When Kathy Slaten pitches for the Cal State Northridge softball team at Lady Matador Field, her strikeouts are marked and tabulated on "Kat's K Board," which sits above the bleachers behind home plate.
So, several members of the crowd at Friday's first-round game of the NCAA Division II World Series probably would claim they were trying to make Slaten feel at home when they raised "Kat's Walk Board" every time she took the mound against Stephen F. Austin of Texas.
"I guess they picked an appropriate day for it," Slaten said. "I thought it was kind of catty."
Slaten walked six and threw three wild pitches--one of which led to the game-winning run--as CSUN lost to Austin, 2-0, at Buchtel Field before a crowd of 300.
CSUN (49-11-1) faces the difficult duty of rising through the losers' bracket to win its fourth straight national title. The Lady Matadors begin that work at 8 a.m. (PST) today against Northeast Missouri, a 1-0 loser Friday to Bloomsburg (Pa.) State. If the Lady Matadors win, they play again at 3:30 p.m. against the loser of the game between Austin and Bloomsburg. A defeat sends CSUN home.
Slaten was outpitched Friday by Pam Clay, who scattered seven hits, struck out two and did not walk a batter to improve to 23-7.
"I was pumped up to pitch against Northridge," said Clay, who came out on the short end of a Slaten perfect game three years ago in the national tournament. "It wasn't that they were defending champs. It was a personal thing.
"Slaten is a great pitcher, but I've always felt I'm just as good as she is. But today, she didn't throw as well as she has in the past."
Slaten (21-5-1) didn't look anything like the four-time All-American Austin Coach Dianne Baker remembered.
"Slaten has lost a lot of weight," Baker said. "I think with the weight loss, she also lost some velocity. She isn't getting as much force behind her pitches."
The Ladyjacks managed only three hits off Slaten but took advantage of her wildness in the fifth inning to produce two runs.
In a scoreless tie in the fifth, Slaten walked Lori Eberhardt to lead off the inning. Lisa Abeita, pinch-running for Eberhardt, moved to second on a wild pitch and continued to third on an infield single by Penni Lewis.
Kirsten Upcraft, running for Lewis, stole second to put runners at second and third.
With Phyllis Aswell at the plate, Slaten let loose a wild pitch, allowing Abeita to score. Aswell then drove in Upcraft with a groundout to short.
Slaten's troubles actually began with two outs in the first inning when the umpires penalized her for throwing illegal pitches.
"First, they said that I had hit my glove with the ball twice before delivering a pitch," Slaten said. "Then they said that my foot wasn't in contact with the rubber when I made my next delivery."
Slaten got out of the inning unscathed, but her composure did not. She struck out the side in the second and fourth innings but was replaced by Delanee Anderson at the start of the sixth inning.
"Slaten got a little flustered, but that's not why we lost today," CSUN Coach Gary Torgeson said. "I think the team played like they were on the defensive. We weren't getting people on base and pushing them around like we have all year."
The only real CSUN threat came in the fifth inning when the Lady Matadors loaded the bases with two outs. Clay induced Nancy Lucero to pop-out to second. So much for that rally.
Barbara Jordan, CSUN's two-time All-American center fielder, was 3 for 3. . . . Bloomsburg first baseman Jean Millen is the sister of L.A. Raiders linebacker Matt Millen and hits nearly as hard. Jean, a 6-1 All-American, holds the NCAA single-game tournament record for home runs (2) and total bases (9). . . . With the loss to Stephen F. Austin on Friday, CSUN is going to need some luck in order to win its fourth straight title. The CSUN player who may provide the needed magic is junior second baseman Tricia Saxton, who recently won $1,000 in the California Lottery. . . . Before the tournament, CSUN Coach Gary Torgeson said Kathy Slaten would start every game. But he may have changed his mind. "I made kind of a commitment to Kathy, but we may have to go with who can do the best job for us right now." Torgeson said that Delanee Anderson (14-3) will start today against Northeast Missouri and that Lisa Martin (13-2) may start the second game. KCSN (88.5 FM) will broadcast today's game, starting 7:55 a.m. (PST).