SAN DIEGO — Any time Cal State Northridge is ailing, the healing is done by ER, as in Erasmo Ramirez.
The sophomore left-hander won his sixth in a row and kept the Matadors alone in first place in the Western Athletic Conference by defeating San Diego State, 8-2, Friday night before 578 at Smith Field.
Two losses by Northridge last weekend against Fresno State tightened the WAC race.
But thanks to Ramirez's mending, the Matadors (41-12, 17-9 in WAC play) extended their lead over the Aztecs (30-19, 15-11) to two games.
Fresno State, which defeated Cal State Sacramento on Friday, also trails the Matadors by two games.
Ramirez, winless last season but 11-1 this year, has developed into one of the nation's best pitchers.
His only defeat came at the hands of San Diego State on March 15, a loss that is now avenged.
"That was on my mind," he said. "I wanted to come out and beat them, especially because this game was so important."
As his pitching has gotten stronger, so has his personality.
Ramirez usually was found quietly raking the mound after games early in the season, but now his eyes brighten when he discusses his performances.
"I have a lot more confidence in myself," he said. "This season has been great for me and for the team."
No wonder he feels so good. Four pitchers lead the nation with 11 victories, and two of those are from Northridge.
Right-hander Robert Crabtree, who will pitch Sunday, is 11-5.
Ramirez allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three, throwing 69 strikes in 100 pitches.
He retired the Aztecs on 19 pitches over the final three innings.
And he received plenty of support.
Kurt Airoso had the big blow, blasting a three-run home run in the fourth to give Northridge a 6-0 lead off Aztec starter Jody Stevens (4-2).
Airoso, usually the Northridge center fielder, served as designated hitter because an injury to his middle finger hindered his throwing.
"He wasn't in the lineup originally but he showed me during batting practice he could swing it," Coach Mike Batesole said.
Right fielder Jose Miranda opened the Matadors' scoring with a two-run double in the second, walked and scored in the fourth, singled in the seventh and made a sliding catch with a runner on third to end the sixth.
The Aztecs got to Ramirez only in the fourth, when a double by Jacob Freeman and triple by Andy Bevins was followed by a sacrifice fly by David Trentine.