blurry on that pitch and several others.
The play, and resulting throwing error by McIntyre, put David Finley on third. He scored the eventual winning run on a double by Mike Williams.
McIntyre’s ground out in the eighth scored Chris Pinsak for Northridge’s final run, but Riverside pitcher Frank Potestio retired the last four batters to raise his record to 6-2.
For Northridge, Dan Gonzalez (1-5) was again a hard-luck loser. In his last three outings--all losses--the Matadors have scored a total of four runs.
“He has pitched well enough to win, but our offense hasn’t scored,” Craven said.
“There’s an old saying about baseball catching the guy who isn’t ready. Well, baseball situations catch teams that aren’t going well, and that’s what is happening to us.”
Northridge pitcher Jeremy Hernandez (4-4) was out of uniform and had his arm in a sling Tuesday, but Coach Terry Craven said the sophomore right-hander will not miss a turn in the rotation. He said Hernandez was merely following a doctor’s orders to rest a swollen elbow and sore shoulder.