RIVERSIDE — The last time Benny Flores pitched for Cal State Northridge, he eliminated Stanford from the West Regional in a tense game before a hostile crowd of 2,500. It was the Matadors' final victory of 1996.
Flores didn't lose any momentum during the off-season, pitching six shutout innings in a 10-4 victory over Cal Baptist in Friday's opener. The game was played at Cal Baptist because Matador Field was too wet.
"A main reason we opened with Benny is that you know what you'll get," Northridge Coach Mike Batesole said. "We have so many question marks in our lineup that having him on the mound stabilized the whole day."
Flores, a junior left-hander who was 7-2 last season, allowed five hits, struck out six and walked two.
The performance was nothing unexpected against an NAIA opponent that was 22-24 last season, but it served as a nice tuneup for Flores' next start, Tuesday against powerful Cal State Fullerton.
"I'm looking forward to that one," Flores said. "The plan was for me to go five innings, but I felt good, so I went one more."
Northridge didn't score until the fifth when junior shortstop Adam Kennedy led off with a home run to left field, the 26th of his Matador career. Ryan Hurd followed with a double down the left-field line, chasing starter Trevor Whitemore.
His replacement, knuckle-ball specialist J.P. Hamilton, lasted only three batters. Jose Miranda doubled to score Hurd, and a walk to Casey Cheshier was followed by a run-scoring single by freshman Terrmel Sledge to give Northridge a 3-0 lead.
A five-run seventh inning highlighted by Andy Wilson's grand slam extended the lead to 8-0. Right-hander Gary Stephenson and left-hander Bryant Fick each pitched a shutout inning before Cal Baptist scored four in the ninth against left-hander Brian Downing. Jason Cole retired the last batter.
Wilson, a senior transfer from Arkansas who also played at Oxnard College and Thousand Oaks High, stands only 5 feet 6 and batted in the No. 9 position. But he drove a fastball from Nick Vargas on a line over the left-center field fence to score Sledge, Brian Wagner and Clark Parker.
"Adam [Kennedy] gave me some advice before that at-bat," said Wilson, who grounded out three times before the homer. "He said I was letting pitches come in on me, and told me to attack the first fastball I saw."
Wilson, who also singled home a run in the ninth, played four innings at second base and five in center field.
"Andy can do a lot of things," Batesole said. "He's a good addition."
Northridge had 13 hits, including a double and single by freshman third baseman Jason Gause. Miranda also had two hits.
The change in venue enabled Adam Kennedy and outfielder Ryan Hurd to play in their hometown for the first time in their Northridge careers. Both played at J.W. North High in Riverside, winning the Southern Section Division II championship in 1994 under Coach Tom Kennedy, Adam's father. . . . The game was played under NAIA rules, which allow players in the starting lineup to reenter once after being pulled for a substitute. Fifteen Northridge position players batted or played defense. . . . Shane Spicer and Scott Payne each had three hits for Cal Baptist.