March 20, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois baseball team improved to 6-1 in home openers under head coach Ed Mathey and 13-0 all-time against Buffalo (8-10, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) as the Huskies (6-12, 1-0 MAC) defeated the Bulls 14-3 on Friday evening at Ralph McKinzie Field, where NIU is 76-42-1 over the past six seasons.
NIU used a season-high 17 hits to score 14 runs, highlighted by a six-run first inning that helped the Huskies cruise past the Bulls and win their third straight MAC opening game. Junior Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) walked with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning to drive in the first run after fouling off several pitches and working a full count. Then senior Justin Behm (Downers Grove, Ill./North) drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly to left field. After senior Matt Behren (Elmwood Park, Ill./Holy Cross) walked to load the bases, freshman Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) cleared the bases with his first collegiate triple that zipped over the centerfielder's head. Senior Pat Minogue (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central) drove in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to right.
"It was great to get those runs in the first inning," Mathey said of his team's fourth straight game with two or more runs in the first inning. "We had some very good two-strike approaches at the plate today. Alex Beckmann and Jordin Hood had nice hits with two strikes. We love to have starts like that and we wish it could be that way all the time."
After Buffalo responded with a pair of runs in the second off a two-run single by Eric Flynn, the Huskies fired right back with two runs in the bottom of the frame. With one out, sophomore Joe Buonavolanto (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) walked and junior Jordin Hood (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) followed with a double to left-center to set up Reynolds, who delivered with a two-run single up the middle.
"I thought it was equally important that after they scored two runs in the second, we came out and scored two runs to keep the cushion at six," said Mathey. "That was a good thing."
NIU then scored a run in each of the third and fourth innings and added four more in the eighth before surrendering a run to Buffalo in the ninth to end the game, 14-3.
While the Huskie defense committed no errors and turned a season-high four double plays to help limit the Bulls' scoring, the offense posted its fifth game in a row with 10 or more hits, giving NIU a good balance on both sides of the ball to help earn the victory.
"The defense played very well today," Mathey said. "That's a good thing and we hope that continues. It goes hand in hand with pitching and if it continues, we will win some more baseball games. It's a hard thing to do to give a team a lot of outs in an inning and win.
"I think what the hitters are doing right now is using the entire field and I hope we can stay there. It's a good thing and that's the type of offense that we can have. We have some veteran guys through the middle of the line up that are staying consistent and we hope they can stay there."
Minogue and White led the NIU offense by each going 3-for-4. White drove in a season-high four runs and scored two while drawing one walk. Minogue set season-bests with three hits, including a double, and three RBI. Reynolds also drove in three runs along with scoring two in his 2-for-4 day at the plate. Buonavolanto scored three runs and had two hits while Hood scored two along with two hits. Behren scored two runs with two hits as well. Additionally, freshman Jake Hermsen (New London, Wis./New London) drove in his first two collegiate runs on his first career hit in the eighth inning.
Shivam Bhan and Eric Flynn led the Bulls' offense as Bhan went 2-for-4 with a run scored and Flynn went 1-for-4 with two RBI.
Huskie junior starter Chuck Lukanen (Lombard, Ill./North Iowa Area C.C.) earned the win (2-3) after tying an NIU season-high seven innings pitched with two earned runs on five hits and four walks with two strikeouts. Freshman Zach Badgley (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) finished the final two innings, giving up an earned run on two hits and a walk with a season-high three strikeouts. Buffalo starter Mike Stangroom (1-1) took the loss after surrendering eight earned runs on six hits and three walks in 1.1 innings.
The teams play again tomorrow at 1 p.m. CT with NIU senior righty Nick Badgley (McHenry, Ill./McHenry C.C.) (1-1, 4.86 ERA, 16.2 IP, 7 BB, 8 SO) facing off against Buffalo righty Jeffrey Hains (0-0, 7.11 ERA, 12.2 IP, 7 BB, 5 SO). Then the teams finish the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. as junior lefty Reynolds (0-1, 7.43 ERA, 13.1 IP, 3 BB, 11 SO) takes on Buffalo righty Pierre Miville-Deschenes (2-1, 5.85 ERA, 20 IP, 12 BB, 24 SO). Live stats via GameTracker on www.niuhuskies.com will be available for both games.
Dave Reynolds extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games.
Jordin Hood raised his hitting streak to 13 games.
Matt Behren pushed his hitting streak to seven games.
The Huskies have now had a player get multiple hits in every game, led by Jordin Hood's nine.
NIU has had five games in a row with 10 or more hits and have totaled 11 on the season.
The Huskies have now scored 10 runs four times this season and have done so twice in a row.