Feb. 18, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Northern Illinois closed its trip to Tennessee today, playing a doubleheader today with the Volunteers. The Huskies mounted late rallies against Tennessee, but were unable to overcome the deficit and fell to UT in game's one and two, 10-5 and 7-2, respectively.
"Tennessee is the type of program with a lot the things they do - running around the bases, bunting and moving guys along like that - it puts a lot of pressure on you," said Head Coach Ed Mathey. "Just like I told the guys, it's great to come down here and play. If we got something to learn from this weekend, let's learn from it and go from there and then it's worthwhile. If we don't learn our lessons, then it's not."
In game one of the day, the Huskies found themselves in a 6-0 at the conclusion of the second inning as Tennessee batted around the order. Northern Illinois was not stagnant for long and quickly responded to the challenge ahead.
In the fourth inning, the Huskies bats awoke with base hits from Alex Beckmann (Batavia, Ill.) and sophomore Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park, Ill./Victor J. Andrew). Though NIU did not score any runs in the inning, the sea change was apparent in Northern Illinois dugout and on the field the next inning. Tennessee only reached base after junior Zach Badgley (McHenry, Ill.) hit the leadoff batter and retired the next three batters.
The Huskies then scored three runs in the fifth inning, led by junior Connor Duckhorn's (Darien, Ill./Cowley County CC) hit on error to first base and a string of three consecutive singles from sophomore Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo.), junior Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis.) and Beckmann to cut the Huskies deficit to 6-3.
In the following inning Duckhorn came through again, driving the ball over the right centerfield wall for a two-out solo home run, the first of his NIU career to bring the game to 6-4. Klonowski doubled to lead off the seventh inning and Beckmann again came through clutch with a double to score the Kearney, Mo. native and put the Huskies to within one, 6-5.
Meanwhile on the mound, Badgley and junior Ben Etcheverry (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region) combined for 5.2 innings to hold the Vols at bay.
UT would storm back in the eighth inning with four runs after stringing together a two singles, a three-run homerun and a triple to increase their lead to 10-5, the score that stood at the end of the contest. Senior Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) was 0-for-2 in the game, but accounted for two RBI in the contest on sacrifice, while Beckmann was 3-for-4 with one RBI and a double.
"It's tough when you start out the game giving up six innings in the bottom of the first inning and in most baseball games, you're going to be in the losing end of that but our kids did a lot to fight back," said Mathey. "But to come battling back 6-5 going into the eighth inning, we felt pretty good. We had some momentum on our side. We brought Kyle in and he needed to get some work in, he happened to hang a pitch and the hitter did a good job with it to shoot it down the line and get a home run. That was unfortunate for us but our kids showed a lot of heart coming back from that."
In day's second contest, the Huskies continued to get on base as Huskies had at least one base runner in the first five innings but were unable to string them together and score runs. Tennessee scored two runs in the third inning and accounted for three in the fourth to build a 5-0 lead.
Starting off the eighth inning, the Huskies started a two-out as started by Wells who reached base on balls. Beckmann followed with a single and advanced Wells to third and Jones hit a double to score Wells to break the Huskies shutout, 5-1. In the bottom of the eighth, UT scored two more runs to increase its lead 7-1.
Senior Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) led the ninth inning with a walk and was advanced by sophomore Chris Divarco's (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) pinch-hit single and another by Duckhorn's single. Wells, who entered the contest with a 16-game hitting streak, was hitless in the contest drove in White on a single to extend his streak to 17-straight contests and improve Northern Illinois' score 7-2.
The Huskies are 0-3 after their series with Tennessee (3-0) and will return to action next weekend in Lubbock, Texas to take on No. 11 St. John's (Feb. 25) and Texas Tech (Feb. 25-27).
Alex Beckmann led the Huskies with five hits over the weekend (5-for-9, .455), including 3-for-5 with runners on ... Connor Duckhorn, Alex Klonowski and Jamison Wells each accounted for two runs in the series ... Jamison Wells hitting streak (17-games) is the fourth-longest in school history, tying Troy White and (Danny Reed, 2007-08) ... Alex Jones drove in four runs, two on sacrifice, and was 2-for-9 at the plate with two doubles.