NIU Swept in Texas Doubleheader
Feb. 26, 2011
LUBBOCK, Texas - Prior to Saturday, the Northern Illinois baseball team had received solid pitching but little run support in nearly each of the first three games of the 2011 season. In a doubleheader against Brigham Young and Texas Tech, the Huskies dropped each game at Dan Law Field despite a combined 20 hits and 11 runs.
NIU entered the day with a 3.38 team ERA and .180 team batting average. In three games, the offense had 16 hits and 10 runs scored. Meanwhile, the pitching staff had given up seven earned runs. Both aspects of the game flipped on Saturday for the Huskies (0-5) as they fell 8-5 to BYU (4-3) and 15-3 to Texas Tech (6-1).
"We are kind of in that spot where when we are not getting the hitting, we are getting the pitching. And when we are not getting the pitching, we are getting the hitting," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "I was really happy with our kids' fight and effort in the BYU game. We were way behind and we kept fighting. Our hitters started to swing the bats better, which is always a good sign."
NIU more than doubled its run and hit totals on the year, but unfortunately, tripled its runs allowed. The main cause of the pitching struggle was 17 free passes issued to opponents -- 15 walks and two hit-by-pitches. As a result, the Huskies raised their team average to .231 and ERA to 6.59.
To begin the day, six walks helped BYU chase starter Tony Manville after 4.1 innings with a 4-2 advantage. The Cougars scratched four runs, three earned, off Manville with help from six hits. A throwing error by second baseman Marvin Sanchez led to a two-out run in the first inning. An Austin Hall fielder's choice and Brock Luker single gave BYU two more runs in the third. Dane Nielsen knocked an RBI single to score the fourth run in the fifth after two walks help set him up.
Making his first appearance since the 2009 season, Zach Badgley and a now healthy right shoulder kept BYU at bay, allowing NIU to tie the game in the sixth. The junior replaced Manville in the fifth and pitched 2.1 innings, surrendering a sixth-inning run on an Alex Wolfe RBI groundout.
"Zach gave us a chance to win that ball game," said Mathey. "Manville was pitching behind in the count all day. That makes life tough versus a team like BYU. Zach came in and got us a double play ball and ate up a couple innings. Obviously, it was good to see him out there after battling back from the injury."
In bottom of the sixth, the Huskies received consecutive one-out singles from Brian Riegler and Sanchez. An out later, Alex Jones tripled to right-center to score both runners. Troy White followed by hitting the same gap for a double to plate Jones, tying the game at 5-5.
The Cougars countered with a three-run inning of their own in the eighth, though. With Tom Zelasko on the bump, three extra base hits resulted in the senior being handed the loss (0-1). A one-out double by Wolfe and walk to Bret Lopez set up a two-run triple by Hall. Kelton Caldwell followed with a double to plate Hall before Ben Etcheverry would come in to end the rally.
"We just couldn't get out of that eighth inning," Mathey said. "Tommy Zelasko has been good for us but he's just struggling right now. We just could overcome it after that."
For the fourth straight game, the Huskies got the tying run to the plate late in the game. Jones and White singled to start the ninth against closer Justin Shutt. But Joe Etcheverry struck out and Jordan Rishavy hit into a game-ending double play to give Shutt his first save of the season, locking up the win for Jared Miller (1-0), who threw 1.1 innings of perfect relief.
Jones, White and Riegler all had multiple-hit games. Jones went 3-for-5 with two RBI. White was 4-for-5 with an RBI and tied a career high for hits in a single game. Riegler finished 2-for-4 with an RBI.
"We talked earlier in the year about Jones and White being our middle of the lineup guys," Mathey said. "When they are producing it's a good thing. It's good to see them swing the bat and get their timing down. They give us a chance with RBI guys behind them. Joe Etcheverry does a good job driving in runs when he gets a chance. Right now, we have to figure out how to extend the lineup a bit. Riegler and Sanchez ignited our best inning of the year and were making things happen at the bottom of the lineup."
Andrew Law led the Cougars by going 3-for-5 while Hall drove in a three runs.
Nearly a half hour later, the Huskies and Texas Tech squared off and the Red Raiders put pressure on NIU from the get go. TTU drew back-to-back walks off Jake Hermsen to start the game and Kelby Tomlinson followed with an RBI single. Then a fielder's choice groundout to short stop Jones turned into a two-run error as his throw to first was off line in an attempt to turn two. The flood gates then opened as TTU strung together five consecutive singles to score three more runs off RBI single by David Paiz, Kevin Whitehead and Reid Redman.
With a 6-0 lead, the Red Raiders never looked back, adding two runs each in the third, fourth and fifth innings and plating three in the seventh.
Hermsen (0-1) took the loss for NIU after four innings and 10 runs, nine earned. His nemesis Robbie Kilcrease (2-0) earned the win after seven innings of work, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
"We knew [Texas Tech] would come in focused," Mathey said. "They gave away their game last night against BYU with errors and took their first loss. Their pitcher worked ahead in the count and we didn't give ourselves a chance. We walked too many guys. They are a good team as it is. If you give them room, they will exploit it. I give them credit for putting the heat on us in the first inning and going with it.
"We put some guys in for the first time to finish the game off and figure things out for tomorrow. We will be ready to come back tomorrow and try to get that last game of the series down here."
Etcheverry, Rishavy, Zimmerman and Sanchez each had two hits for the Huskies.
Paiz led the way for TTU with three hits and two RBI. Nick Popescu drove in a team-high four runs on two this for the Red Raiders.
The Huskies wrap up the weekend Texas trip tomorrow against the Red Raiders at 12 p.m. (CT). The probable pitching matchup will be NIU RHP Jeremy Gonzales (0-1 | 6.00 ERA) against TTU RHP James Parten (1-0 | 1.80 ERA). Live stats for the game will be available on NIUHuskies.com. Radio and video broadcasts of the game will be available on TexasTech.com.
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