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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | COLLEGE BASEBALL

Northridge Continues Heading South in Big West

April 28, 2001|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — Cal State Northridge continued its slide in the Big West Conference, dropping the opener of a three-game series to Long Beach State, 6-3, Friday night at Blair Field.

The Matadors (25-19, 3-7 in the Big West) lost for the eighth time in 11 games while falling 5 1/2 games behind first-place Cal State Fullerton in their first season in the Big West.

The strength of the Big West, among the nation's best baseball conferences, might result in more than one conference representative advancing to the NCAA Regionals in May. Five Big West teams have at least 25 victories, including the fifth-place Matadors.

Fullerton is ranked No. 5 by Collegiate Baseball and second-place Long Beach (28-13, 6-1) is on the cusp of the top 25.

But with eight conference games to play, Northridge appears headed in the opposite direction.

The Matadors have lost two of three games in conference series against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara and Fullerton.

"It's going to be tough to win league," junior left-hander Andy Davidson said. "Everyone's got a good club. We just want to make regionals. That's our goal."

Davidson (6-3), who pitched eight innings against Fullerton in his last start, lasted only 4 1/3 innings, exiting in the fifth after the 49ers rallied for three runs to snap a 1-1 tie.

Edgar Varela hit a ground-rule double and later scored the go-ahead run from third when Kaulana Kuhaulua's line drive went off the mitt of third baseman Jason Gorman.

After a walk, Davidson threw a wild pitch to place runners at second and third, and both runners scored when second baseman Ryan Haag mishandled Jeremy Reed's roller on the outfield grass.

Reliever Merrill Dunn allowed three consecutive hits to begin the sixth and was replaced by Bobby Graves. Long Beach had 13 hits off four pitchers.

Junior right-hander Matt Paz (6-5) of Long Beach held the Matadors to one run and three hits through five innings.

Paz allowed six hits and struck out seven.

J.T. Stotts hit Paz's second pitch for his 11th home run.

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