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COLLEGE SOFTBALL PREVIEW

After Sudden Stop, Northridge Prepares to Go the Distance

February 03, 1996|JEFF FLETCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Nothing like high expectations.

"I expect to be in the World Series," said Cal State Northridge pitcher Jen Richardson, summing up her forecast for the Matador softball team.

Northridge, which takes a No. 8 ranking into today's season-opening doubleheader at UC Santa Barbara, is still stinging from last year's home-field loss to Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA regional playoffs.

The Titans went to the World Series. The Matadors stayed home.

"We've done a good job working to put it behind us," said catcher Scia Maumausolo, "but we're still playing with the same fire to not let it happen again."

After making the eight-team field for the World Series in 1993 and 1994--and losing in the championship game in 1994--hopes were understandably high in 1995.

The Matadors were 43-17, but didn't reach their goal.

"Everybody is disappointed that we lost out in the regionals," said Janet Sherman, Northridge's second-year coach. "We have a lot of players on this team who have been to the World Series and they're making sure everyone knows how much it means.

"This is our goal. This is what we are going to achieve."

If the Matadors are to advance to the World Series, which will be held in Columbus, Ga., as a prelude to the first Olympics with softball as a medal sport, they will need to rely on Richardson.

A senior, Richardson has pitched in the shadow of All-Americans Amy Windmiller and Kathy Blake-Small the past three years, but she will get the ball as the ace this season.

"I don't think of myself as No. 1," she said. "I feel like all three of our pitchers are good."

Richardson, who was 12-4 with a 1.43 earned-run average, relies mostly on her off-speed pitches.

Sherman is hoping hitters will be off balance if they have to fish for Richardson's drops and changeups and then face one of her hard throwers: freshman Tara Glaister and sophomore Christina Baioa.

"With Jen there is experience," Maumausolo said. "She's smart. Tara is a power pitcher. She really has potential. And Christina is somewhere in the middle. She has the combination of movement and speed."

Speed is an asset the Matadors should possess on the baselines as well.

Center fielder Jamie Herrington will get the first shot at the leadoff spot, which was troublesome for Northridge last season. Freshman second baseman Katrina Nolletti will bat second or possibly leadoff.

The heart of the order will again be Maumausolo and first baseman Chelo Lopez.

Maumausolo, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year last season, led the team with a .482 average, 15 home runs and 47 runs batted in.

Lopez hit .281 with 31 RBIs.

Jennifer Parker, who was second to Maumausolo with a .300 average, will split time behind the plate with Maumausolo. Whoever is not catching will be the designated player or in the outfield.

Joining Nolletti and Lopez in the infield will be shortstop Julie Sessler and either Kelly Toovey or Tamara Silvera at third base. Sessler and Toovey were the starters at those positions last season.

Herrington and Jessica Cunningham, who will play right, return to the Northridge outfield.

Shelby Wilcox, who missed last season because she and Traci Gallian were seriously injured in an off-season car accident, will play left field.

Northridge is playing its final season in the WAC.

"Conference is going to be tougher than ever this year," Sherman said. "But our goal is the World Series and conference is in the way of that. It's just a step on the path."

Fresno State, ranked third in the nation, is the favorite to repeat. Sherman said Cal State Sacramento and Utah also have strong teams.

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