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Najar Picks Up Pieces for Contreras, CSUN : College baseball: He finishes Matadors' 20-12 win over Chapman after struggling starter is pulled after an inning.

April 18, 1993|THERESA MUNOZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORANGE — In his first two starts, Cal State Northridge right-hander Marco Contreras threw shutouts. But those halcyon days are long gone, as evidenced Saturday when Contreras struggled for the third time in as many starts and was lifted after the first inning at Hart Park.

Fortunately for the Matadors, a 21-hit attack and the solid relief work of Johnny Najar helped produce their fourth consecutive win, 20-12, over Chapman, a Division I independent.

In the shortest start of the season by a Northridge pitcher, Contreras was pulled after giving up four runs and four hits and two walks. Moreover, his status in the three-man rotation used for Western Athletic Conference games is in jeopardy, according to Northridge Coach Bill Kernen, who will make a decision Tuesday.

"What can I say?" Contreras asked. "I'm digging my own grave. It's real disappointing to . . . do this to myself."

Contreras last won March 20, and it is obvious he has lost confidence.

"I wasn't gonna let him go out there and lay an egg," Kernen said. "Not when I can give someone else a chance (to pitch)."

That would be Najar, a former San Fernando High standout who transferred to Northridge last fall after pitching less than four innings in two seasons at Fresno State.

Najar's effort against Chapman (18-23) could have earned him a WAC start next weekend against his former team.

"It was in my head," Najar said, "but I kept telling myself to stop thinking about it."

Since leaving Fresno, Najar said he has thought of little else than breaking into the Matadors' starting rotation.

"I was a gamble here," he said. "You leave a program, you're a gamble. No one knows if you had a bad attitude or if you weren't a good enough player."

Najar (4-1) proved good enough, striking out seven and holding the Panthers to three earned runs in eight innings. He ran into trouble twice: in the fifth, when Northridge (25-11) committed four errors, and in the seventh, when he allowed two runs on four consecutive two-out hits.

His teammates backed him with a five-run third inning that gave them a 9-5 lead that grew to 11-5, 19-5 and the 20-12 final.

Matador Notes

Left fielder David Prosenko did not play because of a swollen knuckle on his left pinky. He is expected to have it X-rayed Monday. . . . Right fielder Greg Shepard had five runs batted in and three hits, including his seventh and eighth home runs--a three-run blast in the second on a breaking ball down the middle and a solo shot in the ninth just inside the right-field foul pole. . . . Second baseman Chris Olsen homered, doubled, singled twice and drove in three runs. . . . Third baseman Andy Small hit his second home run in as many games and has driven in nine runs in the past two games, including five Saturday. Before hitting his team-leading 11th homer, Small was hit by a pitch, but the umpire ruled it a dead ball because Small did not move. The next pitch was in Small's wheelhouse and out of the park so quickly that the left fielder never moved. The three-run shot increased the Matadors' lead to 19-5. . . . First baseman Jason Shanahan had three singles. . . . Mike Sims, Andy Hodgins and Jonathan Campbell each had two hits. . . . Johnny Najar's pickoff move resulted in a 1-4-3 out in the second. . . . Members of the National Guard were posted at the park in the event of disturbances relating to the verdicts in the federal trial of four Los Angeles policemen.

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