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Carpenter found his niche

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    Ridge Carpenter is enjoying the moment with the Matadors, hitting .278 after a slow start.

Cal State Northridge senior Ridge Carpenter only has one thing he’d change about his collegiate career.

“I wish everyone who plays baseball could experience what it’s like to play Division I,” he said. “The traveling, staying in hotels, playing against such good teams, I don’t even know how to describe it, but it’s something I wish everyone could experience.”

Two years playing at Hartnell Community College has made Carpenter appreciate his two seasons at Cal State Northridge. The left-handed hitting outfielder has also taken advantage of the opportunity, starting in 70 of 74 games.

His presence has translated to victories as Cal State Northridge finished with a winning record last year for the first time since 2002. Despite the success, Northridge went through a coaching change in the offseason, and Carpenter believes the move is already paying dividends.

“I feel like they bring more to the table,” Carpenter said. “We have one coach who played in the College World Series (Matt Curtis) and another who won a World Series with the Dodgers (Tim Leary).

PROFILE | Ridge Carpenter

» School: Cal State Northridge
» Class: Senior
» Position: OF
» Height: 6 feet 2
» High school: Kalani (2007)
» Accolades: Ranked as one of the top 10 prospects by Baseball America to play in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League last summer; started 70 of 74 games in two seasons at Cal State Northridge; finished third in the Big West last year with 20 stolen bases; twice named to the Star-Bulletin All-State first team.

“They’ve done a really good job of helping me understand things better.”

A standout at Kalani, where he hit .654 as a junior and .590 as a senior, Carpenter opted to go the JC route, attending Hartnell out of high school. Two years later, Carpenter found himself as the target of a large number of schools on the West Coast before deciding to play for the Matadors.

“Out of high school I didn’t have nearly as many schools talking to me and wanting me,” Carpenter said. “After playing at Hartnell for two years, I got a lot of exposure and got a lot of interest and it put me in a better decision to choose a good school.”

Carpenter decided to play for Cal State Northridge, which plays in the Big West Conference. He finished his junior season with a .298 batting average, 20 stolen bases and 31 runs scored.

He was drafted out of high school in the 32nd round by the Boston Red Sox, but elected to go to college. After going undrafted last year, Carpenter says it was a tough reminder about why he plays the game.

“I really put a lot of pressure on myself last year because as a junior, that’s when you can really make a lot of money if you’re drafted,” Carpenter said. “It wasn’t very fun, but it made me realize that the only reason I play this game is because it’s fun, so that’s why this year I’m just looking at every game as potentially being my last and enjoying every moment of it.”

The Matadors are 13-8 through 21 games, but Carpenter feels their record should be a lot better.

“There’s a couple of teams we played we split instead of taking three of four,” he said. “I think at times we’ve pitched well, but not hit the ball and then other times we hit the ball all over the place but couldn’t get anyone out.”

After a slow start, Carpenter has begun to heat up, upping his average to .278. A fixture at the top of the Matadors’ lineup, Carpenter leads the team with 18 runs scored and almost has as many stolen bases (nine) as the rest of the team combined (11).

“It’s one of those things where I’m hitting the ball well, but right at people,” Carpenter said. “That’s the game of baseball and the key for me is not letting it get me down, but continuing to hit the ball the same way, because eventually, I will find some holes.”

He’s also the healthiest he’s been since tearing his labrum in his first collegiate game. Carpenter played with the injury his entire freshman year before returning home and having shoulder surgery in the summer.

Of all the games he’s played, Carpenter says the thing he’s enjoyed the most is playing against players that may one day play in the big leagues.

He says the toughest pitcher he’s ever faced is Cal State Fullerton’s Noe Ramirez, who will start against Hawaii on Friday at Les Murakami Stadium.

“We faced a guy last year from UConn who threw 98, but Ramirez is a guy that’s supposed to be a top-five pick,” Carpenter said. “I’d have to go with him.”

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