THE COLLEGES : Breaks Continue to Fall Northridge's Way in Baseball Playoffs

The Cal State Northridge baseball team continues to pick up help in its quest for a third NCAA Division II championship.

First, the Matadors received the home-field advantage when they were chosen to play host to the West regional.

Next, there was a three-way coin toss to determine which of the three regional teams would draw a bye to the championship game should they all split their first two games.

And CSUN won the coin toss.

Therefore, Riverside and UC Davis each needed three victories to win the regional title whereas Northridge needed only two.

Additionally, when CSUN met Riverside in Sunday's championship game, the Highlanders were forced to go with a pitcher, Bill Jordan, who had started a game Friday. Northridge went with Scott Sharts, who was rested.

Sharts responded with a 2-0 shutout and CSUN advanced to the Division II World Series beginning Saturday in Montgomery, Ala.

Which brings us to the Matadors' latest break.

CSUN, as the tournament's second-seeded team, will not play until Sunday. That gives the Matadors an important extra day to adjust to their new surroundings, Coach Bill Kernen said.

"In the situation we're going into," Kernen said, "there are a lot of distractions. It's a big deal for the town and they want to entertain you."

Meanwhile, top-seeded Jacksonville will play in the World Series opener Saturday.

"Better to be lucky than good, I guess," Kernen said.

The Matadors would seem to be both.

Sharts short: Scott Sharts has had a big season at the plate for Northridge but not nearly as big as the player whose single-season home run record he has surpassed.

In 1980, Rondal Rollin hit 24 home runs and set school records for batting average (.418), hits (105), runs (80), total bases (193) and slugging percentage (.769).

Sharts has 26 home runs and is batting .299 with 67 hits, 47 runs, 154 total bases and a slugging percentage of .688.

Going national: Valley-area high schools were well-represented in last weekend's NCAA Division II softball championships in Midland, Mich.--four of the 11 players named to the all-tournament team graduated from local schools.

In addition to Northridge pitcher Debbie Dickmann (Newbury Park) and outfielder Lisa Erickson (Crescenta Valley), Cal State Bakersfield first baseman Dara Ferris (Newbury Park) and pitcher Cathy Lewis (Saugus) were named to the team.

Statwatch: Northridge's 6-2 loss to Cal State Bakersfield in the softball title game Sunday signaled the end of collegiate competition for six Lady Matador players, including Dickmann, a four-time All-American, and Erickson, a two-time All-American.

During her career at Northridge, Dickmann (28-8 in 1990) had a record of 104-21 and a 0.49 earned-run average. She struck out 644 batters, walked 130 and gave up 481 hits in 925 2/3 innings.

Center fielder Erickson, who batted .382 this season, had a career average of .410 and scored 170 runs and stole 115 bases.

Add softball: Gary Torgeson's distaste for defeat has been well-documented, but what hurt the Cal State Northridge softball coach most about Sunday's loss to Bakersfield was the manner in which the Lady Matadors lost.

After defeating Bakersfield, 3-2, in their first game Sunday, and losing, 1-0, in the second, the Lady Matadors were beaten in the title game, 6-2, after committing four errors and giving up five unearned runs.

"I'm totally shocked with the way we played," Torgeson said. "I knew the team was disappointed after losing, 1-0, but we just didn't execute in the last game."

Fielding, or lack of it, was the Lady Matadors' biggest enemy.

After committing no errors in a three-game sweep in the Midwest regional in Sioux Falls, S.D., the previous weekend, Northridge entered the Final Four with a fielding percentage of .980.

Yet, Northridge had six errors in four games, not to mention several other mental mistakes, during the tournament.

Opportunity knocks: Kevin Price, a former College of the Canyons basketball player, stopped at his old school to pick up a transcript and play some pickup basketball two weeks ago, but he was bound for Hawaii when he left.

Steve Tucker, the Hawaii Loa head coach, was in town to sign Canyons swingman Larry Allbritton to a letter of intent but wound up adding a point guard as well.

Canyons Coach Lee Smelser said he and Tucker were watching Allbritton play pickup in the Canyons gym when Price joined the game.

"I said, 'You ought to see this kid play a little bit,' so he watched and was real excited in him as a point guard," Smelser said.

Before you could say "King Kamehameha," Tucker had signed Allbritton and Price to full scholarships. Price, a two-year Canyons starter, had not even played competitive basketball last season while he completed his Associate of Arts degree. He planned to walk on at Cal State Fullerton in the fall.

Big Mac attack: Having nibbled away at his personal best in the 800 in recent weeks, Cal State Northridge freshman Erick McBride took a big bite out of it at the Santa Monica Distance Carnival at Santa Monica City College on Saturday.

McBride, who won the Southern Section 4-A Division title for Palmdale High last year, clocked a school-record 1 minute 49.09 seconds to lower his previous best by 2.27 seconds.

"I was really surprised," said McBride, who had run 1:51.36 at the Modesto Invitational on May 5. "It felt really easy. It felt comfortable."

Northridge assistant Bob Augello said McBride finally put it all together after struggling with different tactics early in the season.

"That was the first race this year where he did what I told him to do," Augello said. "In the past, he always tried to lead, or be right with the leaders. I kept telling him that he had to let others do the early work for him if he wanted to run fast."

Coincidentally, the man whose record McBride broke, Vaughan Kastor of the Long Beach Track Club, finished second in 1:49.64.

Kastor, a former standout at Chaminade High, ran 1:49.21 for Northridge in 1988.

One race to run: Junior Daren Bernard is the first Cal Lutheran track and field athlete to qualify for the NAIA nationals in three individual events, but he plans to compete in only one.

Bernard, who is coming off an early-season hamstring injury and is nursing a sore back, qualified in the 100, 200 and 400 meters but said he will concentrate on the 400 at nationals, which begin today and continue through Saturday at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Tex.

"I've got a good chance of placing real high in the 400," said Bernard, who placed fifth in the 400 as a freshman and has run a 46.74 this season.

Leaps and bounds: Marji Gilles became the first Glendale woman to win a state title in 10 years. Gilles, a sophomore, won the triple jump with a leap of 37 feet 3 1/4 inches only hours after completing the two-day heptathlon in a fifth-place tie with 4,033 points.

"I was so tired after the heptathlon that the win in the triple was totally unexpected," said Gilles, who placed fifth in the heptathlon and eighth in the javelin and triple jump in the state meet last year.

"The triple jump is her favorite event," Glendale Coach Jon Gold said, "but last year, after the heptathlon, she was so tired that she didn't even feel like jumping at all. I told her to just go out and have fun."

Kirby Lee and staff writers Mike Hiserman, John Ortega and Brendan Healey contributed to this notebook.

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