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BETWEEN THE LINES | COLLEGES

March 20, 1997

Outpolled: Despite going 4-2 last week in the Johnny Quik tournament, Cal State Northridge dropped out of the Collegiate Baseball national rankings for the first time since the preseason.

Apparently, victories over unranked Division I teams Penn, Rhode Island, Gonzaga and Chicago State weren't enough to offset losing to Portland and Fresno State.

As an independent, Northridge (21-10-1) must concern itself with defeating teams that have a chance to earn NCAA regional berths in order to gain one itself.

Last week, the only ranked opponent was No. 30 Fresno State, which routed Northridge, 9-0.

"We know which games are the most important in the eyes of the NCAA, but we go after every game on our schedule," Northridge Coach Mike Batesole said.

Next week's tournament at Hawaii gives the Matadors a chance to redeem themselves. They are guaranteed seven games, including at least one against No. 14 Wichita State (14-3).

In games against ranked opponents, Northridge has split two games against both No. 10 Clemson and No. 19 Cal State Fullerton, tied No. 9 UCLA and lost on a ninth-inning home run to No. 12 USC.

Arm trouble: Pitching was considered the strength of the Northridge team before the season, but several experienced hurlers have struggled.

Erasmo Ramirez, an All-American left-hander who was 14-1 last season, is 5-2, but has an earned-run average of 5.37.

Reliever Gary Stephenson, a senior from Hart High who was 4-3 with a 4.27 ERA last year, is 2-2 with a 6.89 ERA.

Nathan Rice, a senior left-hander, is 3-2 with a 4.94 ERA after going 6-2 with a 3.08 ERA last season.

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