Gymnastics: Northern Illinois earned its highest team scores of the season on
both floor exercise and vault en route to a fourth-place finish at the
2012 Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championships Saturday at the
NIU Convocation Center. The result reflected a marked improvement from
the Huskies' seventh place finish of a year ago as five different NIU
gymnasts in six events earned spots on the awards stand at the
conclusion of the meet.
Baseball: Northern Illinois won their home opener Tuesday with an 8-6 victory against the UIC Flames to give sophomore Eli Anderson his first career win. The team opened MAC play at Kent State, but were swept in the three game series. Alex Klonowski notched four hits against the Golden Flashes in a 12-6 Friday loss. Saturday turned into a pitchers' duel, but KSU emerged with a 6-1 win. The Huskies could not prevent the sweep Sunday with a 5-3 loss.
The Huskies earned a pair of top four finishes in Florida during the week to complete their mid-March Florida trip. at UCF's Rio Pinar Invitational, NIU was led by Blake Emory's final-round 67 to earn fourth place in the 15-team field. Later in the week at the FAU Spring Break Championship, Northern took third place, trailing only Florida State and Ohio State in the team standings.
The Northern Illinois University women's golf team sits in third
place after posting a strong first round at the 18th Annual Saluki
Invitational at Hickory Ridge Golf Course Sunday.The Huskies shot a season-low 317 with junior Allie Parthie leading the way with a four-over-par 76.
Parthie is in the top 10 placing sixth after one round of play.
Facing the preseason Mid-American Conference favorite Western Michigan, the Northern Illinois men's tennis squad entered unafraid and defeated the Broncos, 5-2. It was the
Huskies 11th win all-time versus the Broncos and the first win in at
least a decade against WMU.
Seven NIU teams are in action during the week. Among the highlights are softball's home opener Tuesday against Illinois State and ensuing four-game weekend slate, the start of baseball's eight-game homestand and men's and women's tennis' DeKalb openers.
Jamison Wells stole his 14th base of the season against UIC Tuesday afternoon
Northern Illinois won its home opener Tuesday afternoon against Illinois-Chicago, 8-6, largely in part to a six run second inning. Northern Illinois tacked on two runs in the fourth inning and hit a walloping 13-for-33 (.393) against UIC.
All things considered, I think it was a successful opening day. A good crowd of students, parents and fans came out to Ralph McKinzie Field to support the Huskie baseball team under the sunny 80 degree sky... In March. In fact, it was actually warmer in DeKalb yesterday (83 degrees) than it was in Phoenix, Ariz. (66 degrees). It was a beautiful thing.
Aside from a good crowd in the stands, there was a good crowd in the press box as well to cover the Huskies. Check out some of the links from yesterday's game and another from Saturday afternoon's win against Southern Illinois, the start of NIU's three-game win streak.
NIUHuskies.com - TIMELY AND CONSISTENT HITTING CARRIES HUSKIES OVER FLAMES
Wrestling: Huskies Kevin Fanta and Brad Dieckhaus
were eliminated Thursday at the NCAA Championships at Scottrade Center
in St. Louis, Mo. to end the Northern Illinois wrestling team's 2011-12
season. Fanta lost to #9 Nick Dardanes of Minnesota, 12-4, then was
eliminated by pin against Iowa State's Luke Goettl. For Dieckhaus, he
lost an 8-4 decision to Nathan Schiedel of Binghamton before being
forced to forfeit his wrestleback match due to injury.
Gymnastics: Senior Tanya Rachan
scored a 9.900 on floor exercise, the top score by a Northern Illinois
gymnast on floor since 2005 and the first 9.9 by a Huskie on any event
since 2009, to lead NIU at the State of Illinois Classic Saturday in Champaign, Ill. With the score, Rachan tied for first on
floor exercise and was named to the 2012 All-State team. Rachan's score led the Huskies to a season-best 49.000 team total
on floor exercise, the team's top score on any event all season and a
mark the floor squad had targeted since the first meet of the season. Natalie Sutter scored a 9.825 on floor exercise to tie for fifth and freshman Peyton Taylor added a career-high 9.800 to take seventh place.
