A Difficult Goodby : Inconsistent Team Play, Stellar Individual Efforts Mark Craven’s Last Year at CSUN
It was the kind of day that reminded the Cal State Northridge baseball team of what it could do, and, at the same time, what it had been incapable of doing all season.
In a season-ending sweep of California Collegiate Athletic Assn. champion Cal Poly Pomona, Northridge put together the kind of complete performance--pitching, hitting and defense--that the team had displayed only in rare flashes.
Northridge finished 22-33, recording its worst winning percentage (.400) since 1966. The Matadors were 13-17 (.433) in the CCAA, their worst conference record since 1968.
The sweep of Pomona eight days ago concluded on a high note a season of frustration for the Matadors and Coach Terry Craven, who resigned his position at season’s end.
“The low point of the season was never being able to put anything together for an extended period of time,” said Craven, who compiled a four-year record of 123-103-1. “The high points were winning some games against some good teams and watching some of our players have great seasons individually.”
No player in the conference had a better season than senior outfielder Lenn Gilmore, who batted .351 and was the conference leader in home runs (17) and runs batted in (63). Last week, he shared conference player-of-the-year honors with Dave Hajek of Cal Poly Pomona and Mike Eatinger of UC Riverside.
Chae-Ho Chong, a junior utility player, batted .387, had 10 home runs and 36 RBIs and was a first-team All-CCAA selection. Junior center fielder John Bonilla batted .357 and stole 16 bases.
Wins over Fresno State, the top-ranked Division I team, and USC were bright spots for a Matador team handicapped by a pitching staff that, despite a few good outings by senior Leo Ramirez and junior Fili Martinez, posted a team earned-run average of 6.41, 5.42 in conference play.
Northridge also was affected by the loss of senior outfielder Mark Anderson, who suffered an early season leg injury. Anderson, who batted .369 and had 13 home runs and 50 RBIs last season, appeared in 16 games this season and batted .328. He had but three homers and 12 RBIs.
Finally, and perhaps most damaging, the Matadors were never able to recover from a murderous nonconference schedule against predominantly Division I competition.
Northridge opened the season with two losses at Arizona State, then swept a doubleheader from Cal Lutheran at home before stumbling through a school-record, 10-game losing streak that included setbacks at the hands of UCLA, Pepperdine, USC, Santa Clara, Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State and Westmont.
“It was tough with all those losses for people to believe they could do it,” Craven said. “It kept us from gaining any momentum.
“There were several good games where it looked like we were close to getting it going, but we were never able to.”
On April 23, before a doubleheader at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with 13 games left in the season, Craven announced to his team that he would not be returning next season.
The news shocked most of the players, though some said they sensed this was a make-or-break season for Craven in view of CSUN’s planned move to Division I status in all sports except football.