Shaw Clears the Way for Northridge : Baseball: Matador cleanup hitter drives in five runs in 7-5 victory over Santa Barbara.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

That's why they call it hitting cleanup.

Clear away those runners cluttering up the bases ahead of you.

Andy Shaw, Cal State Northridge's No. 4 hitter, cleared a runner off first base with a two-run home run in the first inning and drove in three more runs with a double in the second, propelling the Matadors to a 7-5 nonconference victory Friday over UC Santa Barbara at Matador Field.

"We expect that from him," Northridge Coach Bill Kernen said of Shaw. "That's why he (bats) there."

Shaw's five RBIs were plenty to spark Northridge (7-5), which had been struggling to score during a five-game losing streak.

Shaw's home run, his third of the season and second in as many games, gave the Matadors a 3-1 lead. It was Northridge's first inning with more than two runs since a four-run sixth on Feb. 5 against Loyola Marymount, seven games ago.

In the second, Shaw drilled a 3-and-2 pitch with the bases loaded to deep left-center field, where Gaucho center fielder Wynter Phoenix got to the ball but could not hold it. It was scored a double.

After two innings, Northridge had a 6-1 lead and its most runs in a game since the Feb. 5 Loyola game, the Matadors' last victory before Friday.

It all came as a gift to starting pitcher John Najar.

"When you have a cushion like that, you can just go out and not worry about anything," Najar said. "You can just go get guys out."

The lead also allowed Kernen to leave Najar in for five innings, long enough for him to earn the victory, even though the senior right-hander pulled a groin on a pitch in the third inning.

Najar (2-1) came out after a leadoff walk in the sixth. He gave up only two hits in five innings, but he allowed four runs because one of the hits was a two-run home run and three of the four batters he walked scored. He threw 92 pitches.

Najar, who has been working himself back to form since suffering a broken arm last year, said his arm felt fine until he pulled his groin.

"You can't pitch without your legs," he said. "I found that out today."

Left-hander Benito Flores followed Najar and gave up one run in 2 1/3 innings. Right-hander Juan Velazquez pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, picking up his first save. Velazquez struck out two and retired the Gauchos (5-3) in order in the ninth.

Another encouraging sight for Kernen was some life coming out of slumping No. 3 hitter Jason Shanahan, who was two for four with a double and an RBI. Shanahan won the Western Athletic Conference triple crown last season, but Friday's game lifted his average to a shaky .205.

"It's one day," Shanahan said. "It's nothing to go crazy about. It's really how I should be (hitting)."

Northridge second baseman Grant Hohman also contributed to the 12-hit attack with three hits.

"I think we could have scored more," Kernen said. "I'd like to see us really break loose. . . . We still haven't broken out of what I would consider a pretty consistent slump."

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