March 27, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois baseball team scored an efficient six runs on six hits to defeat Bowling Green (9-12, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) 6-4 on a cold Friday evening at Ralph McKinzie Field, improving to 10-13 and 4-0 in the MAC, which is the Huskies' best start ever in the league.
"It's always great to get the Friday game, especially with this weekend's weather," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey on the Huskies getting their sixth win in their last seven games . "We don't know what is going to happen with the weather the rest of the weekend so getting this game was big for us. Bowling Green is a good club and did well last year. I know this isn't last year, but they have some pretty dangerous players. To scratch across the runs that we did, we were pretty opportunistic."
The Falcons took an early 3-0 lead with a three-run third inning as Jon Berti started it off with a triple to right-center field. Then with two outs, Ryan Shay singled through the right side to score Berti and Clay Duncan followed with another single to right. Tyler Elkins capped the inning with a two-out two-run double to right-center.
The Huskies answered in the fourth inning by scoring four runs to take a 4-3 lead that they wouldn't give back. Junior Jordin Hood (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) led off the frame with a double down the left field line and then junior Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) walked. After senior Justin Behm (Downers Grove, Ill./North) executed a perfect sacrifice bunt and senior Matt Behren (Elmwood Park, Ill./Holy Cross) popped out to shallow center, freshman Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) reached on an RBI infield single to shortstop. Sophomore Joe Etcheverry (Bakersfield, Calif./Centennial) followed with a walk to load the bases for freshman Alex Beckmann (Batavia, Ill./Batavia), who also walked to score a run. Freshman Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) then delivered the go-ahead two-out two-run single through the right side.
"We always talk about answering back and it was great," Mathey said. "Chuck Lukanen did a nice job of putting up zeroes to give us a chance to do it. Our kids have been opportunistic all year and have been working hard. That's something that I hope that we continue to do."
In the eighth with one out, Bowling Green got a double to left-center from Dennis Vaughn, which ended junior Chuck Lukanen's (Lombard, Ill./North Iowa Area C.C.) day. Sophomore Zach Oates (Wheaton, Ill./North) came in and struck out Logan Meisler looking and then sophomore Tom Zelasko (Lansing, Ill./Mt. Carmel) came in to get Brian Hangbers looking as well to end the threat.
"I thought Chuck Lukanen went out and threw the ball well for us," Mathey said. "He was ready to go more, but I just liked the matchup with Zach Oates better. Obviously, it was a righty on righty situation and Zach definitely has a contrasting pitching style to Chuck's. It takes a little bit to get used to. Zach did a nice job and made the pitches he had to make.
"Tom Zelasko came back and did a nice job getting the lefty out. It was big to get out of that inning."
NIU added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth that proved to be important. Reynolds started off with a single to right and them Behm singled to left as Berti lost the ball in the sun. Behren then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but catcher Elkins' throw to first sailed high, allowing Reynolds to score and Behm to get to third as Behren moved to second. After White fouled out to first base, Etcheverry was intentionally walked to set up an RBI sacrifice fly to left by Beckmann.
"Those extra runs we got on the error on the bunt throw proved to be huge," said Mathey.
In the ninth, Berti led off with an infield single to shortstop and then Mark Galvin walked to put the tying run at the plate. Zelasko then got T.J. Blanton to foul out to Behm in right field as Behm made a diving catch just on the foul side of the line to get a huge first out. Shay followed with a single to left that scored Berti to put the go-ahead run at the plate. However, the Huskies happened to be in front of two hard hit balls to end the game as Derek Spencer lined out to third and Elkins grounded out sharply to first.
"Unfortunately, they came out strong in the ninth and then Tom lost his composure there for a bit with the walk," Mathey said. "But he settled the ship, got an at-him ball or two there and got out of it with the first out coming on a nice catch by Justin Behm. Justin made a great play on that ball. I asked the umpire if it was fair and foul and he said it was close, but he thought it was foul. It always great to get the first out of the ninth inning with the lead because you are a double play away from getting out of a jam. I hope Tom buys Justin a soda or a burrito for his effort out there."
Lukanen (3-3) earned the win by going a season-best 7.1 innings, giving up three earned runs on 10 hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Zelasko netted his second save of the year by finishing the final 1.1 innings, surrendering an earned run on two hits and a walk with a strikeout. Falcon starter Brennan Smith (3-3) was tagged with the loss after allowing four earned runs on four hits and five walks with five strikeouts in five innings.
Jones led the NIU offense with a hit and two RBI as Beckmann also drove in a pair. Reynolds tallied a hit and score two runs, while Hood and Behm had a hit and run scored apiece. Behren and Etcheverry, who drew a career-high three walks, also tallied a hit each.
Shay led the Falcon offense with a 4-for-4 performance, a run scored and two RBI. Elkins also drove in a pair and had a hit. Additionally, Berti had three hits and scored two runs.
The teams play again at 12 p.m. CT tomorrow and 1 p.m. Sunday. NIU righty Nick Badgley (2-1, 4.37, 22.2 IP, 10 BB, 10 SO) takes on BGSU lefty Matt Malewitz (1-1, 3.90, 27.2 IP, 11 BB, 15 SO) tomorrow, and on Sunday Huskie lefty Dave Reynolds (0-1, 6.27, 18.2 IP, 5 BB, 13 SO) matches up with lefty Brian Hangbers (0-1, 3.24, 8.1 IP, 2 BB, 5 SO). Both games can be followed via GameTracker on www.niuhuskies.com.
- Jordin Hood extended his career-long hitting streak to 18 games.
- Alex Jones has a nine-game hitting streak.
- Dave Reynolds has a career-best 18-hitting game streak.
- Huskies are 79-42-1 at home since 2003 and 50-34 in MAC play at Ralph McKinzie Field.