Rand McNally may not think much of Yuba City, but Gerry Bernard loves the place. So does his coach, Terry Craven.
It was that little Northern California hamlet--ranked dead last among 329 American cities in terms of "quality of life" in Rand McNally's "Places Rated Almanac"--that sent Bernard to Cal State Northridge to become the Matadors' regular catcher.
He made a lot of points for the much-maligned town Friday by driving in five of CSUN's runs with a home run, double and single in a 10-6 victory over California Collegiate Athletic Assn. rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. CSUN's win at home snapped the Mustangs' five-game winning streak.
"I don't believe that," Bernard said with regard to the book publisher's put-down. "That's a nice town to play ball in."
Bernard, who also had a five-RBI game for Yuba Junior College last season, was team captain for two seasons there and led the team in 1984 with 33 RBIs and a .363 batting average. He was one of two catchers recruited a year ago by Bob Hiegert, who gave up his duties after 18 years as CSUN coach to become the school's director of men's athletics.
The Matadors were thin at the position when Craven was promoted from assistant coach. With the graduation of three catchers and the untimely death of redshirt senior Kent Testerman, killed in an auto accident, the Matadors had to find someone to catch. Bernard was their man.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior from Merced is the Matadors' latest import from Yuba JC baseball Coach Gary Engleken, who Craven said has had a 10-year connection with CSUN and keeps in constant contact.
The last player the Matadors got from Yuba College before Bernard was Jim Walker, an All-American pitcher in 1983. Craven hopes Bernard's contribution will be just as significant. Which is why he has made him his first-string catcher.
"Coach Craven said the job was mine," Bernard explained. "He said to concentrate on hitting the ball and don't worry about catching. I knew the starting job was mine if I just hit the ball."
During the first part of the season he was slumping at the plate. It affected his catching. He was guilty of several passed balls, which aren't coming as frequently now.
"I got off to a bad start," he admitted. "I was pressing. I wasn't seeing the ball good and I wasn't concentrating. I just told myself to settle down, that I can hit these pitchers."
Bernard, who has homered in his last two games, is starting to find his groove again. He now has 13 hits and 13 RBIs in 11 games this season and raised his batting average to .295 with his three hits Friday. He homered leading off the second inning to cut Cal Poly's 2-0 lead in half. Then he doubled in the Matadors' first two runs in a four-run fourth to bring CSUN within 5-4 and completed his barrage with a two-run single in the eighth that gave Northridge its last two runs and a four-run cushion.
The Matadors (2-0, 17-5-1) snapped a 6-6 tie in the eighth off losing pitcher Rob Cramer, who relieved starter Steve Snyder with two out in the fifth. Bryant Long, who had three hits in the game, hit Cramer's first pitch of the inning for a double and Tom McKay singled off the left-hander's next pitch, putting runners on first and third. Rob Lambert then booted Mark Ban's grounder to second for an error as Long scored the run that made it 7-6. The RBI was Ban's 30th of the season.
McKay scored the next run on a single to right by Paul Kaplan, which resulted in a freak injury to Dick Jaquez, the on-deck hitter. Jaquez ran to the plate after the hit to get Kaplan's bat out of the way of the oncoming McKay but umpire Dan Perugini beat him to it and tossed it aside, accidently hitting Jaquez below the right eye with it. Jaquez was dazed for several minutes before he left the field under his own power.
The game started inauspiciously for CSUN's Tom Harmon (3-1), who pitched his first complete game in five starts this season and allowed 11 hits and 2 earned runs while striking out 3. The senior transfer from UCLA put himself in a two-run hole in the first inning with a pair of throwing errors to first base. The first one put runners at first and second with no one out and the second came with two out and preceded an RBI single by Dominic Costantino.
After the Matadors tied the score in the second on Bernard's fifth homer of the season and an unearned run on a dropped fly ball by Cal Poly center fielder Mark Gambardella, the Mustangs, 11-11 and playing their first conference game of the season, regained the lead with three runs in the fifth. The Matadors answered with four in the bottom of the fifth.