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Hawaii Breakdown Break for Crabtree

March 24, 1995|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Leave it to the freckled finger of Fick to find an answer for Cal State Northridge's inability to score runs.

It didn't take Robert Fick, the Northridge catcher, more than a split second to come up with an explanation Thursday.

"It's the Crabtree jinx," Fick said. "The guy keeps pitching his butt off and he deserved a break."

Fick's bases-loaded grounder to first base in the bottom of the 11th inning was mishandled for an error to hand Northridge and hard-luck right-hander Robert Crabtree a 3-2 victory over Hawaii in a Western Athletic Conference game at Matador Field.

Crabtree (3-4) had lost four consecutive starts, during which his miserly mates had given him all of 10 runs. Not much changed this time, either.

Northridge (14-11, 1-3 in the WAC) stranded 15 baserunners for the second consecutive game, and it took the benevolence of Hawaii (18-12, 3-7) to end it.

With the bases loaded, one out and the infield drawn in at the corners, Fick whistled a shot directly at first baseman Robert Medeiros, who knocked the ball down.

Fick was scurrying toward first when Medeiros fumbled the ball then threw wildly to home, allowing pinch-runner Jeremy Conrad to score the winning run.

"I was thinking about running on the infield grass so he might hit me with the ball," said Fick, who struck out with the bases loaded for the last out in the ninth. "He almost hit me with it anyway, his throw was so (bad)."

Hawaii must be wondering what it takes to beat the Matadors. The Rainbows were 3-0 in extra-inning games, but it was a curse of another sort that bit them. In two-plus seasons, Hawaii is 0-7 at Matador Field.

"I don't think they like this place much," Northridge Coach Bill Kernen said.

For a while, Crabtree didn't like his teammates much, either. He allowed seven hits, struck out eight, walked two and threw 152 pitches.

Until Hawaii gave away the third run, Crabtree was biting his lip. Only once in seven starts has Northridge scored more than four runs behind him.

"Sure, it's frustrating," said Crabtree, who has four of the team's five complete games. "But I can't hit to save my soul and I wouldn't want them telling me how to pitch."

Northridge's sputtering offense, which managed eight hits, scored only with the long ball. Freshman outfielder Adam Kennedy hit a solo home run in the first--his third in as many games--and outfielder Grant Hohman hit a solo shot in the sixth, his fifth.

Second baseman Steve Moreno, who had personally stranded six runners, started the 11th with a double to left-center.

An intentional walk and a grounder to the right side by Kennedy put runners at second and third. Jason Shanahan was walked intentionally to load the bases for Fick.

In the ninth, Fick battled right-hander Mark Johnson, the third Hawaii pitcher. Fick twice jumped out of the batter's box and called timeout, but Johnson eventually struck him out on a wicked 3-and-2 slider.

"That takes some guts with the bases loaded," Kernen said. "I can't fault Fick for that; it was the pitch of the game."

Fick got just enough of an offering by Johnson (6-3) in the 11th to get the job done. Crude but effective. Crabtree will take it.

"I'll sleep well tonight," Crabtree said. "I knew I was due for something to go my way."

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