Feb. 22, 2009
Starkville, Miss. - A day after the Northern Illinois baseball team used a six-run inning to get past Mississippi State, North Florida (2-1) turned the tables on NIU (1-3) with a five-run third inning to defeat the Huskies, 9-3, on Sunday afternoon in the last day of the BankFirst Baseball Challenge at Dudy Noble Field.
"I was disappointed with our execution today, especially on defense," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "We struggled with fielding the bunt and didn't get the outs we needed which prolonged innings that led to a grand slam in their big third inning."
After a scoreless first two innings for both teams, North Florida broke the game open in the third, taking advantage of a Huskie miscue. The Ospreys' first run came after Sam Perry's sacrifice bunt caused NIU junior starter Chuck Lukanen (Lombard, Ill./North Iowa Area C.C.) to make an errant throw to first allowing Michael Smith, who had a lead-off double, to score. After consecutive walks to Brian Wilson and Preston Hale, Ryan Puskar blasted a grand slam to drive in the other four runs in the inning.
"Their ninth hitter got on base there and then we threw away the bunt on the next play," said Mathey. "We then failed to cover first on the next bunt and had a balk on the next bunt attempt to set the tone for the grand slam. Falling behind to good teams isn't a good thing to do and we have to improve in that regard."
UNF starter John Atteo (1-0) earned the win, going the distance while allowing two earned runs on 10 hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Lukanen (0-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up one earned run on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Puskar led the Ospreys with four RBI from his grand slam. Wilson scored a team-high three runs and notched two hits and an RBI. Hale also had a pair of hits and an RBI.
Junior Nick Morreale (Vernon Hills, Ill./Mesa C.C. (Ariz.)) led the Huskies with two hits and an RBI in his Huskie debut. Senior Justin Behm (Downers Grove, Ill./North) registered two hits and two runs scored while junior Anthony Maziur (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) had an RBI single in his only at-bat of the game. Junior Jordin Hood (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) also had a hit and scored a run.
"On offense, we didn't get good swings on their pitcher," Mathey said. "It could have been because it was our fourth game in three days or because he was that good. I give them credit for playing a good game, but we also battled and rallied there in the ninth with the bases loaded, nearly bringing the tying run to the plate. I saw some good things this weekend, but it was just not enough to get a few more wins."
UNF added another run in the fourth to go up 6-0. Smith walked and Perry reached on a bunt single to start the inning. Both runners then advanced on a balk and Smith scored on a sacrifice fly by Robbie Collier.
The Huskies scored their first run in the bottom of the fourth by capitalizing on a couple UNF miscues. With one out, Hood reached on an infield single and then stole second base to get into scoring position. With Behm up with two outs, Hood moved to third on a pass ball and crossed the plate as Behm got to first on a throwing error by second baseman T.J. Thompson.
The Ospreys scored two more runs in the sixth inning off of an RBI triple by Wilson and a run-scoring single by Hale, increasing their lead to 8-1.
NIU plated another run in the seventh with four hits in the inning. Behm led off with a single and senior Matt Behren (Elmwood Park, Ill./Holy Cross) followed with another single. After freshman Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) hit into a double-play, Morreale singled to left field to drive in Behm. Senior Pat Minogue (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central) then reached on an infield single, but the rally ended on sophomore Marvin Sanchez's (Chicago, Ill./Clemente Academy) fielder's choice ground out.
Each team scored a run in the ninth. UNF tallied their final run on a Kevin Martin sacrifice fly. Behm started the inning with a single for the Huskies and freshman Brett Frantini (Minooka, Ill./Minooka) reached after being hit by a pitch. Morreale then singled to load the bases for Maziur, who recorded a run-scoring infield single.
The Huskies play again next weekend in Tempe, Ariz. at the DeMarini Invitational at Arizona State's Packard Stadium, starting with a game against Oregon State on Friday, February 26 at 2 p.m. CT.
- Chuck Lukanen made his first appearance in a Huskie uniform by starting the game on the mound and striking out the side in his first inning. His first four recorded outs were strikeouts.
- Nick Morreale made his Huskie debut with a start as the designated hitter and recorded his first hit in the third inning.
- Brett Frantini made his collegiate debut in the ninth inning, reaching base after being hit by a pitch.
- Freshman Zach Badgley (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) made his first career appearance, pitching one inning while giving up an earned run on two hits with a strikeout. He is the fourth Badgley in program history to make an appearance in a Huskie uniform.
- Jordin Hood has reached base safely in all four games for NIU with a four-game hitting streak on a 9-for-14 clip with four runs, two RBI and three steals.