Maine Competition First for Northridge : College softball: Matadors are favored at home, but they haven't been very good in openers.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As odd as it sounds, Cal State Northridge's toughest opponent in this weekend's four-team NCAA Division I softball regional could be its first--unranked Maine, a team making its first postseason appearance.

Northridge (46-7), ranked third in the country, tends to be lackadaisical in openers. The team has trouble with firsts, losing its first game of the season, the first game of four doubleheaders and the first game of a midseason tournament.

"We've got to overcome a couple of things," Northridge Coach Gary Torgeson said. "We still gotta be able to put the bunt down occasionally and learn how to play first games."

Northridge, which is playing host to one of eight regional tournaments, will face Maine (32-15) today at 3 p.m., following the regional opener between No. 10 Washington (43-19) and No. 20 Cal State Fullerton (32-27) at 12:30.

The double-elimination tournament continues Saturday, with the winners of today's games facing off at 10 a.m. and the losers at 1 p.m. By Sunday, two teams will remain. The championship game is at 1 p.m. and the winner will advance to the College World Series at Oklahoma City, May 26-30.

The Matadors, making their third postseason appearance since moving up to the Division I level four years ago, played Washington and Fullerton earlier this season.

Northridge beat Washington, 1-0, on Feb. 19 in the San Diego State tournament. The game was decided on the basis of the international tiebreaker rule in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Washington, which finished third in the Pacific 10 Conference, is in its second season of competition and is making its first postseason appearance.

Fullerton beat Northridge in the Matadors' opener, 1-0, but dropped the next two games, 4-0 and 1-0.

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