March 22, 2014
CHICAGO – Behind a complete game on the mound by senior Eli Anderson (Glenview, Ill./New Trier), his first of the season and seventh of his career, Northern Illinois University (3-16-1, 1-1 MAC) was unable to overcome Buffalo (9-7, 1-1 MAC) in game two of the series as the Bulls defeated the Huskies, 3-2. Anderson scattered eight hits in the effort, striking out seven batters – four of which looked at a called strike three. NIU stranded 10 runners on base.
Sophomore Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) was 2-for-4 at the plate with a walk to his credit, while Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) and Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) each drove in an RBI. Anderson tossed 120 pitches in the effort, 78 for strikes (.650 strike/ball ratio).
“This was a good Mid-American Conference baseball game today,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey, “weather played a factor in it and both had to find a way to score runs through the conditions. Outside of the first inning of play, Eli was solid tonight. He gave up two walks in the inning and both of those guys scored in the inning. Offensively, we had our opportunities we just needed to be more opportunistic in our approach.”
Buffalo scored two runs in the first inning with two outs on them as it loaded the bases after consecutive strikeouts. Matt Pollock drove a 0-1 pitch to right fielder Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence) to put the Bulls on top, 2-0. Anderson would only surrender one more run in the outing as UB sacrificed a runner into scoring position in the fifth inning and Mike Burke singled to left field to drive the runner in from second base to make it 3-0. Tenhagen threw to home plate, a ball that beat the runner to home plate, but a short hop on the throw led Zubek away from the plate to allow the run to score.
The senior kept the Bulls off balance in the remaining innings as he made short work of the batters in his final four innings of work. Anderson hurled a mere five pitches in the eighth inning as he retired the side in order after the Huskies scored their first run of the game in the seventh inning on a bases loaded walk by Hook.
The NIU batters got to starting pitcher Anthony Macgovney in the bottom of the seventh frame as Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) earned a leadoff walk and Zubek was pegged by the first pitch he faced to put runners on first and second and nobody down. Connor Schomig (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) loaded the bases as he reached base on a sacrifice bunt attempt that turned into a fielder’s choice on a pitcher’s error. Hook walked on a 3-1 count to make it a 3-1 contest through seven. NIU was unable score anymore runs in the stanza as the Nos. 2-4 hitters went down in order to strand the bases loaded.
After Anderson’s five pitch eighth, Landon Tenhegan (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area Tech) singled to centerfield to lead the bottom half of the frame. The senior advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Smith (Mahomet, Ill./Parkland College) to record the second out of the stanza. Zubek delivered four pitches later on a 2-1 count as he doubled down the right field line put NIU back within one, 3-2. No more Huskies would reach base in the affair.
With the series split, 1-1, apiece, Northern Illinois and Buffalo will close the opening weekend of Mid-American Conference play tomorrow afternoon at Wheaton College’s Lee Pfund Stadium. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.
“Obviously our goal is to win every conference series we play in but when you look at where Buffalo and us finished in the MAC standings at the end of last season (second and third), this final game is very important for possible seeding and potential tiebreaker purposes later down the road,” added Mathey.