Northridge’s Pitching Falls Apart in 9th, 10-8
When California Collegiate Athletic Assn. rivals Cal State Northridge and Cal State Los Angeles last met, the Matadors’ Pierre Rodnunsky took center stage by registering game-winning hits in both ends of CSUN’s doubleheader sweep.
The senior from Granada Hills seemed destined for the hero’s role once again Wednesday, but CSLA’s Shaun Doyle stole the show with a two-run, ninth-inning homer in the Golden Eagles’ 10-8 comeback win at Matador Field.
“That’s the way it’s been going for us this year,” said Rodnunsky, whose fourth home run of the year--a one-out solo shot in the eighth off reliever Chris LaRiviere--broke a 6-6 tie. “It seems we’re never able to hold a lead.”
Trying to protect that one-run lead in the top of the ninth, Matador Coach Terry Craven pulled left-handed reliever Fili Martinez, who had pitched two scoreless innings, in favor of right-hander Leo Ramirez. Ramirez, the third of four CSUN pitchers, came on to face the top of the visitors’ lineup.
“I felt that Fili got hit hard,” explained Craven. “I went for the percentages of righty versus righties.”
Ramirez (1-2) got himself into immediate trouble by walking leadoff hitter Mica Lewis. He then plunked Brad Mengel on a 2-2 pitch, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Matador second baseman Jimmy Mitchell then made a diving stop to throw out Loy McBride at first. Lewis scored the tying run on the play, but Mitchell’s effort held the go-ahead run at third--only temporarily.
Craven brought in Robert Wheatcroft to face Doyle, the Eagles’ left-handed cleanup hitter who previously had stroked a two-run double.
“With a runner on third and only one out all I was trying to do was get the ball up in the air,” said Doyle, who took Wheatcroft deep to right field. It was his seventh homer and gave the Eagles a 9-7 lead.
“We tried to pitch him down and away,” Craven pointed out, “but he hung it up and in.”
CSLA added its fourth run of the inning on an RBI double by Chuck Elder.
The Matadors fought back. Vatcher, leading off the ninth, hit his club-leading 11th home run--his fifth in as many games--to cut the deficit to two. But backup first baseman Michael Lau made a leaping grab to rob Lenn Gilmore of a double, and John Balfanz drilled a liner to left that was taken on the run by McBride. Tim Rapp kept the inning alive by lashing a double to right-center to bring the tying run to the plate, but LaRiviere (2-1) got Chris Pinsak on a fly to right to end the game.
The loss dropped Northridge (26-15 overall) to 10-7 in the CCAA, while Cal State L.A. (20-24-1 overall) improved to 6-11.