Huskies Hang on for 8-7 Win Over Toledo, Take First Place



April 24, 2011

Final Stats

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Northern Illinois 8, Toledo 7
Ralph McKinzie Field | DeKalb, Ill.
1 2 3
0 2
0 4

W: B. Etcheverry (2-0)  L: Tyson (2-3)
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Attendance: 173
 Player of the Game

Alex Beckmann
3-for-4 (.750)
3 R
1 3B

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DeKALB, Ill. - With help from a Ball State win over Central Michigan, Northern Illinois took over first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division after hanging on late for an 8-7 win over Toledo on Easter Sunday afternoon at Ralph McKinzie Field.

NIU, CMU and UT entered the day in a three-way tie for first place atop the division, but it was only the Huskies that remained when the day was done. However, it was not easy for NIU as the Huskies notched their fourth straight MAC series win for the first time since starting the 2007 campaign with four in a row.

The Huskies (19-18, 10-5 MAC) scored their first run on a walk by Joe Etcheverry with one out in the first inning and Alex Beckmann and Alex Jones on base after singles. The obscurity of the run was a precursor to how the game unfolded. What happened on the walk was both runners were running on a full count, and even though ball four was thrown to catcher Jim Vahalik, he threw to third. Joe Corfman was not ready for the throw, which was low any way, and it rolled into left field, allowing Beckmann to score.

Down 1-0, Toledo (20-19, 9-6 MAC) bounced back with a solo home run by Dan Sherwood in the second to tie the game.

Then the Huskies put up four runs in the third to take momentary command of the game. Jamison Wells led off with a double and scored on Beckmann's triple. Following a Jones sacrifice fly, Etcheverry walked and Troy White singled and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Jeff Zimmerman cashed in on the mistake by driving a two-run single up the middle to cap the scoring and give NIU a 5-1 lead.

However, the Rockets started to get aggressive early in the count against Gonzales, who was looking sharp once again as he was trying to bounce back from a rough start last Sunday at Ohio. The first four hitters of the fourth inning for UT took action on the first pitch and reached base, resulting in one run and eventually another on a sacrifice fly.

In the fifth, after just nine pitches, the Rockets had the bases loaded. Following a wild pitch that scored a run, Mark Lapikas singled home a run and Corfman drove in a run on a fielder's choice force at second. Just after it looked like Gonzales was back on track, he was out of the game after allowing six runs on nine hits and one walk with two strikeouts in four innings.

"They are a team that attacks first pitches when they get down," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "That fourth inning, they had four hitters see four pitches and all of them were successful. Gonzo was throwing the ball real well early in the game. He crept up in the zone after a while and Toledo was all over him."

Like the Huskies have done during their 19-8 stretch over their last 27 games, they never gave up. Even an unconventional 1-5-2-4 double play, which ruined a hopeful fifth inning, could not hold the Huskies back as NIU reclaimed the lead in the seventh with a pair of runs.

Beckmann took one for the team to start the seventh and Jones backed it up with a single through the right side that was mishandled by right fielder Jeff Cola. The error allowed Beckmann to score and Jones to move all the way to third. An out later, White's sacrifice fly put NIU on top 7-6.

Then the fateful eighth inning happened. After a one-out single by Sherwood, NIU went to close Kyle Glancy, hoping he'd be able to improve to 9-for-9 in save chances. In his first sequence, Glancy gave up a pinch-hit single to Jason Edwards, moving the tying run to third. Wes White followed with a grounder to third that Troy White, who extend his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 15 games, turned into an out at home, moving the tying run to second base with two outs. But then Chris Dudics shot a single up the middle to tie the game, giving Glancy his first blown save of the year.

However, that was not the worst part of the damage. Glancy's next two pitches were well high and outside, the first was wild and moved the runners up 90 feet. Shaking his right hand after the second, Mathey and trainer Rob Dyson met with the junior closer on the mound. After his hand was examined, Glancy tried to throw another pitch but the same results happened -- way high and away.

In came Ben Etcheverry to try to get out of a sticky situation. Already down 2-0 in the count, the sophomore walked Cola to load the bases for three-hitter Ben Hammer, who lined out softly to first base. The play completely switched the momentum as the Huskies excitedly ran to the dugout to get ready to hit.

Feeling the momentum, Jordan Rishavy led off the eighth with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Then Brett Frantini's well-placed sacrifice bunt attempt turned into a hit. With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, UT went to its stopper Matt Zahel, who entered the game with nine saves and a 1.47 ERA. Facing Jake Hermsen, Zahel unleashed his second wild pitch of the season and Rishavy scored the game-winning run before Zahel retired all three batters he faced.

In the ninth, Etcheverry (2-0) withstood a pair of two-out singles to hang on for his second straight win, finishing off a fantastic effort by the bullpen. Over the final five frames, Alex Klonowski, Tony Manville, Glancy and Etcheverry combined to hold the Rockets to one run on four hits and two walks with one strikeout.

"I have to give some props to Ben Etcheverry for stepping up in the back end of the bullpen," Mathey said. "Unfortunately, Kyle Glancy had something happen to his hand. He wasn't right and we needed to get him out of there. We lost our comfort zone with Kyle, the guy who has been back there and doing a great job. Ben stepped up, and it wasn't pretty, but he got it done."

In getting their first series win over Toledo since 2005, the Huskies also grabbed control of the tiebreaker between the two teams if the situation presents itself at the end of the regular season.

"This is a big day for a lot of reasons," said Mathey. "First, we won the series with the series on the line. Second, it's a series win against Toledo, who has been pretty good over the years and seems to have our numbers. Now, we are playing against our side of the division and we maintained first place for another week.

"Obviously, we defended our ground here at The Ralph. Our kids showed a lot of heart for fighting and scrapping. It wasn't the prettiest game but that's what happens sometimes when you have two teams that really want to win and get revved up to play. We did it in some unconventional ways but we'll take it."

Next up for NIU is a trip to Peoria, Ill., to face Bradley for the second time this season. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday, April 26, a day before the Huskies host UW-Milwaukee at Elfstrom Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals Low-A affiliate Kane County Cougars, in Geneva, Ill., at 6:05 p.m.




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