A day removed from a performance that one player deemed “airtight and perfect,” the Cal State Northridge baseball team embarked on a more adventurous path Saturday.
To be sure, there were a few leaks and blemishes. Err-tight it wasn’t. The result, however, was comparable.
Behind the six-hit pitching of Ken Kendrena, the Matadors again held Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to one run in a 5-1 nonconference victory at Northridge.
Friday, Northridge played flawless defense and had 10 hits in a 4-1 win over the Mustangs. Saturday, it wasn’t so much the lack of execution that made the game strange as much as it was the manner in which the routine was turned into anything but.
“When it really counted,” Northridge Coach Bill Kernen said, “we did OK.”
For instance, of the six runs in the game, only three players were credited with runs batted in--and one was hit in the back with the bases loaded.
Furthermore, Northridge (25-10-1) had a player called out at third on an appeal after the base umpire had ruled him safe. About the only predictable event was a home run by Northridge’s Scott Sharts--his 18th homer of the season--in the first inning.
With Northridge holding a 1-0 lead with none out in the fifth, Andy Hodgins reached base when shortstop Gerald Rucker booted a routine grounder. Thereafter, routine was lost in a cloud of basepath dust.
One out later, Mike Sims bounced a ball over third for a double. Hodgins rounded third and scored for a 2-0 lead when left fielder Phil James mishandled the ball for an error. Craig Clayton then sent a chopper to short and Rucker fired to third baseman Matt Drake, who made a backhanded sweep tag on a sliding Sims.
Base umpire Dick Flaherty, standing behind second base, first ruled Sims safe. After San Luis Obispo Coach Steve McFarland stormed onto the field, however, Flaherty asked plate umpire Paul Cohen for help, and the latter called Sims out. Clayton was then thrown out at second by approximately 10 feet on a delayed steal attempt.
In the sixth, Kendrena (6-1) walked Juan Rojo and Doug O’Neill followed with a looping single to left.
Cleanup hitter Mike Oakland twice tried to execute a sacrifice bunt and failed. Kendrena then fired an 0-2 split-fingered fastball over the plate and Oakland rifled a shot into right-center, initiating a strange chain reaction. Thinking that the ball might be caught in the gap, Rojo slowed at third and was shot down at the plate on a relay to Sims from second baseman Scott Richardson.
With runners at first and second, Drake sent a dribbler to Richardson, who kicked the ball for an error. On the play, O’Neill scored all the way from second to bring San Luis Obispo (13-13) to within a run at 2-1, yet Richardson recovered and tossed out Oakland, who tried to advance to third.
“I made a bad pitch (to Oakland),” said Kendrena. “I never should have thrown him anything he could hit. It should have been down in the dirt.”
Thereafter, Kendrena got down and dirty. Over the last three innings, he allowed three hits but faced just 10 batters.
Leading, 2-1, the Matadors put the game on ice in the seventh. Eric Johnson drilled a run-scoring single up the middle and Sims reached base on second baseman Matt Vasquez’s fielding error to load the bases and chase right-hander Jon Ifland (2-2).
Reliever David Lafferty retired Clayton on a force out at the plate but nailed Richardson in the back, allowing Johnson to score. With Sharts at the plate, Lafferty threw a ball to the screen and Sims scored easily from third for a 5-1 Northridge lead.