Time after time, John Bushart worked himself out of trouble Tuesday night. And in the bottom of the ninth with Cal State Northridge clinging to a one-run lead, he came through again.
With two on, two out and a full count, Bushart induced a fly ball to center field to preserve the 13th-ranked Matadors’ 4-3 upset of seventh-ranked UCLA in front of 1,104 at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Neither team scored more than one run in an inning in the nonconference matchup between the highest-ranked teams on the West Coast.
Bushart (4-0), a junior left-hander from Thousand Oaks, allowed 13 hits, struck out five and walked two. On the pitch that created the last out, he delivered a curveball at catcher Mike Sims’ request.
“I trust him,” Bushart said. “Whatever he calls, I throw. I wanted it to be the best curveball I could throw, but I knew if I walked him I had a base open.”
Center fielder Joey Arnold, who squeezed the final out, also drove in the game-winning run.
Arnold’s sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Jonathan Campbell, who singled with one out, took second on Greg Shepard’s hit, and advanced to third on a wild pitch by Bruin right-hander Jon Van Zandt (2-2).
A couple of mental lapses put the Bruins (13-5) back into the game in the bottom of the eighth. A ground ball by leadoff hitter Gar Vallone went through the legs of shortstop Andy Hodgins. Vallone took second on Arnold’s errant throw back to the infield.
Fortunately for Northridge (15-2), UCLA did not cash in. Sims fielded a bunt by David Ravitz and caught Vallone in a rundown. Bushart struck out David Roberts, and Adam Melhuse flied out to Arnold.
It was Melhuse who tied the score, 3-3, with a solo home run in the seventh. Mike Mitchell, a former Rio Mesa High standout, and Matt Schwenke followed with one-out singles, but a groundout and a fly out ended the Bruins’ threat.
Calling it the best game his team has played, CSUN Coach Bill Kernen likened it to a playoff atmosphere.
“We had to do everything we possibly could to win by one run,” he said.
One of those things was a baserunning gamble that paid off in the second when David Prosenko raced safely from first to third on Chris Olsen’s single to center. Jason Shanahan’s single to right scored Prosenko for a 1-0 lead.
Andy Small made it 2-0 in the third with a solo home run, his team-leading sixth of the season.
In the fifth, Bushart worked out of another jam to hold the Bruins to one run. Ravitz led off with a single and took second on a fielder’s choice. Melhuse scored him with a single to center, and ex-El Camino Real High star Ryan McGuire followed with a single to left.
With Melhuse and McGuire on, Bushart struck out Mitchell, a .469 hitter, and got a groundout to keep his 2-1 lead.
Ravitz tied the score with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, but Northridge took a 3-2 lead in the seventh on two UCLA errors.