Track & Field: The Northern Illinois track & field team got their outdoor season
off to a quick start in Saturday with two event titles and two
records at the UCF Black & Gold Challenge. As a team, the Huskies
combined for 15 top five finishes and nine personal records in the
Huskie teams will be in action this upcoming week. Baseball opens their
home schedule Tuesday with a game against UIC at 3 p.m., then begin MAC
play during the weekend at Kent State. Additionally, men's golf has two
tournaments in Florida, while men's and women's tennis open conference
play on the road. Women's golf is also in action, as they head to
Southern Illinois for the SIU Invitational.
Northern Illinois defied the odds and made a deep run in the MAC Tournament all the way to the quarterfinals. The Huskies were stuck in a nail-biter Wednesday afternoon against Akron. Trailing 60-59 with under ten seconds to go, Kim Davis grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in with six seconds remaining to give NIU a 61-60 victory over the Zips. Their season came to an end Thursday afternoon, though, when third-seeded Toledo earned a 72-62 win.
Gymnastics: Northern Illinois struggled on its first event, the
uneven parallel bars, and went on to a disappointing third-place finish
and an overall score of 192.075 Saturday night at the EMU Eagle
Invitational. The Huskies finished behind host Eastern Michigan, who totaled a
193.850, and runner-up Air Force (192.250), while picking up a win over
Temple (190.725), to put their season record at 5-7 overall. NIU
finishes its MAC regular season slate 2-4.
With two singles matches left to play, Northern Illinois was at the
heels of No. 68 Brown, 3-2. However, the Huskies were unable to overcome
of the deficit and fell to Bears, 5-2. The loss drops NIU to 10-5 on the season.
Spring break week will have many teams competing in warmer climes, as five of the seven teams in action (women's golf, men's tennis, softball, women's tennis, track & field) will be in Florida. Meanwhile, baseball has a two game set in St. Louis before a weekend round-robin at Southern Illinois, while wrestling caps off their season at the NCAA Championships in the Gateway City.
The Huskies closed out their regular season by splitting two hard-fought games. On Wednesday's Senior Night, NIU came from behind to defeat Toledo, 65-61, behind double figures from Abdel Nader and Aksel Bolin. That momentum partially carried into Saturday, where the visiting Huskies grabbed an early lead on Ball State. However, the Cardinals emerged with a 62-51 win in Muncie.
Northern Illinois faced Western Michigan twice in DeKalb this week with far different results. On Tuesday, the Broncos spoiled Senior Night with a 66-64 overtime victory in the Convo, despite Satavia Taylor's 20 points. The Huskies, though, exacted revenge on their MAC West rivals in the first round of the conference tournament, handing the Broncos a 68-51 defeat Saturday.
Wrestling: Senior Brad Dieckhaus and sophomore Kevin Fanta both secured bids in the NCAA Championships for Northern Illinois Sunday at the MAC Championships. As
a team, the Huskies finished fifth with 41 points, falling just a
half-point behind Ohio for fourth. Central Michigan won the tournament
title with 89 points, followed by Kent State, Eastern Michigan and the
host Bobcats. Buffalo took sixth place on the day.
Gymnastics: The Huskies recorded the second-highest team score in school history en route to a
195.100-194.350 dual meet victory over Illinois State Sunday in Normal. NIU posted its best team totals of the year on uneven parallel
bars, balance beam and floor exercise with six scores of 9.800 or higher
in three different events. The Huskies did not count a score lower than
9.650 on the day while raising their record to 4-5 overall. Northern
Illinois' total topped its previous season best of 194.775, set Feb. 11
at Bowling Green. The 195.100 matches the mark posted on Feb. 1, 2004 at
Kent State which ranks behind only the 195.650 school record set March
23, 2003 at the State of Illinois Championships.
