NIU Blanked by Miami (Ohio) in Series Opener, 8-0
April 8, 2011
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois has been held scoreless only two times this season. Unfortunately, both times have been in Mid-American Conference home series as the Huskies fell 8-0 to Miami (Ohio) Friday afternoon at Ralph McKinzie Field.
The first shutout came on March 26 at against Bowling Green, when the Huskies (11-16, 4-3 MAC), oddly enough, lost 8-0 in game two of the series. NIU opened its three-game tilt with the RedHawks (16-14, 5-2 MAC) by suffering a very similar fate. The MAC's fifth toughest arm to score on (2.03 ERA), Mac Thoreson continued to baffle the league's hitters. In eight innings, the right-hander gave up five hits and two walks with four strikeouts to improve to 3-2 on the year, proving too much to handle for the Huskies to earn their 12th win in their last 17 games.
Helping Thoreson's cause were three first-inning runs off NIU ace Zach Oates, who took the loss after allowing seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits and two walks and tied a career high with eight strikeouts.
"We didn't hit the ball and put any pressure on their team at all offensively," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "Zach gave up a leadoff walk and they stole some bases to get those three first inning runs. We had some opportunities but we just got under the ball too much or hit it at their second baseman, who seemed to make every play."
Despite being a mark of consistency, Oates is only 2-5 in 2011. The tall righty has gone at least six innings and tallied four strikeouts in all seven starts this season, compiling a 4.40 ERA. However, he's given up 28 runs and only received 23 runs of support from the offense.
The immediate runs Miami put on the Huskies in the first inning allowed Thoreson to settle in and put pressure on the NIU offense. Two prime opportunities to crawl right back into the game in the third and fourth innings went awry and the Huskies struggled to threaten after.
The first chance came in the third with two outs and runners on second and third with Alex Jones at the plate. A lengthy at-bat by Jones ended in a groundout to second.
After the RedHawks increased their lead to 4-0 with a run in the fourth, NIU had a first-and-third situation with one out after back-to-back singles by Troy White and Jeff Zimmerman. Following a swinging strikeout by Jordan Rishavy and a walk by Brett Frantini, Tom Kotis went down looking to end the Huskies' best scoring chance of the game.
"We did not seem to use the field as well as [Miami] did today," Mathey said. "Once Zach settled down, he did well. They did what they needed to do early with him, though. The leadoff walk didn't help. They moved the ball around and did some things to force some action. We just weren't able to do those types of things today."
Going 3-for-4 on the day, Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to an NIU season-best eight games with three singles.
The Huskies and RedHawks continue the series at 1:05 p.m. CT tomorrow and Sunday. The scheduled pitching matchups showcase NIU LHP Tom Barry (2-1 | 4.15 ERA) versus MU Tyler Melling (5-0 | 2.85 ERA) on Saturday and NIU RHP Jeremy Gonzales (3-4 | 5.26 ERA) against MU's unannounced starter on Sunday.
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