Can somebody spare a rather large eraser? The Cal State Northridge baseball team wants to wipe away an entire week.
The Matadors finished it the way they began it, chalking up another Western Athletic Conference loss, this one to conference-leading Cal State Sacramento, 7-4, Saturday at Northridge.
The Matadors fell to San Diego State, 9-6, last Sunday and were blitzed by Cal State Long Beach, 20-2, in a nonconference game two days later.
But the loss that stung the most was the midweek resignation of assistant Stan Sanchez, Coach Bill Kernen's friend of 30 years. Words such as "betrayal," "disappointment," and "anger" have peppered Kernen's version of the split.
"It definitely threw us off stride," Kernen said of losing Sanchez, "but we can't use it as an excuse. I don't know. It came at a bad time. It's another distraction."
Being off stride is no way to face off-speed pitches, which are precisely what left-hander Mike Eby threw at the Matadors. Eby (3-2), a junior from Pierce College and Westlake High, struck out 11 in eight innings before departing with a 7-3 lead. "They seem to pull everything, so I went to my curve and changeup whenever I got in a jam," Eby said.
A full-count changeup low and outside to Joey Arnold with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth inning enabled Eby to escape his tightest jam. Arnold lunged at the pitch and missed, keeping Northridge from shortening Sacramento's 6-1 lead.
"We swung at pitches outside the strike zone and threw pitches up in the strike zone," Kernen said.
Keven Kempton (4-2) was the culprit of the poorly thrown pitches. The junior right-hander notched his sixth complete game in as many starts, but he gave up 12 hits, including three doubles and home runs by Robert Randall and Josh Kirtlan.
The loss was the Matadors' third in four games against Sacramento (19-8, 6-1 in conference play). Northridge (17-6, 3-4) is quickly slipping out of contention for the WAC Western Division championship.
"We have to focus on ingredients, not standings," Kernen said.
Sacramento had the right mix in the fourth inning when it scored three runs. After opening the scoring on Randall's solo home run in the third, the Hornets took a 4-0 lead the next inning on singles by Will Fitzpatrick and Ray Brown, a throwing error by first baseman Jason Shanahan and a bases-clearing double down the right-field line by Tony Turnbull.
Sacramento scored single runs in each of the next three innings.
A solo home run by Mike Sims in the fourth and a two-run home run by Chris Olsen in the eighth accounted for Northridge's only offense against Eby. A single by Andy Hodgins--his fourth hit--against reliever Mike Kane in the ninth accounted for the final Matador run.
The lost week had Kernen asking questions, mostly about the absence of Sanchez.
"Are we practicing right? Are we training right? Are we in the correct frame of mind?" he said, staring across the empty field. "Maybe my approach is different because of it. The players do build off my attitude, mood and approach.
"Maybe I've been different. It certainly has affected me."