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Matadors Get Split Decision by Winning Second Game

College softball: Northridge beats Washington and darkness with 4-3 victory after losing opener, 3-1.

March 22, 2001|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Just as its nonconference doubleheader against Washington proved Wednesday, the Cal State Northridge softball team is full of contradictions.

The Matadors are not so good. But they aren't so bad either.

Saved by a setting sun, error-prone Northridge salvaged a split against the No. 12-ranked Huskies, winning the second game, 4-3, in six innings after losing the first, 3-1, at Northridge.

And just that quickly, the inconsistent Matadors are back on track, keeping their postseason dreams alive by notching their fourth victory over a ranked opponent in 12 chances.

Strength of schedule means everything to the NCAA postseason seeding committee, so no one was more pleased than Coach Janet Sherman that her Matadors got back into the swing of things against a ranked team.

With their Big West Conference opener only days away, the booster shot is timely.

Before facing Washington, Northridge (15-12) lost six of seven, including a 1-4 performance at the Kia Klassic at Cal State Fullerton last weekend.

"The weekend was harsh," Sherman said. "We probably haven't had that bad a performance there ever."

It probably has something to do with the fact that Northridge took its youngest team ever to the prestigious tournament. Only four full-time starters from last year's .500 team have returned.

Junior Ui Bal, the team's leading hitter last season, has been academically ineligible since the fall.

Outfielder Jill Passifiume and first baseman Elizabeth Pierce were dismissed for breaking team rules after the regional playoffs in Oklahoma in May.

Sherman has filled the void with mostly freshmen, finding the experience rewarding and maddening.

The sixth-year coach was encouraged by the Matadors' performances in early tournament play, especially at San Diego, where Northridge handed No. 5 Stanford its first loss, 2-1.

Their game continued to impress weeks later when Northridge swept No. 14 Oregon State at home in a tournament doubleheader.

But a week later, the slide began.

"The way we started, I thought we would be better than we are right now," Sherman said.

With five freshmen in the starting lineup against Washington in the first game, Northridge made three errors, two contributing to Washington's three-run first.

"[Wednesday] was as young as we played," Sherman said.

Northridge was not sharp in either game but managed to manufacture enough runs in the second to overcome two errors and a couple of mental mistakes.

The Matadors' struggles are many. The pitching is spotty, at best, the offense worse. The team earned-run average is 3.30, the batting average, .212.

Senior ace Sarah Farnworth (10-7) has been a workhorse, recording nearly three times the innings as any other pitcher.

Junior Summer Richardson, who has proven to be a slow starter, is off to her slowest start yet.

Her start against Washington was only her third of the year. In seven appearances, the right-hander has allowed four earned runs in 17 innings.

Junior college transfer Tanya Ledesma (4-4) has found Division I hitters a tough task, allowing 21 earned runs in 45 1/3 innings.

The offense has struggled. No full-time starter is batting better than .300. The team has only seven home runs and no player has more than 12 runs batted in.

Sherman acknowledges the truth of the statistics, but she isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.

She's waving it above her head.

"[I told the team] you just beat a [12th-ranked team]," Sherman said. "Use that to propel you. We need wins [today against Northwestern] so we can go into the weekend riding."

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