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Northridge Mistakes Open Door for UCLA

College baseball: In Big West tune-up, Matadors squander lead with three eighth-inning errors in 5-4 loss to Bruins.

March 27, 2001|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Cal State Northridge can't afford to get sloppy now. Not with the start of Big West Conference play only days away.

But the Matadors did Monday, fumbling away a one-run lead with three eighth-inning errors that contributed to UCLA's 5-4 victory at Northridge.

Northridge (18-10), fresh off a three-game sweep of Pacific and primed to begin play in its new conference, appeared poised to notch its fourth consecutive victory.

Tim Arroyo's two-run double and Tim Coltey's run-scoring single gave the Matadors a 3-0 first-inning lead. Kameron Loe pitched two hitless innings before the Bruins (17-7) tagged him for two runs in the third.

From there, a fundamentally sound game ensued with relievers Merrill Dunn of Northridge and Wade Clark of UCLA allowing only one hit each during the middle innings.

It fell apart for Northridge in the eighth. Second baseman Ryan Haag, first baseman Arroyo and pitcher Ryan McDermott committed errors to help a two-run Bruin rally.

UCLA scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Mike Frick immediately after the Matador closer replaced McDermott. Eric Reese scored the go-ahead run from third on an error by Arroyo.

The Bruins added a run in the ninth when Ben Francisco scored on a passed ball.

Frick took the blame for being wild.

"This is a frustrating way to lose," Frick said. "I don't want to give in to a guy in that situation. I gotta get the ball down. I take responsibility for my pitches in the dirt."

Northridge committed three errors in one inning Friday against Pacific. With the Matadors set to open Big West play Friday against Cal State Sacramento at Northridge, time for fine-tuning is running out.

Northridge's offensive statistics are impressive compared to Big West counterparts, but Coach Mike Batesole said the Matadors are far from being a juggernaut.

"OK is a pretty good word," Batesole said. "I think we're ready."

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