Northridge Is Road Resilient

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Cal State Northridge opens a three-game home series against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo today after playing 21 of its last 24 games on the road.

The Matadors won 15 of those road games, and their three-game sweep at UC Riverside put them in a tie for second with Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Conference.

Northridge (24-11) and Fullerton (21-11) both are 5-1 in conference, one game behind Long Beach State (21-9, 6-0).


“We’ve played pretty well on the road,” said Northridge Coach Mike Batesole, whose team has won five in a row. “That’s usually the sign of a veteran club that knows how to stay together as a team.”

Northridge has gotten a big boost from sophomore third baseman Ryan Haag at the top of its batting order. Haag not only has provided the discipline Batesole wanted, but he has 12 hits in his last 19 at-bats. Haag hit a school-record four doubles Sunday in a 17-5 rout of Riverside.

Left-hander Bill Murphy is the ace of Northridge’s pitching staff. Murphy, a junior, is 7-1 with a 2.43 earned-run average. He has 90 strikeouts, which leads the Big West and is 26 more than UC Irvine’s Sean Tracey and Riverside’s Chris Smith.

Murphy has gone at least seven innings in his last five starts, including two complete games. Last Friday at Riverside, the Arlington High graduate returned home to strike out 10 in nine innings and defeat the Highlanders, 4-2.

“All of a sudden this year his stuff is better and it’s more refined,” Batesole said. “He’s got a nasty curveball but now he can throw it for a strike.”


USC (19-14, 5-1) has won seven of eight heading into a key three-game Pacific 10 Conference series at No. 2 Stanford beginning tonight.


Stanford (22-7, 2-1) swept USC in a three-game series at Dedeaux Field last month that didn’t count in the Pac-10 standings. “If we fancy ourselves a legitimate contender for a conference championship, we have to play well,” USC Coach Mike Gillespie said.

Right-hander Anthony Reyes (1-0, 1.38 ERA) will start for USC tonight against Jeremy Guthrie (6-0, 3.08 ERA). Reyes, a preseason All-American, is finally healthy after starting the season with a bad right elbow. In his last start, Saturday against Oregon State, he threw 87 pitches in five shutout innings.

“We’re getting him to a point where we don’t have to hawk every pitch,” Gillespie said. “He now knows that he’s healthy and we know that he’s healthy.”

The Trojans have been forced to overcome several injuries to pitchers. Left-hander Fraser Dizard has a sore elbow and may not return this season. Right-hander Brian Bannister, who might be ready in two weeks, hasn’t pitched at all after undergoing surgery on his throwing elbow.

Forced into the spotlight, freshmen Matt Chico (4-3, 5.24 ERA) and J.P. Howell (3-3, 4.46 ERA) have been inconsistent. “You’d prefer not to push a freshman into such a prominent role early but, for the most part, they’ve done well,” Gillespie said.


Pitching has powered Long Beach State (21-9, 6-0) into the Big West lead. The 49ers rank fourth in the nation with a staff ERA of 2.87.


Sophomore left-hander Abe Alvarez (7-1, 2.22 ERA), along with Northridge’s Murphy and Fullerton’s Wes Littleton, is making a case for Big West pitcher of the year honors. Just as dominant has been the Long Beach relief corps.

Senior Chris Demaria has not allowed an earned run in 211/3 innings. Junior Carlos Muniz has given up only one run in 11 outings. Freshman Neil Jamison has a 2.92 ERA in 10 appearances. Senior Josh Alliston has the staff’s highest ERA (4.50), but has two wins and four saves.

The 49ers, who have won 14 of 17, play host to UC Santa Barbara (15-19, 2-4) in a three-game conference series beginning today.

Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount start a three-game West Coast Conference series today. All three games are at LMU’s Page Stadium. Pepperdine (18-18, 7-3), which has won seven of nine, leads the Coast Division by 11/2 games over Santa Clara.

LMU (14-20, 7-4) leads San Diego by percentage points in the West Division.


Murphy and Alvarez lead the Big West with seven victories. Alvarez is second in ERA and Murphy is third.... Riverside (19-16, 0-6) begins a three-game series at Sacramento State with both teams trying to escape the cellar. The Highlanders are coming off an 8-0 loss to San Diego State on Tuesday.... UCLA (14-20, 1-2) plays host to No. 23 Arizona State for three games this weekend. Bruin senior Adam Berry leads the Pac-10 in home runs with 14 and is fourth in RBIs with 37.... Fullerton starts a three-game series tonight at Pacific.... Mike Weathers won his 300th game as a head coach in Long Beach’s 5-3 win over Loyola on Tuesday. He’s in his first year with the 49ers after nine as an assistant to former Long Beach coach Dave Snow, but he spent two years at Utah and nine at Chapman College.