Cal State Northridge pitcher Robert Wheatcroft has had nearly five months to recuperate from shoulder surgery and, judging by his past two outings, he has finished convalescing.
Wheatcroft, a senior right-hander, was feeling no pain at Cal Lutheran on Tuesday. He gave up three hits and did not allow a run in four innings of relief to pick up the win as CSUN rallied for a 4-1 nonconference victory in 10 innings.
For Wheatcroft (2-0), every outing helps him regain strength in his pitching arm.
“I’m still not up to par and the velocity is not there yet,” Wheatcroft said. “But I am hitting the spots and the breaking stuff is getting over. The velocity will come.”
Wheatcroft was equally impressive last week in tossing a five-hit shutout against Westmont. His strong start has impressed Coach Bill Kernen.
“He’s the kind of guy you like to coach because you have to hold him back,” Kernen said. “He is a good competitor and very intense.”
Wheatcroft is not the only impressive pitcher on Kernen’s roster, however. CSUN pitchers have given up only one earned run in 27 innings this season.
In Tuesday’s game, three Northridge pitchers combined to hold CLU to five hits. And the Kingsmen (2-3) hurt themselves in the field, committing seven errors, including three in Matadors’ three-run 10th.
CSUN (3-0) scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning on an error. Anton Siegl singled and moved to second on Kevin Ogle’s walk, then scored from second when second baseman David Leonhardt made a throwing error on John Bonilla’s infield grounder.
Two more Kingsmen errors in the inning allowed the Matadors to pick up a pair of insurance runs and further aggravate Cal Lutheran Coach Rich Hill.
“We were lucky the score was even 1-1 then, considering the way we played,” Hill said. “Pitching kept us in it as long as we were. There is no way we should have won this game.
“Fielding a ground ball is just a matter of concentration and we are not where we should be mentally right now.”
The Kingsmen had at least one good fielding play, though, when right fielder Henry Campos threw out CSUN’s Randy Thompson trying to score in the ninth. Thompson singled to open the inning and moved to second on Greg Shockey’s sacrifice bunt but was cut down at the plate after Chae-Ho Chong’s single to right.
Campos was also impressive at the plate. He knocked in Cal Lutheran’s only run in the sixth with a double to left field that scored Leonhardt, who had walked and moved to second on Anthony Espitia’s ground out.
“We have just not been executing offensively,” Hill said.
CSUN took a 1-0 lead in the first on Denny Vigo’s double to center, scoring Chong who had reached base on a two-out walk.
Said Kernen: “The key to the game for us was Chae’s walk. If we do not get that run then we lose, 1-0.”
The Matadors had 12 hits.