March 12, 2009

Not as Easy as 1-2-3

March 12, 2009

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - By Nicholas Bocanegra, Athletic Media Relations Intern

CSUN's way of stopping an opposing team's rally, draw up the old triple play.

The Matadors turned a rare triple play in their overpowering 7-3 victory over Texas Tech on February 28, in a day filled with memorable moments.

The day started with a special pre-game ceremony honoring the 1970 Division II National Championship team's induction into CSUN's Athletic Hall of Fame, but the spotlight immediately turned to the field when the current group of Matador infielders provided a special moment of their own.

With the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the first inning, Texas Tech looked ready to jump out to a huge start in their matchup with CSUN; then a grounder was hit to Matador second basemen Westley Wright...

"At first I thought it was going to be a routine double play," said Wright.

Wright proceeded to flip the ball to shortstop Jason Dabbs, thereby recording the first out of the inning. Dabbs wasted no time in trying to turn a potential double play when he relayed the ball to first basemen Dominic D'Anna for the second out.

With the routine double play recorded, Texas Tech left-fielder Taylor Ashby tried to head to third setting the stage for the eventual triple play.

"Right when I saw the runner going from second to third, I thought we had a chance," D'Anna said.

D'Anna would fire the ball to third basemen Ryan Pineda who would eventually chase down Ashby to record the final out of the inning.

Before the third out was recorded a run scored, but the triple play erased a huge threat within a matter of seconds.

While the play looked routine, it was anything but. The Matadors performed a feat that had not been seen in recent memory. Aside from a pitcher throwing a perfect game, which has yet to occur for a Matador pitcher, the triple play is a play that is most unique and rarest of plays to take place in a baseball game.

With all runners in motion, the defense needs to act quickly and efficiently to perform three outs in a matter of seconds.

The play was carried out by the Matador infielders with such precision that many in the crowd were left wondering if the Matadors prepared for such a situation?

"We don't practice for it at all," added Wright when reflecting about the play. "You don't really ever see a triple play, that's why we don't practice for it. It was exciting to watch though."

How can a team pull off something that is never practiced?

Was it CSUN's superb defense on display? Was it a situation where Texas Tech ran themselves into outs? Or was it simply a case where the baseball gods smiled on the Matadors?

No matter the answer, nobody can deny that the triple play shifted the momentum towards Northridge when they took the plate moments later.

The play minimized a potentially profitable first inning for Texas Tech with CSUN eventually only allowing one run. The Matadors would quickly respond in their half of the first inning by scoring five runs, highlighted by a three-run home run to left field by Pineda.

CSUN would win the following day as well en route to completing a three-game weekend sweep of the Red Raiders.

"It was really big," D'Anna said. "I just made an error that made it first and second with nobody out. Right when we turned it, I was pumped up. My teammates picked me up and we got out of it with only one run."

The art of the triple play may not be so much an art but rather a thing of rarity.

"It was the first triple play I have ever been a part of that I can remember other than maybe t-ball," said shortstop Dabbs. "It was a huge play."