More than three months have passed since Cal State Northridge pitcher Ken Kendrena last lost a baseball game. Since losing to USC, 6-3, on Feb. 8, he has won 11 decisions in a row.
"I know what winning feels like now and it can't be beat," Kendrena said after shutting down seventh-ranked Pepperdine, 5-2, Tuesday. "I can taste it."
Last season at Cypress College, Kendrena split time as a starter and relief pitcher, finishing with a 4-1 record, two saves and a 3.01 earned-run average. He is 12-1 with a 2.34 ERA this season.
"I saw a big year for me, I really did," Kendrena said. "I believe in a self-fulfilled philosophy. I think you get what you work for and deserve."
King of swing: Craig Clayton's line-drive single to left field in the third inning against Pepperdine on Tuesday gave him the Northridge school record with 267 career hits. As a pitcher, the junior right-hander previously had set school single-season records with 13 complete games and 141 strikeouts. He also is the Matadors' career strikeout leader with 244.
The candidate: Already among the 10 finalists for Collegiate Baseball magazine's national player-of-the-year award, Clayton is one of seven players being considered for Baseball America magazine's player-of-the-year honors.
Baseball America's other finalists are: Loyola Marymount first baseman Joe Ciccarella, USC outfielder Mark Smith, Stanford first baseman Dave McCarty, Georgia Tech third baseman Andy Bruce, Arizona State outfielder Mike Kelly and Fresno State pitcher Bobby Jones.
Home-grown talent: When Cal State Northridge baseball Coach Bill Kernen was an assistant at Cal State Fullerton, Titan Coach Augie Garrido claimed one of his goals was to win a national championship with a team composed solely of Orange County products.
Now, a decade later, Kernen has considered the prospect of trying to build a championship-caliber team at CSUN with only Valley-area players.
"I'd love to do that," Kernen said. "We have a lot of name recognition in the Valley. But we don't get every (recruit) from the Valley we go after because we're competing against so many other schools--like every one in the world."
Ten of the 20 players on this year's CSUN roster list home towns in the Valley region.
Fall back, spring forward: Pierce is moving forward in the Southern California regional playoffs despite a tendency to fall behind early in games.
In the second round of the Southern California regional, a four-team double-elimination event hosted by Harbor College, Pierce will have to break with tradition.
"When you get to this level, you're facing pitching staffs that won't allow you to come back like we do," Pierce co-Coach Bob Lofrano said. "We definitely bring up, 'Let's try not to fall behind.' "
A team can win the second round with three victories and no losses, but must play five games--and win four--to advance out of the losers' bracket.
Wild pitch: Part of the reason Pierce has fallen behind so often of late is that its starting pitchers have been hit harder than a stationary pinata .
"Bottom line, they're not doing the job," Lofrano said.
Lofrano has shuffled the rotation and moved Travis Arsenault, Pierce's top starter for much of the season, into the bullpen.
Chris Brown will start against Citrus on Friday, and Denny Sharp will draw the first start Saturday, Lofrano said.
Sales pitch: Citrus pitcher Kevin Kloek, a Northridge signee, likely will start Friday against Pierce. Kloek is 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 30 walks in 109 2/3 regular-season innings. Pierce beat Kloek, 8-5, in its season opener.
Statwatch: The Northridge baseball team has won seven of its past eight games and 12 of its victories are against teams that currently are ranked or were rated at the time they played the Matadors. . . .
Northridge has taken over the top position in the nation in team earned-run average with a 2.91 mark. Pepperdine, the nation's leader at 2.88 entering the week, had its ERA raised to 2.92 when Northridge scored five earned runs against the Waves on Tuesday. . . .
Honor roll: Albert Fann and Darcy Arreola were honored as Northridge's senior athletes of the year Monday.
Fann finished his football career as the school's all-time leading rusher, gaining 4,170 yards and becoming only the seventh player in NCAA history to surpass 7,000 yards in career all-purpose yardage. He had 7,032.
Arreola, who has qualified for the Division I track and field championships later this month, is a nine-time Division II All-American in track and cross-country and a two-time choice at the Division I level.
Sherdrick Bonner and Derik Vett also received special recognition. Bonner was given a special-achievement award for earning letters in four varsity sports. A two-year starter at quarterback for the football team, Bonner also participated in volleyball, basketball and track and field.
Vett won an award for distinguished service based on his four years of participation in track and cross-country, as well as his contributions to the school's Athletic Advisory Board, the Intercollegiate Athletics Oversight Board and the Matador Athletic Council.
Quality times: Arreola posted automatic qualifying times for the NCAA track championships in the 800 and 3,000 meters in the Occidental invitational Saturday.
Arreola, a fifth-year senior who redshirted at Northridge last track season, ran 2 minutes 5.19 seconds to win the 800, then an hour and 10 minutes later placed second in the 3,000 in 9:17.03.
Claire Lavers of Arkansas won the 3,000 in 9:14.15.
"That was the first time she's looked good in a long time," Northridge Coach Don Strametz said of Arreola, whose season best of 4:18.09 in the 1,500 is only 0.09 seconds short of the automatic standard in that event.
Arreola's times also qualified her for The Athletics Congress championships in New York, June 12-15, but she will run only the 1,500 in that meet.
Arreola placed seventh in the 1,500 in the 1989 and '90 TAC championships.
Making a dent: In only her third try at 800 meters, Jacqui Dent of Occidental knocked nearly five seconds off her personal best, running a school-record 2:07.98 to place second behind Arreola in the Occidental meet.
Dent's time was eight seconds faster than the Division III qualifying standard of 2:15.98 and it shattered the school mark of 2:11.64, set by Cresey Stewart in 1987.
Dent, a 5-foot-6 sophomore whose previous best of 2:12.98 came in the Bronco Relays at Cal Poly Pomona in April, had not run track before she was recruited from the basketball team last season.
"She can win nationals in the 800," Occidental Coach Bill Harvey said.
If she competes in the 800. Dent also has qualified for the Division III meet in the 100 (12.43), 200 (24.54) and 400 (54.26) and as a member of the 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.
Harvey, however, plans to have Dent concentrate on the 200 and 400 and on the relays at nationals.
"We are trying to get a TAC qualifying mark in the 400 (53.74) and the 800 (2:05.64)," Harvey said. "She might be able to get the 400 time at nationals but there is no way the 800 will be fast enough. We'll have to try for it after nationals."
Staff writers Mike Hiserman, John Ortega, Brendan Healey, Kevin Baxter and Kirby Lee contributed to this notebook.