Softball: The Huskies went 2-2 over the weekend at the Coach B Classic in Carbondale, Ill. On Saturday, NIU defeated Wright State, 5-1, before falling later to SIU-Edwardsville, 4-3, in eight innings. Northern would go 1-1 again on Sunday, shutting out Western Illinois, 5-0, and losing to the host Salukis, 15-7.
Women's Tennis: Northern Illinois took down the Milwaukee
Panthers on Sunday by a score of 4-3 for its sixth win of the season. It
was the second time this year the Huskies found themselves on the
winning end while at the Boylan Tennis Center. With the victory, NIU sits at
6-4 on the season.
NIU's upcoming week will be dominated by MAC Tournament action. The women's team heads to Cleveland Wednesday to take on Akron at 1:30 p.m., while the men open their tournament Monday night at Eastern Michigan. Additionally, men's tennis hosts Brown in Rockford Friday; gymnastics goes to Ypsilanti, Mich.; baseball is in Clarksville, Tenn., and softball plays in Columbia, Mo.
To fans of baseball there are two words that will always bring a smile to their faces - spring training. It marks the start of the new season. It reminds us of sunshine, the smell of the fresh cut grass and the sound of leather smacking together around rawhide.
For over a century, baseball teams have traveled southbound to get out of the rain, cold and snow to work out the kinks and prepare for the long season's grind in warmer climates. Whether its black and white photos of players in hawaiian shirts, or fictional stories of Walter Matthau's character Morris Buttermaker striking out Ted Williams a la Bad News Bears, fans can't help but smile or be nostalgic over spring training.
After opening the season at Tennessee, the Northern Illinois baseball team is on their longest road stretch of the season, having just concluded a four-game trip in Lubbock, Texas. The team traveled straight from Texas Tech to Surprise, Ariz. for a four-day stretch at the Coca Cola Classic, where the Huskies will meet Arizona State, Oregon State, St. Mary's (Calif.) and Winthrop. (click here for game notes)
First record of the Huskies heading south was in 1951 on a trip to Mississippi and then to Memphis, under then-Head Coach Ralph McKinzie's steady watch. From that year on NIU went almost annually to Louisiana or Mississippi to open its season, generally at the end of march. The '51, enshrined in the Huskie Athletics Hall of Fame, finished the trip down South 3-2 and finished 11-6, en route to the IIAC Championship.
The document in the gallery (the last photo) is a travel itinerary from the team's trip in 1965, where they traveled by train on the Illinois Central's Panama Limited line to Hammond, La., to play at LSU and Southeastern Louisiana.
The itinerary shows the team stayed at Strawberry Stadium on the campus of the Southeastern Louisiana for the first two nights of the trip, before leaving Hammond for New Orleans to play Loyola (La.). The itinerary also shows the team ate in each school's respective cafeteria for meals during the trip.
The photos caught my eye at first because of the old cars parked in front of the stadium, mostly 50's era automobiles. Not to mention a big, giant brick wall that read "Strawberry Stadium" on its backside. The stadium, erected in 1936, is still home to the Lions, but has since been renovated. And of course, the rest and relaxation photos of players laying in the grass and working on their Illinois tan was funny as well.
For fun, Google the stadium and compare the press box in 1962 to today... Drastic changes! The stadium is but a mere shadow of its former self in many respects.
With the advent of flying from location-to-location in today's world, its hard to imagine teams traveling by train for a long haul trip to play baseball. But, those were the times and I'm sure the trip resonated or still resonates to the guys on the trip. As skipper Ed Mathey said about this year's trip, "It's a day the kids won't soon forget."
Like I said earlier, spring training will always bring a smile to a baseball fan's face. It inspired me to write this posting and share some of the goodies from the archives, along with highlights from yesterday's big day for the Northern Illinois baseball team at Camelback Ranch.
I'd like to close by once again giving a big thank to the Chicago White Sox organization for providing us with video, publicizing us on their website and of course for letting us practice at the facility.