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Matadors Trip on Wild Side

Baseball: Washington State defeats Northridge, 3-2, on errant pitch in top of ninth.

March 19, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Scored a wild pitch, it might easily have been recorded as a passed ball.

Either way, the score book didn't matter to Merrill Dunn, only the final score.

Dunn, a Cal State Northridge reliever, had a difficult time accepting his role in the defining moment of Washington State's 3-2 nonconference victory Saturday at Matador Field.

Dunn's ninth-inning pitch to pinch-hitter Zach Bode with the bases loaded skidded away from catcher Brandon Thompson, allowing Justin Williams to score from third and snap a 2-2 tie.

Washington State (10-13) scored its second victory in as many days over the Matadors (9-15), who lost for the sixth time in eight games. The teams conclude the three-game series today at Northridge at noon.

Dunn (3-2), a junior from North Hollywood High, replaced starter Andy Davidson in the ninth after Jon Baeder's leadoff single.

The Cougars loaded the bases with the help of an intentional walk and an error by shortstop J.T. Stotts.

Dunn described his two-out wild pitch as a communication breakdown between himself and Thompson.

"It was a cross-up," Dunn said. "I threw a fastball and he was expecting a curve."

Dunn could be forgiven for the mishap. But with the way his control has been lately, he wasn't about to go easy on himself.

Dunn threw four wild pitches on Tuesday in Northridge's 6-4 victory over Portland. Saturday, Dunn was still smarting from his uncharacteristic wildness.

"The last outing, I had a little trouble with the curve," he said. "It gets to you a little bit. It's really frustrating, especially after the way Andy pitched."

Davidson, a sophomore left-hander from Hart, made the most of his second start, striking out eight and walking one. He scattered seven hits, allowing consecutive home runs by Ray Hattenburg and Wes Folkenborg in the fourth that gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead.

"I didn't have a very good fall," Davidson said. "I wasn't expecting to start much. Last year, I started a few times. I feel I'm better as a starter."

Davidson, who allowed one hit in four innings last week against Nevada, might get more starts, Coach Mike Batesole said.

"In two starts he's thrown the ball really well," Batesole said.

Dunn, Batesole noted, did not allow a hit and performed well in relief.

"Ten minutes after the game, he might feel [disappointed]," Batesole said. "But he came in and got out everybody he was supposed to."

Northridge broke through in the fourth against Tyson Thompson on Bill Murphy's run-scoring single. The Matadors tied the score, 2-2, in the seventh on a wild pitch by Thompson that allowed Bobby Koba to score from third.

With two out in the seventh, the Matadors' chance for a big inning ended when center fielder Jordan Nilsen made a one-handed diving catch of Jason Watkins' deep drive to the alley in right-center.

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