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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Northridge Pulls Rank on Florida, Washington

Softball: Matadors knock off No. 25 Gators and No. 3 Huskies to reach Fullerton semifinals.

March 22, 1998|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — It's been spreading for a week, but Saturday it became obvious that the entire Cal State Northridge softball team has been affected.

The revitalized Matadors knocked off two nationally ranked teams in the Cal State Fullerton tournament and advanced to the semifinals.

After beating No. 25 Florida, 3-0, in a first-round morning game, Northridge followed it up eight hours later with a stunning 3-0 victory over No. 3 Washington.

Northridge (17-10-1), which fell to No. 22 in this week's national poll, is on a three-game winning streak and has won five of six.

The Matadors will face top-ranked Arizona, a 6-1 winner over Fresno State, today at 11 a.m.

"When we come to play, I feel bad for that other team," said Cheri Shinn, who hit a home run and a double against Florida.

Shinn (5-5), a senior right-hander, pitched a four-hitter against Florida and Tara Glaister (9-5) beat Washington with a two-hitter.

"Everything picks up when you get that kind of pitching," Northridge Coach Janet Sherman said. "[Both pitchers] came to play and the defense gets more excited when the pitching is like that."

Northridge scored in the first inning of each game and got hits in eight of 13 innings.

"That's a lot of pressure taken off," Glaister said.

Against Washington (17-4), the Matadors rallied with two out in the first when Chelo Lopez and Elizabeth Sanches singled and Shinn was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Augrista Belford's soft liner to shallow left-center field scored Lopez and pinch-runner Sarah Lang.

Washington's Jennifer Spediacci (7-2) had allowed only one earned run in 55 1/3 innings before the Matadors got to her.

In the fifth, Northridge's Laura Redding scored on a passed ball with two out and Spediacci was pulled in the sixth.

Pitching and hitting weren't the only improvements in the Matadors' game. Infielders were pumping their fists and outfielders were running in to congratulate teammates on fine defensive plays.

There were plenty of those and Northridge turned three double plays in the two games.

"There's a lot more consistency in the infield and outfield so there's more confidence coming from that," Sherman said. "The energy level is up."

Even the bench was more vocal.

"You can see it everywhere," Shinn said. "Before everyone was waiting for [everybody else]. Now we got people coming off the bench who want to do the job."

Northridge, which has won three consecutive games for the second time this season, must keep that fire alive in the tournament and in Big West Conference play.

"I think beating the No. 3 team is a pretty good start to plant a seed in our minds," Shinn said.

Against Florida (21-13), with 16 Matadors getting into the game, Jessica Creith scored in the first on Sanches' double. The Matadors loaded the bases with one out, but Belford's strikeout and a pop-up by Ashlie Hayes took Northridge out of the inning.

In the third, Shinn hit a two-run home run to left, scoring Lopez, who singled.

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