It was a good thing Cal State Northridge baseball Coach Bill Kernen asked Earl Johnson to sign his letter of intent before Sunday's game. If he had waited, Johnson might have changed his mind.
That's because any similarity between baseball and what took place at Matador Field on Sunday was purely coincidental. In a tedious three-hour, 40-minute game that featured eight errors, five wild pitches, a passed ball and 18 walks, the University of San Diego posted a 12-9 nonconference victory over Northridge.
Johnson, a switch-hitting outfielder at Fairfax High, actually finished his paper work midway through the first inning, then joined his family in the stands to watch the first half of the game. Kernen wished he could have watched from the batter's box.
"He's as good a high school hitter as I've ever recruited," Kernen said. "In fact, he's a good a high school hitter as I've ever seen."
Kernen saw little he could brag about on the field, though, especially in the San Diego sixth. The Matadors made three errors on back-to-back pitches, threw a wild pitch to the next hitter and watched the Toreros help themselves to four runs--three unearned--and a 10-7 lead they never lost.
Kernen can take some solace in the fact that the debacle came at the expense of a make-shift Northridge lineup. Nor is the loss likely to make an impact on the NCAA Division II tournament selection committee.
"I wanted to take a look at some pitchers who haven't thrown much this year and I played some players at secondary positions," Kernen said. "We used this as kind of a tuneup so this game had a purpose."
And even if they couldn't catch or throw the ball, the Matadors could still hit it. Craig Clayton and Greg Shockey, the first two hitters in the Northridge batting order, combined for a double, triple and home run, scored four runs and drove in four to lead an eight-hit attack. Shockey also made a sliding catch in center field and, with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, came within five feet of a game-winning grand slam to the opposite field.
For San Diego (23-31-1), five players had two hits, led by freshman Paul Thornton, who homered, scored twice and drove in a pair of runs. The victory was the 600th for San Diego Coach John Cunningham.
"Before we got all excited about the 600 wins, I also have almost 600 losses," joked Cunningham, who ends his 27th season at USD with a 600-596-14 record. "It's a measure of longevity more than anything else."
San Diego reached CSUN starter Pierre Amado (0-1) for an unearned run in the first, scored two in the second on Thornton's homer and three more in the third on two walks, a single, Rick Doane's two-run single up the middle and an error.
Northridge (28-18-1) clawed back for two runs in the third on Shockey's run-scoring triple and a single by Chae-Ho Chong, then took its only lead of the afternoon with a five-run fifth.
Shockey led off with a double and, after two outs, USD starter James Ferguson lost his control, hitting Denny Vigo and walking Mike Solar and Ted Weisfuss to force in a run before giving way to Adam Schwindt.
Schwindt walked J. D. Haendiges to force in another run, then Randy Thompson cleared the bases with a double to left field. Schwindt left without retiring a batter, yielding to senior Jim Westlund (1-1), who worked 3 1/3 innings to get the win.
Louis Skertich retired Shockey in the ninth for his second save.