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Nelson Took a Ribbing After Howard's Slam

March 17, 1994

Outfielder Kevin Howard had just launched a grand slam to give Cal State Northridge the lead in the eighth inning of a 9-6 victory over Hawaii on Sunday. Tyler Nelson, the Matadors' third baseman, was the next batter.

Hawaii right-hander Mark Johnson, flustered and frustrated after surrendering Howard's blast, buried a fastball into Nelson's ribs and was ejected.

Both benches cleared, but no contact was made. Nelson didn't join the festivities around home plate. He walked toward first base and didn't make a sound.

"I had a feeling that (Johnson) might come inside," Nelson said. I thought about doing something, but I don't know.

"I was just happy that we'd taken the lead and that I got a free base."

There was more to be, uh, happy about. Johnson's heater left Nelson with a black-and-blue mark the size of a softball.

"Girls love this stuff," Nelson said.


No Further Action

Johnson, a freshman, will not be subject to further penalty by the Western Athletic Conference, Associate Commissioner Jeff Hurd said.

Hurd said that generally only players involved in fights are subject to a one-game suspension. Though both benches emptied after Nelson was hit, no contact was made between players.

Then there is the WAC's somewhat vague "special circumstances" clause.

In a game between WAC East Division rivals Brigham Young and Utah a few years back, Hurd said, a pitcher blew a lead by giving up a home run and was ragged mercilessly by the opposition. The next batter stepped in. The pitcher went into the windup, wheeled . . . and fired the ball into the opposing dugout. He was suspended for a game.

"That would qualify as a special circumstance," Hurd cracked.


When Howard launched the clutch slam to beat Hawaii, nobody in the Northridge dugout was particularly surprised.

It was Howard's third homer entering play this week and all three have either broken a tie or erased a deficit. What's more, each proved to be the game-winning hit.

To wit:

* Feb. 13 at UCLA: With the score tied, 7-7, in the 11th inning, Howard's three-run homer gave Northridge a 10-7 victory.

* March 6 at UC Santa Barbara: With Northridge trailing by a run, Howard's two-run homer in the eighth gave the Matadors a 5-4 victory.

"That's one of the reasons we recruited him," Coach Bill Kernen said.

Howard's most significant blow came two years ago in the state junior college championship game, when he was a freshman at Fresno City College.

With the score tied and two out in the bottom of the ninth, he singled home a run that beat Sacramento City, 3-2.


It is unquestionably the highest compliment Kernen can give a hitter.

He believes in placing his best hitter in the leadoff position to maximize his number of at-bats.

Former Matador All-American Craig Clayton, one of the best players in Kernen's six years at Northridge, was a leadoff hitter.

Eric Gillespie, swinging the hottest bat on the team, was elevated to the leadoff position March 5. Gillespie's impression of life at the top of the order?

"Can I say no comment?" Gillespie said, laughing. "I don't mean to sound greedy, but hitting leadoff, you need a different type of mentality. I like driving in runs."

Gillespie, a freshman, has multiple hits in eight of the past 10 games.


Kingsmen Go All Out

Kingsmen Coach Mike Dunlap was not surprised that Greensboro lost a day after beating his Cal Lutheran team in the South-West sectional of the NCAA Division III basketball playoffs.

Dunlap figured that the Pride was bound to be fatigued after defeating Cal Lutheran, 104-99, in a semifinal Friday. On Saturday, Greensboro lost to St. Thomas (Minn.), 84-74.

"That was as hard as I've seen (our) guys play," Dunlap said. "I mean, they were absolutely spent at the end of that game. . . . I figured Greensboro had to be tired. I knew they left their legs on the floor against us."

Shooting statistics seem to back Dunlap's claim. Greensboro shot 45% from the field against St. Thomas after making 61.9% of its shots--including 25 of 30 in the second half--against Cal Lutheran.


Just Ask Dad

Not that he needed much help, but George Tarkanian, in his first year as basketball coach at Chaffey College, didn't have to go far for advice when his team played San Jose City in a quarterfinal game of the state championships eventually won by Long Beach City last week at UC Irvine.

At the opposite end of the bench sat Jerry Tarkanian, the former Nevada Las Vegas coach and George's father. Jerry coached the South team against the North in an all-star game Saturday before the championship encounter.

"I really enjoyed having him there," Tarkanian said. "The San Jose City game (in the first round) was the first game he ever sat on the bench."

Tarkanian, a former Antelope Valley assistant who still teaches political science twice a week at the Lancaster school, guided the Panthers to the Foothill Conference title. Chaffey finished 32-6.

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