NCAA DIVISION II : Onestinghel Plays Lead as CSUN Bids to Repeat

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Beth Onestinghel stormed around third, full throttle, with a pinwheeling Gary Torgeson urging her on from the third base coach’s box.

Onestinghel, a senior outfielder for the Cal State Northridge softball team, was about to complete the last leg of her first collegiate home run, much to the chagrin of several teammates in the dugout.

“Go back to third!” they shouted as she crossed home plate, but it was too late. Onestinghel’s school-record streak of eight consecutive games with a triple had ended.


“Boy, did I get chewed out,” Torgeson said, recalling the scene.

But not by Onestinghel, who has a school-record 14 triples this season. “I would have been really mad if he had held me,” she said of last month’s incident. “That was my first home run. I didn’t care about the record.”

Records come secondary to Onestinghel, who has learned--the hard way--that too much stock should not be put in individual honors.

Besides, she already has four school season records and Northridge still has a few games to play. In fact, the Lady Matadors are entering the time of year when the former Louisville High standout is at her best--the playoffs.

Top-ranked Northridge (47-11) meets Central Missouri today in the first round of the NCAA Division II North East regional at Sacred Heart College.

Onestinghel, a left-hander who bats third, was dangerous enough during the regular season. She batted .396 and was first or second on the team in eight offensive categories. Her slugging percentage was .646.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic is her 15 game-winning hits.

“I’ve never seen a person with the knack of coming through with the big play as often as Beth does,” Torgeson said. “She’s money in the bank. And the great thing is, she gets tougher with the competition.”

Onestinghel has been a starter since her freshman season, and she has played for two national champions. But she always has played in the shadow of flashier players.

She has become a team leader this season, yet remains reserved and modest. To wit: Asked why she had so many triples, Onestinghel replied, “I guess I’m not fast enough to make it home.”

More likely it is her ability to pull even the hardest-throwing pitchers down the right-field line.

Last season she was among the team leaders in practically every category but was left off the All-American team. Coaches are limited to five nominations for the team, and Torgeson went with four seniors and freshman pitcher Debbie Dickmann, who threw a no-hitter in the national championship game. Onestinghel left the All-American ceremonies in tears.

“It was a big disappointment and I had a hard time dealing with it,” she said. “You try not to expect things like that, but when so many people tell you it’s a sure thing . . . The last one introduced, her name was Beth. Then it wasn’t me . . . It just killed me.”

Well, not exactly. Inspired might be a better word. The ceremonies were held the night before the start of last season’s championship tournament. The games became the perfect outlet for Onestinghel to vent her frustrations.

In Northridge’s three-game sweep, Onestinghel was 6 for 7 with 4 runs batted in and 2 sacrifices.

Afterward, Dickmann said, “Beth didn’t prove anything. She doesn’t have to. She played her game. She played like Beth--like an All-American. To us, she is one.”

Torgeson never expected anything different.

“She went crazy,” he said this week. “And that’s a credit to her. She could have fallen apart, but instead she played the series of her life. But that’s her. The tougher things are, the better she plays.”

Onestinghel said being left off the All-American team helped her focus on the task at hand.

“I refocused all my negative feelings and turned them into something positive,” she said. “I never concentrated so hard. The only thing that was important was that the team win a championship.”

Her torrid hitting carried over to this season, and again the time is approaching for postseason awards. The All-American team will be announced next week. And this time, Onestinghel has been nominated.

“I think she’s shown everybody just what a great player she is,” Torgeson said. “She should be unanimous.”