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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Matadors Rise After Fallout

Softball: Northridge, dropped from top 25, responds by taking two of three from Long Beach.

April 03, 1998|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — The Cal State Northridge softball team played its version of Mother May I? again Thursday.

A half-step back followed by two giant steps forward. And once again the stop-and-go Matadors are headed in the right direction.

After losing to Long Beach State, 5-4, in the completion of a suspended game from nearly a month ago, the Matadors busted loose for 19 hits in 10 innings and swept the 49ers, 7-3 and 11-1, in a scheduled Big West Conference doubleheader at Northridge.

One day after falling out of the top 25 poll for the first time this season, Northridge proved it has the weaponry to wallop the No. 15 49ers.

Paced by four home runs, which accounted for nine runs, Northridge scored in seven of 10 innings against the 49ers.

As the day wore on, three Long Beach State pitchers wore out. Without the services of ace Traci Hensel (10-4), who broke a rib in a fall two weeks ago, the 49er pitching staff was extremely vulnerable. The Matadors pounded 13 hits in four innings in the second game and dismissed the 49ers on the mercy rule.

"I like the idea of being relentless at the plate," Northridge Coach Janet Sherman said.

The Matadors (21-14, 8-6 in conference play) moved to within a game of first-place Pacific (13-13, 8-4) and one-half game of Long Beach State (24-11-1, 9-6-1).

Now the test. Can Northridge, as inconsistent as it has been all season, string together enough victories in April to make a run at the conference title and a seventh consecutive Division I playoff berth?

According to players and Sherman, every day--like every game--is different.

"When we come to play, we're unstoppable," said Cheri Shinn, who hit a solo homer and pitched a four-hitter in the second game. "[But] when we don't, a bad high school team can beat us."

Sherman hasn't figured out the reason behind the inconsistency. One day the Matadors are sweeping Sacramento State, the next they're losing twice to unranked Pacific, which is how they spent last weekend.

"[The team's play is] not predictable," Sherman said. "I told them look, 'Let's just make sure the little things get done in the playing field.' "

Against Long Beach, Northridge took care of most everything. Big and small.

The Matadors made just one error and had a handful of outstanding plays. No player was more impressive defensively than shortstop Ashlie Hayes, who twice threw out a runner at first after diving to take away a hit, one in the hole and once up the middle.

Ace Tara Glaister (11-7), who allowed eight hits and struck out six, worked herself into jams in four innings, but escaped all but the fourth inning when Jaclyn Fredrickson hit a three-run homer to tie the first game, 3-3.

Chelo Lopez's two-run homer in the first inning started Northridge's home run derby. Laura Redding followed suit in the fourth with a three-run homer to give the Matadors a 6-3 lead.

Redding's shot led to the departure of Kristi Fox (11-4), from Newbury Park High and The Times' 1994 and '96 Ventura County player of the year.

Lopez hit a three-run homer in the third inning of the second game to give Northridge a 9-0 lead.

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