Northridge Searching for Right Gear With Series of Road Tests

There are ifs, big ifs and huge ifs.

This might qualify as one of the latter.

Cal State Northridge will open Western Athletic Conference baseball play today with the first of a three-game series at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In fact, Northridge will play its first six WAC games on the road, which might seem a daunting proposition.

Maybe not. If. . . .


“I’m glad,” Northridge Coach Bill Kernen said. “I don’t like being on the road at the end of the year. If you’re on the road playing teams that are in contention, it gets difficult.

“I wish we could play the whole first half on the road.”

Of course, this is predicated on the assumption that Northridge (13-8) will play well on the road and remain in the running. Last year, the Matadors were swept in a season-opening series at San Luis Obispo. This week, the Mustangs, who joined the WAC this year in baseball and softball, swept a three-game set from 13th-ranked Hawaii.



Opening night: The auditions are closed.

Kernen’s season-long evaluation of his pitching staff came to an almost-predictable end this week when he decided on his three-man pitching rotation for conference play.

The winners: Junior Rob Crabtree (2-3, 3.77 earned-run average) and seniors Keven Kempton (1-1, 5.54) and John Najar (3-1, 2.79). Najar and Kempton were starters last year before suffering season-ending arm injuries.

Junior Zeke Barrios (3-0, 3.80) and freshman Carlos Velazco (1-1, 4.76) will pitch in long and short relief, respectively. All five are right-handers.

“Those five guys will get all the innings in league play if I can get away with it,” Kernen said.

Several Matador players were stricken with flu while playing a three-game series last weekend at Texas A&M.; Eric Gillespie caught the bug, then caught the game.

“It was terrible,” Gillespie said. “Everybody was feeling it. I was throwing up during the national anthem.”



Coming home: In past seasons, the Pierce College men’s volleyball team adopted the theme “Back to Back.” Coach Ken Stanley has guided the Brahmas to three state titles in 10 years. However, the team has a new motto this season, “Back in Action.”

Pierce has not played a volleyball match in its gym since last year’s earthquake destroyed the facility. The Brahmas (5-1) have used Valley College as a practice site and Taft High for matches. But that soon could change.

Repairs to the gym are expected to be completed in early April.


Mighty crowded: Someone must need glasses.

On the game report from the Cal Lutheran baseball team’s 17-3 victory at Chapman on Wednesday, the attendance was listed as 45,986.


Field of screams: Hart and Rio Mesa, expected to be two of the area’s top prep baseball teams, have each stumbled to 1-2 starts. On the positive side, all four losses are by one run.


In what still looks like one of the best early season matchups, Hart will play at Rio Mesa on Tuesday. The Spartans beat Hart, 1-0, in nine innings in the Southern Section Division II quarterfinals last season.


Thousand Oaks High softball Coach Gary Walin, whose team will play Newbury Park in its Marmonte League opener March 21, “I’m a big Newbury Park basketball fan now.”

Walin is rooting for Newbury Park’s basketball team because it includes several players key to the softball team’s success. The state basketball final is only a few days before Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park are scheduled to meet on the softball field.

Newbury Park played Bishop Montgomery on Thursday in the Southern California Division III regional semifinal.


Freshman Trenton Cross is averaging 11.2 points in Cal State Northridge’s last nine basketball games. He has equaled his season high of 16 points in each of the last two games.

Westlake High junior Steve Aylsworth, who has 802 points, will begin his senior year next fall needing just 68 to break the school scoring record.

Shannon Crouse, who quit the Cal State Northridge women’s basketball team last week, ranked among American West Conference leaders in several categories. Crouse was fourth in scoring average (13.6), third in rebounding (6.5), second in steals (2.0) and fourth in free-throw percentage (65.9%).

Catchers on the Northridge baseball team have thrown out nine of 27 (33%) would-be base thieves, which might not seem that commendable. Last year, however, Matador catchers nailed only 28 runners in 126 attempts (22%).

Things to Do

The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team will play Ball State in the first round of the ASICS Long Beach State tournament at 5 p.m. today.

The four-team tournament, which also includes Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Long Beach State, is scheduled at the Pyramid but might be moved to the campus gym because of a leaky roof at the Pyramid.

* Compiled by Rob Fernas. Contributing: Steve Elling, Jeff Fletcher, Mike Hiserman, Bryan Rodgers.