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After So-So Season, Matadors Seek Redemption in Playoffs

May 20, 1999| From Staff Reports

The playoffs have not been kind to Cal State Northridge's softball team the last two years. After successful seasons, the Matadors were resoundingly knocked out in regional play.

But this year has been different, said Coach Janet Sherman, who hopes to leave the past where it belongs.

"I feel differently about this group going into regionals," Sherman said. "They have fun together. They're focused and they're a lot of fun to be around."

The new faces and new feelings didn't translate into many victories this season, the Matadors' worst since moving to Division I in 1991.

With a .568 winning percentage and a third-place finish in the Big West Conference, Northridge's eighth consecutive regional berth was certainly not expected.

But the NCAA expanded the field from 32 to 48 teams and took an unprecedented nine teams from the Pacific region.

Now, according to Sherman, it's anybody's ballgame.

"Anyone can win," Sherman said. "We've played with UCLA and Arizona. . . . We think we can do it."

The first hurdle is at 10 a.m. today when Northridge (29-22) takes on Missouri (38-19) in the Regional One opener at UCLA.

The Matadors are undefeated in five games against Missouri, winning the last meeting, 9-2, in a tournament in 1996.

With a one-game-at-a-time mantra, Northridge will try to snap a six-game losing streak in the playoffs dating to 1996.

"We're not looking at anybody but Missouri," Sherman said. "They're fast, faster than anybody we've seen this year."

Northridge will rely heavily on senior ace Tara Glaister (20-13), the Matadors' career strikeout leader in Division I play, to keep the speedy Tigers off the basepaths.

Glaister has been a workhorse since defeating Arizona, 5-3, on April 7, going 9-3 and having a hand in Northridge's last seven decisions. The right-hander has appeared in 40 of the Matadors' 51 games and is expected to start every playoff game.

*

Cal Lutheran packed its bats before leaving for Georgetown, Texas, for the NCAA Division III West Regional in hope that those bats pack enough wallop to send the Kingsmen to the national tournament for the fifth time in the last eight seasons.

Every Cal Lutheran starter is batting .314 or better and the team average is .332. Yet, that is the lowest average in the four-team regional.

"We've got a full lineup of good hitters," Coach Marty Slimak said. "And because this is a senior-dominated ballclub, we have guys who have been [to the regional] before."

No. 3-seeded Cal Lutheran (28-12) today faces No. 2-seeded Southwestern (41-7), the host team. Top-seeded Chapman (37-3) meets No. 4-seeded Sul Ross State (30-7) of Alpine, Texas, in the other first-round game.

Cal Lutheran's power comes from Brian Malchow (12 home runs, 55 runs batted in), Brad Smith (13 home runs, 38 RBIs) and Jeremy Schlosser (eight home runs, 47 RBIs).

Slimak is sending ace right-hander Tom Canale to the mound today. Canale is 8-5 with a 1.70 earned-run average and has allowed only 76 hits in 106 innings.

Erik Kiszczak, who has recovered from severe arm injuries to post a 5-0 record and a 3.27 ERA, or left-hander Adam Springston (4-3, 6.23 ERA) will start on Friday.

The winner of the double-elimination regional advances to the eight-team national tournament starting May 28 in Salem, Va.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Regional One

at UCLA, Easton Stadium / Today-May 23

* No. 1-seeded UCLA (55-6)

* No. 2-seeded Missouri (38-19)

* No. 3-seeded Minnesota (44-18)

* No. 4-seeded Creighton (31-26)

* No. 5-seeded Cal State Northridge (29-22)

* No. 6-seeded Alabama (39-24)

*

First round, double-elimination:

* Game 1, 10 a.m.--Missouri vs. Northridge

* Game 2, 12:30 p.m.--UCLA vs. Alabama

* Game 3, 3 p.m.--Minnesota vs. Creighton

*

Staff writers Steve Henson and Paige A. Leech contributed to this notebook.

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