March 22, 2013
CHICAGO, Ill. - Despite the frigid temperatures and the occasional bluster of wind in downtown Chicago Friday night, freshman Jordan Ruckman (Kankakee/Herscher) was red hot against Kent State on the mound as he struck out 10 batters and only walked one in 7.1 innings. The effort was not enough however, as Ruckman earned the loss and the Huskies (4-16, 0-1 MAC) fell to the Golden Flashes (7-11, 1-0 MAC), 3-2. Senior Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) recorded his 71st career stolen base to tie NIU's all-time mark.
"It was a cold day and it was MAC baseball. I thought it'd be a close game and I thought we'd both run a little bit cleaner defensively playing on turf but it was a good game and I thought we had a chance to win," said Head Coach Ed Mathey. "Jordan threw the ball fine today. He gave up a run early on a hard hit fly ball that was lost in the sun and got into a little bit more trouble but he did a good job of limiting the damage from there on out."
Ruckman's evening set several career-highs as he went 7.1 innings and struck out 10 batters, both career-bests, with only one walk and only one earned run in 122 pitches (78 strikes). It was the most strikeouts by an NIU pitcher this season and the most since Jake Hermsen fanned 11 versus Central Michigan May 5, 2012.
The Golden Flashes, a 2012 College World Series participant, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, despite striking out three times in the inning. The Huskies matched the run in the bottom half of the inning as Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) reached base on an error and advanced to third on a double down the right field line by Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew). Klonowski knotted the game following a passed ball.
Kent State jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the following frame and closed the games scoring until the eighth inning, when the Golden Flashes jumped to a 3-1 lead.
Wells led off the bottom of the eighth inning after he was hit by a pitch and promptly stole second base to tie Alvin Maynard's career mark of 71, set between 1979-80. Wells would advance to third on a fielder's choice and scored the Huskies second run of the game on Zimmerman's second double of the game, this time down the left field line and make it a 3-2 game.
The Huskies were unable to tie the game in the final frame and fell in the conference opener, 3-2.
Zimmerman finished with a game-high three hits in four at-bats with one RBI and two doubles. In his last two games at Les Miller Field, the junior is 6-for-8 (.750) with seven RBI, three doubles and two home runs with two more contests remaining at UIC this weekend.
Despite the adverse facility situation, Mathey said "UIC has been great allowing us to play here this weekend and get our games in. Coach Stricklin and I are cut from the same cloth, meaning we want to play the games as long as the weather is not unreasonable. We want the kids to settle it on the field and I was happy he agreed to allow us to play in the conditions we were under."
The Huskies and the Golden Flashes will return to action tomorrow evening at Les Miller Field, scheduled to start at 6 p.m. or 45 minutes after the conclusion of UIC's doubleheader with Milwaukee.