One day after popping up with two out in the bottom of the ninth and the game on the line, Adam Kennedy found himself in nearly an identical situation.
No popup this time, simply pop.
Kennedy hit a three-run home run to cap a six-run ninth that enabled Cal State Northridge to salvage a 9-9 tie against UCLA on Wednesday in a nonconference game called because of darkness.
“You aren’t going to bat 1,000 in that situation, but if I’m going to put my money on any kid in the nation, it’s Adam Kennedy,” Coach Mike Batesole said.
Until the late rally, Northridge’s performance against the No. 2-ranked Bruins (7-0-1) was lackluster. The Matadors (5-1-1) trailed, 7-0, in the seventh inning, and a comeback seemed unlikely.
“We didn’t know if this year’s team could come back like that,” Kennedy said. “It feels great to know we can.”
A ninth-inning rally Tuesday against UC Santa Barbara fell short, resulting in a 12-9 loss. But when Jose Miranda led off the ninth with his fifth home run, against Bruin reliever Al Thielemann, and Casey Cheshier and Terrmel Sledge followed with singles, many of the fans who had started for their cars stopped to watch another batter.
. . . And another, and another.
Ryan O’Toole replaced Thielemann and retired a batter before walking Brian Wagner to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Clark Parker singled in a run to make the score 9-5, but Andy Wilson hit a comebacker that nearly resulted in a game-ending double play. O’Toole made a poor throw to second that almost drew shortstop Troy Glaus off the bag, and Wilson beat Glaus’ off-balance throw to first.
Jake Meyer, who earned a save in a 6-5 victory over Pepperdine on Tuesday, came on to face Kennedy, but the All-American shortstop drilled a full-count fastball to the opposite field for his sixth home run.
“I stayed within myself more today,” said Kennedy, who was two for six and is batting .469 with 15 runs and 13 runs batted in. “I just take it at-bat by at-bat.”
Matador at-bats with runners on base were weak for the first six innings. Gabe Crecion, a freshman from Chaminade High making his Bruin debut, walked three and allowed one hit through three innings, and Tony Righetti allowed three hits and three walks from the fourth through sixth, but Northridge stranded 10 runners.
“We didn’t attack them the way we set out to,” Batesole said. “We had so many things we could have done better.”
Such as field the ball. An error by Kennedy--one of three by Northridge--set up a two-run home run by Eric Valent that highlighted a four-run Bruin third inning against Benny Flores.
Reliever Gary Stephenson allowed a two-run home run to Nick Theodorou in the seventh, and Northridge finally answered with three in the bottom of the inning on a two-run triple by Sledge and a wild pitch.
However, Pete Zamora and Jon Heinrichs each hit solo homers in the eighth, giving UCLA a 9-3 lead.
Northridge left-hander Nathan Rice pulled a muscle in his rib cage and was removed in the ninth after walking the only batter he faced. Right-hander Jason Cole came on and retired the Bruins to set the stage for the tying rally.
Miranda went three for five to keep his average at .600. The senior has scored 11 runs and driven in 12. “I feel good at the plate,” he said. “At Northridge, hitting is contagious.”. . . . Matador freshman third baseman Jason Gause singled in his only at-bat to improve his team-leading average to .667. Gause is four for six. . . . Northridge is batting .363 with 22 home runs, but has made 17 errors. . . . Crecion attends UCLA on a football scholarship and caught two passes last fall as a tight end. “We have a tradition of athletes playing two sports,” UCLA baseball Coach Gary Adams said. “You can’t ignore a good athlete.”. . . . Aldo Pinto, a freshman from Kennedy High, played third base for UCLA and went one for five. Pinto’s brother, Omar, is a Bruin team manager. . . . Bruin catcher Mike Jaramillo, who was one for three and scored a run, is a redshirt junior from St. Francis High.