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CSUN Counts On Smaler in 18-6 Laugher


GOLETA — Say this about Cal State Northridge catcher Josh Smaler. He can definitely count.

Informed that he had doubled his seasonal run-batted-in total during Saturday's nonconference rout of UC Santa Barbara, Smaler was hardly shocked. Nor impressed.

"Yeah, I know," said Smaler, who hit his first homer. "I'm well aware of that."

News that he'd finally raised his batting average above the infamous Mendoza Line--to .228--was no earthshaker either.

"Know that, too," he said. "First time above .200 since the first weekend."

Smaler and his Northridge mates continued their Get-Well Weekend by routing Santa Barbara, 18-6, at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Smaler, a junior transfer from Pierce College, drove in a career-high four runs, which made him the celebrity of the split-second. First baseman Jason Shanahan and designated hitter Eric Gillespie each had four RBIs and outfielder Joey Arnold added three.

Northridge (8-9) set season highs in runs and hits (17) as every starter but Kevin Howard had at least one hit--and Howard walked three times.

In three victories in as many games at brand-new Uyesaka Stadium, the Matadors have scored 38 runs against the struggling Gauchos (4-15).

"We play with confidence here," said Smaler in a masterpiece of understatement. "It's always nice to feel like you can come out and score some runs."

Some? The Matadors scored a season-high nine in the third inning alone, battering both starter Pat Treend (0-4) and reliever Scott Randall.

After Treend failed to record an out while loading the bases in the third, Randall, a freshman, was summoned. Then hammered.

In one-third of an inning, he hit two batters and gave up six runs on five hits. A three-run triple by Shanahan on an 0-and-2 pitch was the critical blow.

Northridge sent a season-high 14 batters to the plate to take an 11-3 lead, more than enough for starter John Najar (3-2), who allowed three runs in the first and eighth innings but was never in serious trouble. The same could not be said for the Gaucho staff.

Leading the Northridge offense was Gillespie, who has eight RBIs in three games this week. Gillespie, a freshman, is nine for 15 with six RBIs and has scored five times in three games against Santa Barbara.

Shortstop Chad Thornhill, second baseman Keyaan Cook, Smaler and Gillespie each had three hits. The outburst raised the team batting average 10 points to .273.

"It comes a lot easier," Smaler said, "when everybody is hitting."

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