NIU Splits A Pair, Takes Finale For MAC-Opening Series Win
March 27, 2010
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - After losing Game Two of the series, 7-2, the Northern Illinois baseball team took the rubber match, 8-5, in 11 innings to claim a Mid-American Conference-opening series win over Bowling Green (7-11-1, 1-2 MAC), Saturday, at Warren E. Steller Field in a doubleheader on a sunny, mild afternoon.
"Our attack plan for Mid-American Conference weekends starts with protecting our home turf, then winning series," said NIU head baseball coach Ed Mathey, who has won each of his last three league openers. "We have five on the road, four at home in the MAC. Going on the road in this league is not easy. To get a win this weekend against the Bowling Green Falcons, who were the 2009 MAC regular season champs, is a solid accomplishment."
In the series clincher, the Huskies (7-15, 2-1 MAC) appeared to overcome a first-inning four-run deficit with a score in the fourth on Jake Hermsen's 6-4-3 bases-loaded double play, two in the fifth on a Jordin Hood double down the left field line and Dave Reynolds' single to right, and a two-run error off an Alex Beckmann one-hopper through the first baseman's legs in the eighth, but closer Andy Deain was unable to hold it in the ninth.
"Game Three started pretty ominously for us," Mathey said. "They swung the bats well on Jeremy and he added fuel to the fire with walks and an HBP, getting us down early. I give Jeremy a lot of credit for being efficient the rest of the way because he gave us a chance to get back in the game.
"Those runs in the middle innings got some momentum back, along with the help of Jeremy's pitching."
After two of the first three Falcon batters reached base in the ninth, Deain rolled up a tailor-made double play ball to second but Marvin Sanchez's throw was wide left , forcing Alex Jones to step off second to make the catch, allowing a run to score to knot the game, 5-5. Following a fly-out to left, Deain then took a sharp liner off his upper-left side, quickly regrouped, and underhanded a toss to first to escape.
"I thought we had a great chance to win it in the ninth but didn't get it done, unfortunately," said Mathey. "Deain did a good job to get us out, we missed that double play ball, and gave them momentum. I give Andy credit for hanging in there as long as he did."
NIU then won the game in the 11th after Troy White's one-out, two-run jam-shot single over the short stop on a drawn-in infield plated Tom Kotis, who pinch-ran after a Beckmann walk, and Hood, who singled up the middle past the Falcons' diving short stop. White moved to second on the throw home and later came around to score on a wild pitch that caused the catcher to throw wild to left field, trying to catch White at third.
"Beckmann did a great job getting on base in the 11th, we let Jordin hit, and Dave Reynolds made a great bunt," said Mathey. "Troy had a great approach and fought off an inside pitch for the hit. He then made some nice base running decisions and hustled to score an important run."
In the bottom half, Bowling Green loaded the bases with one out but failed to score as a weak liner to first turned into an unassisted double play for Dave Reynolds.
"Our kids showed a lot of resiliency, and I hope it's something that we continue to repeat," Mathey said. "I talked the kids after the game about how the conference season is a lot like a baseball game: We have nine weekends, and just because you did well in the first, doesn't mean you'll do well in the others."
Deain (1-0) gave himself the win after 3.2 innings of work, allowing the run on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts. Starter Jeremy Gonzales recovered from the tough four-run first frame to post shut-out ball over the next five, surrendering just four of his eight hits during that span, while he gave up his only two walks in the first and struck out a pair of Falcons. Kyle Glancy registered a harmless 1.1 innings, allowing three walks, before Hermsen made an amazing over-his-right-shoulder catch after tracking a hard-hit ball over his left shoulder to bail out Deain, who relieved Glancy in the eighth with one out.
Patrick O'Brien (1-2) took the loss after giving up three runs, two earned, on three hits and two walks in three frames. BGSU starter Kevin Leady surrendered five runs, three earned, on 12 hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
Hood led NIU with four hits, two runs and an RBI, while White extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games with three hits and a pair a runs and RBI. Additionally, Brett Frantini and Hermsen knocked two hits each.
In the former contest of the day, the Huskies took a 1-0 lead in the third after an error by the second baseman on a Reynolds batted-ball allowed Beckmann to score from second after reaching on another error at second base.
However, the Flacons rallied for three in the fifth and four in the eighth to even the series.
Michael Frank (1-1) earned the win, giving up two runs, one earned, on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts in six innings. Charles Wooten got credit for his second save by throwing three perfect innings with two strikeouts.
NIU starter Chuck Lukanen (1-5) was given the loss, despite a solid outing that Tom Zelasko could not hold in the eighth. After giving up only three runs in the first seven innings, Lukanen ended up with a line of six runs on nine hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 7.2 frames.
"In yesterday's game, we hung in there and won it late," Mathey said. "We got off to an OK start today, but gave away some runs on our inability to make a few bunt plays, but ultimately, we couldn't put a stop to it. Chuck did a good job getting late into the game but the bullpen didn't get it done. I thought there was a little momentum swing after that game. I talked to the guys and said we were still in position to win the series, and we did."
"Troy had a solid weekend for us," Mathey said. "His fifth-spot in the batting order is pretty important, with all the RBI opportunities he gets and hitting to contact that he needs to do. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that he's just a sophomore in the middle of his second season. Some of the plays he's made at third this season are some of the best I've ever seen from a college kid in my coaching years. If he continues to progress like this, he's going to be an outstanding all-around player."
With Sunday off, NIU will get some rest before traveling to Peoria, Ill., Wednesday, March 31st, for a 4 p.m. CDT first pitch against the Bradley Braves.
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