Feb. 28, 2010
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - In the finale of a three-game set with Austin Peay, the Northern Illinois baseball team lost 9-8 in an eventful 11 innings on Sunday afternoon at Raymond C. Hand Park as the Governors (5-2) took advantage of seven NIU (0-6) errors for nine runs on only eight hits in a contest that had three ties and three lead changes.
"We battled hard and our guys came back," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "Our pitchers did an outstanding job today, but we didn't deserve to win with this type of defensive effort."
Similar to the first two games of the series, NIU fell behind early after leaving five runners on base and allowing APSU to score three runs in the first three innings. Short stop Jon Clinard's double started the game for the Governors in the first, and he later scored on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Matt Kole. With Clinard on again after a single and a steal in the third, right fielder Jared DeLong brought him home with a single and moved to third after an error by sophomore right fielder Jake Hermsen (New London, Wis./New London). Kole's sacrifice fly then pushed DeLong home to put the Govs up 3-0.
However, the Huskies once again fought back and took their first lead of the year with a four-run fifth inning. NIU loaded the bases with one out after left fielder Cory Krupp (Cary, Ill./Santa Barbara City College) walked, senior second baseman Joe Buonavolanto (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) singled and senior center fielder Jordin Hood (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) walked. Senior first baseman Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) then drove in the first run on a ground out and back-to-back singles from sophomore third baseman Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) and Joe Etcheverry (Bakersfield, Calif./Centennial) tied the game, 3-3. After Matt March replaced APSU starter Jeremy Dobbs, Hermsen reached on a walk to load the bases for sophomore catcher Brett Frantini (Minooka, Ill./Minooka), who gave NIU a 4-3 lead after reaching on a fielder's choice.
"We had some great hustle plays in the fifth inning that helped us score more runs," said Mathey. "I thought we had our best offensive approach all year. It was just a matter of time before we got to their starter, but our defense kept giving runs back."
The Huskie lead was short-lived, though, as the Govs fired right back in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI double from Kole that scored Clinard, who reached on a walk.
Austin Peay then reclaimed the lead in the seventh on a two-run home run from DeLong to go up 6-4.
NIU answered in the eighth with an RBI single from sophomore short stop Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) that scored Hermsen, who reached on a single and stole second base. But the Govs added two more runs for an 8-5 advantage in their half. After first baseman John Hogan singled and left fielder Adam Browett walked with one out, third baseman Reed Harper reached on a fielder's choice throwing error by Reynolds to load the bases. Following a force out at home, center fielder Michael Blanchard brought in a run on a Jones error and Clinard forced in a run with a walk.
In the ninth, after a one-out walk by Reynolds and a White hit-by-pitch, Etcheverry knotted the game on a clutch three-run blast, his first of the season. The then Govs loaded the bases in the bottom half with one out, but did not capitalize as sophomore lefty reliever Tom Barry (Orland Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) induced pinch hitter Haskell Fink into a force out at home and struck out pinch hitter Daniel Baggett to preserve the 8-8 tie.
"Job One in the ninth was to get the tying run to the plate, and we did that," Mathey said. "Joe had a great day today. He struggled Friday and worked his behind off during batting practice to get it corrected. It's pleasing to see the results of a kid working hard. He absolutely crushed that ball and it was great. It gave us a chance. We had a couple of opportunities in extra innings but just could not get it done."
Austin Peay then broke through for the win in the 11th after the seventh Huskie error of the game, a one-out miscue from Jones, allowed catcher Trey Lucas to reach first base and gave the Govs momentum. On the next play, Hogan singled and then Browett was intentionally walked to load the bases in hope of getting a force out at home. But third baseman Blake Frazier delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly in right field foul territory to end NIU's longest game since a 16-inning 9-6 loss to Portland exactly two years ago.
"That ball was mid-deep and coming back into fair territory, so Jake couldn't let it drop because it was going to be too close," said Mathey. "He made a decent throw home but just didn't have much of a play."
APSU reliever Zach Gerler (1-1) earned the win after throwing the final two innings allowing only one hit and one walk. Govs' starter Dobbs lasted 4.2 innings after giving up four earned runs on six hits and five walks with two strikeouts. Barry (0-1) was tagged with the loss after tossing three innings surrendering an unearned run on two hits and two walks with a career-high tying three strikeouts. NIU junior starter Jeremy Gonzales (Bakersfield, Calif./Bakersfield College) threw five innings allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits and four walks with one strikeout.
DeLong led the Austin Peay offense going 2-for-6 with three RBI, two runs and his first homer of the season, while Kole added three RBI with a double in four at-bats.
Etcheverry led the Huskies going 3-for-4 with a career-high tying four RBI, two singles, two walks, a run scored and a homer. White went 1-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, while Hermsen added a career-best two hits with a walk and a run.
The Huskies will get back to action next weekend as they head to California for their nine-game spring break trip starting with a noon CDT contest against Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, March 5th. NIU will also face Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara during the break.