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Northridge Lets Ball, Game Slip Away : College baseball: Two Matador miscues in the 10th inning open the door for Cal State Long Beach in 5-4 loss.


Were it not for an injury, Todd Pridy would not have been in the lineup for the Cal State Long Beach baseball team in Tuesday's nonconference game against Cal State Northridge.

And even then, were it not for an error, he would not have come to bat with two out and the score tied in the bottom of the 10th inning.

As it was, Pridy was the right man at the right time for Long Beach as he delivered a run-scoring single to lead the 49ers over 14th-ranked Northridge, 5-4, at Long Beach.

Pridy's heroics and the pitching of left-hander Dennis Gray played key roles for Long Beach, ranked third in the nation by Baseball America magazine. But the Matadors contributed heavily to their own demise with a pair of miscues.

Northridge led, 4-3, in the 10th and was two outs away from victory when its hold on the game began to slip. First, Cobi Cradle singled up the middle and when Greg Shockey mishandled the ball in center field Cradle took second.

Jason Giambi, the next batter, followed with a ground ball that caught second baseman Scott Richardson between hops. The ball went up Richardson's glove for an error, but he ran the ball down and still might have had a play at first if Cradle had not diverted his attention with a wide turn around third base.

Alan Burke then tied the score, 4-4, by scoring Cradle with a sacrifice fly. After Giambi stole second--the 49ers' fifth stolen base of the day--Pridy drove a two-ball, two-strike pitch from Craig Clayton up the middle for the game-winner.

For Clayton, who pitched all 10 innings, the loss was particularly galling. He scattered 10 hits--all singles--walked only one, struck out six and had three hits himself, including a home run.

"The way I look at it is, I won that game, 4-3," Clayton said as he sat on a chair near an empty Northridge dugout after the game.

Clayton, a junior right-hander, had won his previous eight decisions but was pitching with only three days' rest.

"I'm just baffled," he said. "When you work that hard for something then lose on an error . . . . Errors are part of the game, but at that time you have to make that play."

Northridge, which will play at UC Santa Barbara today, dropped to 33-14-1. Long Beach, which is tied with Fresno State for the Big West Conference lead, improved to 35-13 and got a big lift from Gray, who throws hard but wild.

Gray, a 6-foot-6 junior, started the game with 33 walks in 24 1/3 innings. But against Northridge, he stayed close to the plate and walked only five while allowing seven hits.

"He's thrown better games," Long Beach Coach Dave Snow said. "But not this year."

Clayton's home run, his ninth, gave Northridge a 1-0 lead in the third. Long Beach came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning when Cradle drove in Rudy Rodriguez with two out.

The score stayed tied, 1-1, until the eighth when Greg Shockey singled with one out, stole second and scored on a two-out single up the middle by Mike Sims.

In the home half of the eighth, consecutive singles by Cradle, Giambi and Burke along with a sacrifice fly by Pridy pushed over two runs for Long Beach. Then it was Northridge's turn to rally.

Mike Solar led off the ninth inning with a double to the gap in left-center. He took third on a passed ball and scored on a base hit to right by Clayton, tying the score, 3-3.

In the 10th, Northridge went in front without getting a hit. Leading of the inning, Shockey was hit by Gray. Consecutive bunts by Andy Hodgins and Sims moved Shockey to third, and he scored from there on a passed ball by 49er catcher Willy Speakman.

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