Call it parity. Or call it parody. Either word could be used to describe the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. baseball race.
With just a month left in the conference season, four teams are bunched within 1 1/2 games of first place. But only Cal Poly Pomona, at 9-6, is more than a game above .500 in conference play. And even the Broncos are a dismal 6-15 outside the CCAA.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is one of the teams chasing Pomona and, on Sunday, Ron Crowe moved the Mustangs a step closer to the conference lead. Well, actually Crowe only moved a few inches, but that was enough to push the Mustangs back into second place in the CCAA with a wild 7-5 victory over Cal State Northridge at Matador Field.
Crowe, a senior transfer from Nebraska, came into the three-game weekend series at Northridge batting just .255 after hitting .339 and .329 in two seasons with the Cornhuskers. So Crowe adjusted his stance Sunday, moving up a few inches in the batter's box against the breaking pitches of CSUN starter Vale Lopez (4-4).
The change paid off as Crowe drove in five runs and scored two, accounting for six of Cal Poly's seven runs.
"It was one of those days every ballplayer hopes to have," Crowe said.
The deciding blow came in the ninth inning when Crowe's two-run triple off the top of the wall in left-center field erased a 5-4 CSUN lead. Crowe scored on a pair of throwing errors, but his run was insurance the Mustangs would never need.
Crowe helped Cal Poly (18-18, 8-7 in conference play) build an early lead, belting a full-count slider from Lopez over the left-center-field wall in the fifth to score three runs and give the Mustangs a 4-0 advantage. Crowe's triple and seventh-inning single also came on sliders.
"All day I was looking slider," he crowed. "That's why I moved up on the plate today."
But Crowe's dream game almost became a nightmare when he misplayed a grounder into a run, giving CSUN a 5-4 lead in the seventh.
Cal Poly starter Greg Paxton (5-2) had given up just two hits and a run through six innings, but a single, double and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Mike Solar, the next batter, promptly tied the game by looping a 2-0 pitch just inside the right-field line for a triple.
With the infield in to protect the tie, Ted Weisfuss hit a grounder toward Crowe at shortstop, who let the ball go under his glove to score Solar and give Northridge (18-11-1, 8-7-1) the lead.
Lopez, who never retired the side in order, surrendered 14 hits in going the distance. Paxton gave up eight hits in his complete game.