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NCAA Puts End to Northridge's Season

Baseball: Matadors fail to receive bid to regionals. UCLA, USC, Long Beach and Fullerton are in.


Anticipation turned to resignation as the Cal State Northridge baseball team watched one NCAA regional pairing after another flash on a restaurant television screen Monday.

Northridge (42-20-1), an independent needing an at-large entry into the 48-team Division I tournament, was snubbed. The Matadors have more victories than any team not selected.

The Southland, however, is well represented with UCLA, USC and Long Beach State receiving at-large invitations and Cal State Fullerton earning an automatic berth for winning the Big West Conference Tournament.

UCLA (40-18), which was awarded the No. 1 spot in the Midwest Regional in Stillwater, Okla., will face sixth-seeded Harvard on Thursday.

Ninth-ranked USC (39-18) got a No. 2 seed in the South II Regional at Tuscaloosa, Ala., and will play Virginia Tech in the first round Thursday.

Long Beach (37-24) earned the No. 4 seeding in the South I Regional at Baton Rouge, La., and a game Thursday with third-seeded Oklahoma.

Fullerton (38-22-1) was given a No. 2 seeding in the West Regional at Stanford and will face fifth-seeded Santa Clara on Thursday.

All the Matadors could talk about were the games that got away.

"We lost a lot of games against teams we should have beat," pitcher Benny Flores said. "That's what really hurt us."

Coach Mike Batesole, who has a record of 94-38-1 in two seasons, pointed out that his team lost 11 one-run decisions.

"You get what you deserve," he said. "We have to be accountable for what we did. A lot of guys overachieved and we won a lot more games than anybody expected us to. We did a lot, but we didn't do enough."

Northridge batted .340 and hit 113 home runs. Shortstop Adam Kennedy and right fielder Jose Miranda combined to hit 51 home runs and drive in 189 runs. Flores and Erasmo Ramirez each had 11 victories.

But eight of Northridge's victories came against non-Division I opponents. The Matadors also lost three of four games against ranked opponents the last two weeks of the season.

"I think back to games we gave away to San Diego State and Northwestern," Ramirez said. "It didn't come down to our last few games. We had chances before that."

All the Southland teams selected had a Ratings Percentage Index--a mysterious computerized formula derived from winning percentage (25%), schedule strength (50%) and opponents' schedule strength (25%)--high enough to appease the selection committee, which uses the formula to pick the field for its regional tournaments.

But Northridge's RPI, which is not released by the NCAA, was apparently low.

"Hey, I don't know how the NCAA picks this thing," said UCLA baseball Coach Gary Adams. "I don't know what [the selection committee] looks for.

"I thought Northridge was a pretty darn good team," Adams said.

Adams remembers the last time the Bruins, ranked No. 4 by Baseball America, played an Ivy League team in the postseason. "It was against Yale in 1992. Ryan McGwire hit a grand slam," he said of the 8-0 Bruin victory.

Harvard earned its first tournament berth since 1984 by winning the Ivy League title and then a best-of-three, play-in series over Patriot League champion Army. UCLA has its best lineup since 1986 when current Dodgers Todd Zeile and Eric Karros played, and the Crimson might be soft enough for Adams to gamble and rest his top three starters--Jim Parque, Tom Jacquez and Pete Zamora.

USC will face Virginia Tech, who went 0-6 against teams selected for the regionals, and snuck in by upsetting Massachusetts for the Atlantic 10's bid. Randy Flores gives USC a veteran pitcher, starting in his fourth regional. Last season, USC, carrying a top seeding, was defeated in the regional championships by third-seeded Oklahoma State. The Trojans ran out of pitchers but are unlikely to do the same this year.

Long Beach lost six of their last 10, including four of last five at home during regular season and then lost in the finals of the Big West tournament to Fullerton.

Fullerton coach George Horton was surprised with the Titans' No. 2 seeding, even though they have won 15 of the last 18 games and are ranked No. 20.

"Being a No. 2 is a generous seeding from our standpoint," Horton said. "I think both Long Beach and us could have been No. 3s."

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