Winning the Western Athletic Conference softball title was never a top priority for Cal State Northridge. The Matadors' No. 1 goal is to play host to one of eight NCAA Division I regional tournaments.
With a little help from Utah on Friday, the Matadors took a giant step toward attaining both by sweeping Fresno State, 1-0 and 2-0, in front of 615.
Northridge (44-7, 19-3 in WAC play) moved into first place by beating Fresno State (43-14, 19-5) for the third time in four games. Utah (44-10, 20-4) split with New Mexico and dropped into second place by percentage points.
Games called off because of inclement weather will not be made up, so the conference title could be determined by winning percentage. Northridge plays host to Cal State Sacramento, Colorado State is at Utah and Fresno State visits San Diego State today in season-ending doubleheaders.
The third-ranked Matadors know what home-field advantage means. For Fresno State Coach Margie Wright, playing at Northridge means enduring heckling from the Matamaniacs, a boisterous group of Northridge athletes.
"These are real tough conditions to play under," said Wright, who midway through the second game complained to Barry Smith, Northridge sports information director, that she was "being called every name in the book" by fans near the left-field foul line.
Apparently the fans had the Bulldogs--who were shut out for only the third and fourth times this season--shook up as well.
"You'd hope that players at this level would be able to focus with anything," Wright said. "I think you have to be ready to play under any condition. We just lost focus on what we came to do."
Meanwhile the Matadors were enjoying the support. After Scia Maumausolo's home run over a 15-foot high scoreboard in left-center field in the second game, Matamaniacs sitting on cars beyond the fence rose and bowed in unison to Maumausolo.
Northridge Coach Gary Torgeson started sophomore right-hander Jennifer Richardson in the opener over ace Amy Windmiller, who beat the Bulldogs in Fresno six weeks ago. But while he was hoping to surprise Fresno State with Richardson, the Bulldogs appeared undaunted, loading the bases with none out in the first.
Richardson (9-0) responded by retiring the side on two strikeouts and a force out at home.
The Matadors made four errors behind Richardson--who pitched a three-hitter--but came up with key defensive plays.
Maumausolo's two-out single drove in Jen Fleming in the sixth with the only run.
In the second game, Northridge maintained its momentum in the first inning on a run-scoring single by Tamara Ivie. Maumausolo added her fourth home run in the sixth.
Kathy Blake (14-5) pitched a four-hitter and got into a jam only once on singles by sisters Robyn and Christa Yorke to start the fourth. Blake escaped on two groundouts and a strikeout.