The numbers carefully painted on the back of the home dugout at the Cal State Northridge softball field are intentionally set to the left, leaving plenty of room.
They read “CCAA 82 83 84 85,” referring to the previous four Lady Matador championships in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.
On Tuesday at Cal State Dominguez Hills, CSUN earned the right to break out more paint by sweeping a doubleheader, 1-0 and 2-0. The victories clinched a fifth consecutive conference championship for the Lady Matadors.
For the rest of the teams in NCAA Division II, the writing--once again--is on the wall. This year, however, the calligraphy is a little less bold.
“The other night I went to sleep thinking, ‘Hey, we’re not going to have an 86 on the back of our dugout,’ ” said CSUN pitcher Kathy Slaten, who earned a save and a win Tuesday.
Slaten and the rest of the Lady Matadors had reason to worry.
Last weekend, CSUN split a doubleheader with then-conference leader Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The loss put the Lady Matadors two games back in the loss column. CSUN had two CCAA games left, and San Luis Obispo appeared invincible even though the Mustangs had had six games remaining in the regular season. Cal Poly SLO was ranked first in the latest national Division II coaches poll.
On Sunday, however, Dominguez Hills swept Cal Poly SLO, assuring CSUN of at least a tie for the conference championship.
And Tuesday, while CSUN was sweeping Dominguez Hills, Cal State Bakersfield split a doubleheader with San Luis Obispo, making the Lady Matadors the CCAA champions once again.
“When Dominguez swept San Luis, it really fired our team up,” CSUN Coach Gary Torgeson said. “We had to win today and we did. I think we’re the hottest team in the region right now.”
With the conference title, CSUN (44-10-1, 16-4) is automatically seeded in the Western Regionals, scheduled for May 9-10.
To defend its title, CSUN will depend largely on Slaten, a three-time All-American who earned her third save of the year in the first game, relieving Lisa Martin (12-2) in the seventh inning.
In the second game, Slaten (18-4-1) pitched a one-hitter and had four strikeouts. She retired the Toros in order in every inning except the fifth.
“I’m a strikeout pitcher, but not the type I used to be,” Slaten said. “People have seen me for three years now, so I have to work the corners more and get a lot of pop-ups and ground outs. I’m going to try and pitch this way the rest of the year.”
Dominguez Hills (22-24, 8-10), the team that helped the Lady Matadors before Tuesday’s games, continued its generosity in both games of the doubleheader. All of CSUN’s runs were unearned.
In the first game, CSUN scored its only run in the third inning. With one out, Lori Shelly singled and went to third on a throwing error by Dominguez Hills second baseman Christy Eustice. One out later, Nancy Lucero singled home Shelly.
Dominguez Hills gave CSUN two runs and, in effect, the second game by committing two errors in the third.