April 12, 2014
YPSILANTI, Mich. - Tied 3-3 after nine innings, the NIU Huskies (9-22-1, 5-6 MAC) came through with two runs in the top of the 10th at Eastern Michigan (11-21, 1-10 MAC) to earn its first extra innings victory and clinch the series, 5-3. Pitcher Ben Neumann (Verona, Wis./Verona Area) improved to 3-0 on the season, finishing the final 1.2 innings of the game. Freshman Carl Russell (Grayslake, Ill./Grayslake North) extended his hitting streak to 10-games.
Eli Anderson (Glenview, Ill./New Trier) tossed 8.1 innings and a career-high 128 pitches for the Huskies, striking out 10 batters and scattering nine hits with only two walks in the no decision. It was Anderson’s first double-digit strikeout performance since fanning 12 versus Western Michigan on April 12, 2013.
At the plate, Tommy Hook was 3-for-5 with a run while Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) and Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) each collected two hits while Fletcher knocked in a run.
Russell went 1-for-6 with an RBI to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, the third such performance by an NIU freshman since 2007, joining former Freshman All-Americans Jeff Zimmerman (2011-13) and Jordin Hood (2007-10).
“We rode Eli pretty hard down the stretch after a two tough innings to start the game when he allowed five hits,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey. “He made some adjustments out there that did a good job of limiting the damage. The win today was big because we clinched the series and we have a tough series upcoming with Central Michigan. We have to ride this momentum today and try and sweep the series tomorrow.”
Eastern Michigan took the early lead with two runs on a two-out rally on three-straight hits in the first inning, including a hit-and-run double by Lee Longo to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead that carried through three innings. EMU pitcher Jake Andrews started strong on the mound but the Huskies solved the riddle in the second time through the batting order.
NIU got on the board in the top of the fourth as as the leadoff hitter in the inning Klonowski singled through the left side to start the frame. After advancing to second on a groundout, Klonowski scored on a single by Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) to cut the lead in half, 2-1. Sisler would reach third base in the frame but was stranded 90 feet from home plate.
Freshmen Jason Gasser (Dyer, Ind./Mt. Carmel) and Russell would redeem the Huskies in the top of the fifth as Gasser led the inning with his first career triple to left field. The center fielder’s run would tie the game on the very next at-bat as Russell grounded out up the middle to tie the game, 2-2.
On the Northern Illinois mound after a tough first and second innings, Anderson was solid in his final 7.1 innings on the mound, only allowing four hits and one run in in the eighth with eight strikeouts and only two walks. Anderson also picked off a runner in the eighth inning to sweep the bases clean for the Huskies.
“That turned out to be big play for us. After a mound visit to talk about the situation with Eli, he made a great move to pickoff the runner and ease the pressure a little bit after they tied the game,” added Mathey.
Northern Illinois took its first lead of the game in the seventh as Russell and Hook singled, extending the freshman’s hitting streak to 10 games with one out in the frame. After Russell was thrown out attempting to steal third base, Fletcher singled to centerfield to score Hook from second base, 3-2.
The Eagles tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning on two singles and a sacrifice bunt to knot it up, 3-3. After each team went scoreless in the ninth and stranded one runner on base, NIU and EMU went to extra innings.
In their third extra innings contest of the season and the first since tying at New Mexico on Feb. 23 (3-3), NIU came through for its first extra innings victory of the season to equal its free baseball record 1-1-1.
The NIU reliever Neumann threw seven pitches to record the final two outs in the bottom of the ninth, striking out one in the inning. In the 10th, Neumann allowed one hit but forced a pop out and double play to end the game.
Northern Illinois loaded the bases in the top of the 10th inning as Klonowski singled to lead the frame and advanced to second on a sac bunt by Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence). After a Sisler walk and a single by Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic), Gasser walked to break the tie, 4-3. A wild pitch by Charlie Land scored Sisler and put the Huskies up, 5-3.
NIU will close the series with Eastern Michigan tomorrow afternoon with first pitch set for noon Central at Oestrike Field.