May 2, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - For the second consecutive start, Northern Illinois hurler Tom Barry was magnificent as he pitched the Huskies to a 3-2 victory Sunday in the series deciding finale of a three-game Mid-American Conference set against Central Michigan, who entered the weekend as the West Division's first place team.
The hits were landing all over Ralph McKinzie Field all afternoon on both sides as the teams combined for 22 hits. However, only five runs were scored. Barry took on the bulk of the hits, surrendering nine, but did not let it faze him at all. In what may have been the most important frame of the game for the lefty, he loaded the bases in the second on three straight singles with no outs. But he induced a soft liner to second, grounder to third for a force at home, and grounder to short to escape.
In the third, a walk and hit-by-pitch had CMU (24-18, 12-6 MAC) in scoring position with two outs, but Barry kept his composure to get a pop-up to second.
A leadoff double and one-out single had Barry in trouble again in the fifth. This time, he got another pop-up to second and grounder to short to keep the Chippewas from scoring.
An inning later, the sophomore surrendered a one-out infield single and erased it on a pick-off move to first for a 1-3-6 putout at second base. After back-to-back singles, Barry got out of the jam on a liner to center.
Barry then had his easiest inning in his last frame, completing a one-two-three seventh, for a final line of one unearned run on nine scattered hits and three walks with two strikeouts. The win moved his record above .500 to 4-3 on the season.
"Tom did an outstanding job today," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "He scattered those hits and made some good pitches when he absolutely had to. That second inning was absolutely huge. Tom is keeping his composure. When he's pitching down in the zone and changing speeds, he's pretty tough. He struggled a bit today with leaving some pitches up in the zone, but overall, he had a great performance out there today."
Barry was given an early 1-0 lead to work with in the bottom of the first. Joe Buonavolanto singled to short with one out and Reynolds followed with a single in the same location, beating an infield shift to the right. Jordin Hood then drove Buonavolanto in with an opposite field single to right.
"When you're at home, you always want to have the lead," Mathey said. "It was a pretty good MAC contest today. Both teams came out with the desire to win and got some hits. The pitchers did a nice job. It was one of those games where as a coach you're never feeling easy in the dugout. There are just so many things that can happen in baseball that open the flood gates and it didn't happen today. We kept them down and it was a fun game. We did a great job today."
The unearned tally that Barry gave up came in the fourth. With one out, Jordan Dean reached on a line drive to center that Jamison Wells caught on the run to his right, but the ball flipped out of his glove as he brought his left arm down. The ball rolled far enough away from Wells for Dean to reach second. After a walk and liner to center, Billy Anderson delivered a two-out single through the right side to score Dean.
NIU (18-25, 8-10 MAC) reclaimed the lead in the fifth, chasing starter Jake Sabol from the game. Alex Jones started it by reaching on a fielding error by short stop Robbie Harman and moved to second an out later on a wild pitch with Dave Reynolds at the plate. Reynolds then came through with a single through the right side to score Jones. The two-out run forced Sabol (4-5) out of the game as he took the loss, giving up two runs, one earned, on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
Birthday boy Buonavolanto added an important run to the Huskies lead as reliever Trent Howard delivered a gift of a pitch on his first offering of the seventh. The senior was all over it and smashed it over the left field fence to give the Huskies a 3-1 advantage on his first home run of the season.
"Anytime you're in the lead, you want to keep spreading it," said Mathey. "Whether it's a lot of singles in a row or a home run, you want to keep adding to it. Joe got a pitch that he liked, and he's been swinging the bat pretty well as of late, it was good to see that ball go over the fence.
"That run proved to be big because that ninth inning was interesting."
From there, it was up to the bullpen to make up for yesterday's loss. Despite giving up a run in the ninth, Zach Oates and Andy Deain closed the door to seal the second conference series win for NIU. Oates started in the eighth and worked around a one-out double. He then allowed a leadoff double in the ninth that scored an out later on a James Teas single up the middle. At that point, Deain entered the game and got a fielder's choice force out at second. The senior closer ended the game by getting Dean on a nasty full count slurve that caused an ugly check swing for a strikeout, giving Deain his ninth save.
"Both of those guys bounced back from yesterday," Mathey said. "They are both veteran guys and took it as a personal challenge to come out today and get the job done. They both felt like they let their teammates down yesterday. They came out today and did their jobs. It was great to see."
The middle of the NIU batting order led the way for the second game in a row. Buonavolanto, Reynolds and Hood each had two hits, an RBI and walk, while Buonavolanto also scored two runs.
"We have a home favorable schedule this year and we need to defend our turf," Mathey said. "This was a big series win for us, especially with it being against a team in our division. Central was a first place team before this weekend. Anytime you can take two of three from a team ahead of you in the standings that's a good thing. Hopefully, we continue to do that and look back at today and be really happy with our efforts and approach."
With final exams next week, the Huskies will have just their third week of the season without a midweek game as they will host Eastern Michigan next weekend at "The Ralph" to conclude their seven-game home stand. Games are slated for 3:05 p.m. CST Friday, 1:05 p.m. Saturday, and 1:05 p.m. Sunday.