April 1, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. - After a pair of postponed games, the NIU baseball team finally got back on the field and wiped away the bad taste of their last game, an 8-0 loss to Bowling Green, by taking down UW-Milwaukee 5-3 on Wednesday evening at Ralph McKinzie Field.
"It was important for us to play, first of all," NIU head coach Ed Mathey said. "The kids have worked hard all year to play and when you get weather like we had the last few days there's not much you can do about it. The last game we've been sitting on is the 8-0 clunker. So for us it was good to get back out on the field and back into the routine of getting ready. I think that will help us when we go face Kent State this weekend because we didn't want go there after having nearly a week off. Hopefully it gives us a little shot of confidence for Kent State because it's going to be a difficult, challenging matchup for us. Our kids like the opportunity to go there and win some baseball games."
The Panthers (5-16) loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning, but came up empty as NIU freshman starter Tom Barry (Orland Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) regrouped to strikeout Shaun Wegner swinging, and then induced Ben Long into an inning-ending double play as Barry fielding a soft grounder and throwing to senior catcher Matt Behren (Elmwood Park, Ill./Holy Cross), who stepped on home and relayed the ball to junior first baseman Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg).
"In the top of that inning Tom Barry started out with back-to-back singles and a walk, which is not the way you're looking to start, but he kept his composure to get the strikeout and double play to end the inning," said Mathey.
The Huskies (11-14, 4-1 Mid-American Conference) then pushed across the first run of the game in the bottom half of the frame, but ran out of a prime scoring situation. Freshman Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) led off with a walk and then junior Joe Buonavolanto (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Junior Jordin Hood followed with a walk, and then Reynolds delivered an RBI double to left. However, the relay home got away from the catcher, causing Hood to break for home. He then realized he couldn't make it and tried to go back to third, but catcher Wegner's throw was in time. Senior Justin Behm (Downers Grove, Ill./North) then struck out looking to end the inning.
"We needed every one of those runs today," said Mathey. "It was just one of those games where nothing was easy. We shot ourselves in the foot in that first inning even though we did get a run. We ran ourselves into an out with one of our top RBI guys coming to the batter's box. That's a tough way to go."
NIU almost escaped another Panther threat in the second inning, but gave away a run to tie the game, 1-1. With one out and runners on first and third, Tim Patzman stole second with the throw trickling away. Buchholz then tried to make it home, but was thrown out by Buonavolanto on a heads up play. On the next play, Cole Kraft singled with two outs as freshman Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) made a nice diving stop, but his throw was offline, allowing Patzman to score from second. After Andy Gerhartz walked, Barry struck out Doug Dekoning to end it.
"In the second inning, there was a throwing error and then later White had a great diving play, unfortunately the ball hopped up on Dave Reynolds, which you don't see too often," Mathey said. "If it is around his glove, he usually gets it, but that one took a high hop. I have no problem with that particular play because Troy was being aggressive."
However, the Huskies answered back with two runs in the second inning to take a 3-1 lead that they wouldn't surrender. A Behren single, freshman Jake Hermsen (New London, Wis./New London) walk and a senior Pat Minogue (Crystal Lake, Ill.Central) single, the Huskies had the bases loaded for Jones, who ripped the first pitch to right field for an RBI single. Buonavolanto followed with a fielder's choice ground out to short that ended up being an inning-ending double play, but not before Hermsen crossed the plate. Kraft fielded the ball and got the force out at second. Then Minogue got caught between second and third, eventually being tagged out at third after Hermsen had already scored.
"Fortunately, we came out and got momentum back, which we talk about a lot, in the next inning by scoring two runs," said Mathey. "Then Tom Barry had his best inning of the day in the next inning. It was great to keep momentum on our side because as the game went on there were a couple dicey moments."
Both teams picked up a run in the fifth as Gerhartz led off with a single and with one out stole third with Behren's errant throw allowing him to score. NIU got its run on a lead-off homer down the left field line by Jones.
After freshman Kyle Glancy (Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest) struck out the side in the sixth, the Panthers added another run in the seventh off freshman pitcher Chris Wakefield (Canton, Ga./Cherokee) on a lead-off homerun to left-center by Patzman.
After Reynolds handled the eighth on the mound, the Huskies pushed another run across after loading the bases with one out. The RBI hit came off Behren's bat as he hit a slow rolling grounder down the first base line that died right on the chalk about 10 feet away from the plate, but pitcher Tim Hoy let it go thinking it was foul.
Sophomore Tom Zelasko (Lansing, Ill./Mt. Carmel) then shut the door in the ninth with a three up, three down inning with one strikeout to earn his third save of the year.
Barry (2-0) was credited with his second win of the year, and in a row, as he went five innings, giving up an earned run on seven hits and three walks, while tying a season-high three strikeouts. Panther starter Nate Caldwell (0-3) took the loss after lasting only 1.1 innings and allowing three earned runs on two hits and three walks with one strikeout.
"Tom is developing as a pitcher at the college level, and that's a good thing," Mathey said. "It's nice because he's been working hard. Coach Ray Napientek has put together a plan for him and Tom is working hard to execute it. He's starting to work hard to develop his change-up as a very positive pitch for him, which is very nice to see. He went through some tests out there today. He threw a lot of pitches in his five innings work. I was very happy to see him get the win though because he pitched well enough to get it.
"I thought Kyle Glancy threw the ball exceptionally well. Chris Wakefield battled out there. Dave Reynolds needed to get an inning of work, and I though Tom Zelasko did a great job in the ninth. I was very happy with our pitching today."
Jones led the NIU offense with a 2-for-3 performance with two runs and two RBI along with a walk. Behren also added a pair of hits, while scoring and driving in a run. Hood had a hit and a run scored, while Reynolds had a hit and an RBI.
"Alex has been playing good baseball for us as of late," said Mathey. "What he did today is kind of how he has been going all year. He's an impressive hitter and has hit a couple balls on the button for us, while playing good defense as well. The one ball he hit, he got enough of it to get out of there. He hit that ball pretty well and it's good to see him hitting the ball the other way. We are happy that Alex is playing well and we hope he continues to do so."
Patzman led the Panthers with two hits, one being a solo homer, and two runs. Gerhartz added two hits and a run, while Buchholz and Kraft had two hits apiece.
The Huskies face Kent State (16-6, 4-1 MAC) this weekend in conference action at Kent, Ohio in a three-game series that starts on Friday at 3 p.m. CT at Olga Mural Field. The teams then play at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Live stats will be available on www.kentstatesports.com.
- Dave Reynolds extended his hitting streak to a career-high 20 games, becoming the second Huskie to ever reach the 20-game plateau. Mike Birsa has the record with a 27-game streak in the 1992-93 seasons.
- The Huskies have scored in the first inning 11 times this season, outscoring opponents 26-15.
- NIU is now 93-87-1 all-time against Horizon League opponents.
- The Huskies are now 80-43-1 at home since 2003.
- NIU has won five of its last six games versus UW-Milwaukee, and has won seven of their last nine overall.