March 22, 2014
CHICAGO – Scoring multiple runs in five of eight innings at the plate, Northern Illinois (3-15-1, 1-0 MAC) won its first Mid-American Conference opener since 2010 Friday night over Buffalo (8-7, 0-1 MAC) at Chicago State Baseball Stadium, 15-9. The Huskies accounted for 15 hits, four of which came from Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central), as eight different players recorded RBI.
Starting pitcher Anthony Andres (Western Springs, Ill./St. Rita) picked up his first win of the season in 5.2 innings of work while Matt Williams (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) picked up his first career save in 2.0 innings, surrendering zero runs with only one hit allowed to his credit. Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) led the Huskies with four RBI, a double and a home run in the game on 2-for-4 hitting.
“Offensively we did a good of job of executing some fundamental plays that manufactured some runs – safety squeezes and sacrifice bunts – but what I was really proud of was when Buffalo scored three runs in two of their innings, we responded with runs of our own to extend our lead and I think that was big for us tonight,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey.
The Bulls started the scoring off as slugger Tyler Mautner led the second frame off with a solo home run to give UB an early 1-0 lead. In the bottom half of the second stanza, NIU responded with two runs of its own with leadoff walks from Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence) and Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area Tech).
With one out on him and Mallder and Tenhagen on third and second, respectively, Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) laid down a bunt between the pitchers mound, and the first and second basemen, that successfully put him on first to tie the game, 1-1. Tenhagen would score on failed pickoff attempt to give NIU its first lead, 2-1.
The Huskies accounted for two more runs in the third as more free bases gave NIU its third and fourth runs of the contest. Leading 4-1 after the third, Northern Illinois accounted for two hits in the stanza.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Huskies extended its lead to 7-1 as the first two batters again reached on free bases. An error on a sacrifice attempt scored Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) from second and was followed by an RBI single by Fletcher. Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) accounted for the final RBI of the frame as he hit a fielder’s choice.
Buffalo hit its second leadoff homer of the game as Mike Burke towered a shot to left center field to close the gap, 7-2, and would account for three more runs in the top of the sixth inning. Leading by two runs, NIU accounted for four more runs in the bottom of the sixth, led by Klonowski’s two-run home to open the Huskies lead, 11-5.
With one run in the seventh and three more in the eighth, the Bulls made a final charge on the Huskies as they came back to within two runs, 11-9. NIU put its final feather in its cap when it scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth to put a nail in the UB coffin and defeat the Bulls, 15-9.
Northern Illinois' patience at the plate paid dividends as it earned eight walks and was pegged by four pitches, a season-high in both categories.
NIU will resume the series tomorrow afternoon against Buffalo with first pitch set at 4:30 p.m.