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Pressure Suits CSUN's Gillespie : College baseball: Matador freshman delivers another clutch hit in a 5-4 victory over Cal Baptist.

March 03, 1994|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — It is a do-or-die mentality. Whatever works.

When Eric Gillespie, Cal State Northridge's designated hitter, steps into the batter's box, he adopts a last-ditch train of thought. Talk about putting pressure on yourself.

Naaaaah. Kid stuff.

"It was fun," Gillespie said. "I went up for every at-bat like it was my last one."

If every at-bat was like his last on Wednesday, his mates would be carrying him everywhere.

Gillespie's tie-breaking hit with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 10th inning gave Northridge a 5-4 victory over Cal Baptist in a nonconference game at Matador Field.

Gillespie initially was given a double and two runs batted in on the hit, which bounced over the wall in center, for a 6-4 victory. Upon review of the NCAA rule book, however, the scoring was revised and Gillespie was given a given what amounted to a ground-rule single.

No matter. The only freshman on the Northridge roster still had three hits and four RBIs to give him 19 RBIs in 15 games.

"He doesn't seem to put too much pressure on himself," Northridge Coach Bill Kernen said. "He knows he belongs here as a hitter."

On Feb. 16 at UC Santa Barbara, Gillespie hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth. The homer erased the last vestiges of a nine-run deficit as Northridge rallied for a wild 13-12 victory.

Against lowly Cal Baptist, Gillespie again provided the spark. Cal Baptist, an NAIA team which entered the game with a record of 1-7-1, held a 4-1 lead through six innings before Northridge (6-9) fell out of bed.

"Everybody was asleep," reliever Aaron D'Aoust said. "I wanted to do something to wake them up."

D'Aoust, who relieved starter Jason Vargas with runners at first and second and none out in the sixth, did exactly that. But not the way he intended--at least initially.

Before D'Aoust (2-0) threw a pitch, he balked the baserunners up a notch, but that would be his only gaffe. After Ruben Hernandez lifted a sacrifice fly to left to make it 4-1, D'Aoust threw five innings of one-hit relief while waiting for the offense to kick in . . . which hardly seemed inevitable.

The Matadors were down to their last strike, in fact.

With one out in the ninth and Northridge trailing, 4-2, Joey Arnold doubled to center and took third when center fielder Rob Martin bobbled the carom off the wall. Gillespie drove in Arnold with a groundout, emptying the bases.

Reliever Scott Myers jumped in front of Keyaan Cook, 0 and 2, but Cook singled to center. When Kevin Howard doubled to left, it was up to Cook's legs and third-base coach Mike Batesole's arm.

Batesole saw that the throw to the cutoff man was off-line and waved a lumbering Cook around third. Cook beat a poor relay throw with a headfirst dive to tie the score, 4-4.

"(Batesole) rolled the dice and it paid off," Kernen said.

More Batesole razzle-dazzle in the 10th helped the Matadors win the game. After Chad Thornhill doubled off left-hander George Velasquez (0-2) to open the inning, Jonathan Campbell fouled off a sacrifice-bunt attempt. With the count 1 and 2, Batesole caught the defense off-guard when he ordered Campbell to dump a bunt down the third-base line. Base hit.

After an intentional walk to Tyler Nelson loaded the bases, Velasquez registered outs on a forceout at home and a strikeout. That set the stage for Gillespie.

Gillespie ripped Velasquez's first pitch over the fence in center on a bounce. Now, if Gillespie could hit as successfully with the bases empty as he does with the game on the line, he'd really be a menace.

"I think about that," he said, smiling. "I don't know what that's about."

There's plenty of time to learn.

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