NIU Comes Back for Walk-Off Win Over Valparaiso, 7-6

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May 3, 2011

Final Stats

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Northern Illinois 7, Valparaiso 6
Ralph McKinzie Field | DeKalb, Ill.
 
1 2 3
4
5
6
7
8
9
R
H
E
VU
0
3
0 2
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6
9
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NIU 1
0
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0
1
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1
3
7
11
2

W: B. Etcheverry (3-1)  L: Wild (1-1)
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Attendance: 138
 Player of the Game

Jeff Zimmerman
2-for-5 (.400)
2 RBI
1 2B

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· Head Coach Ed Mathey

 

DeKALB, Ill. - Down three runs entering the eighth, Northern Illinois rallied back for a walk-off, 7-6 win over Valparaiso on Tuesday afternoon at Ralph McKinzie Field.

The comeback started after Jeff Zimmerman doubled off the centerfield wall to score Troy White, who drew a two-out walk from reliever Kevin Wild. The run moved the score to 6-4 and put momentum on the Huskies' side.

Following Ben Etcheverry's scoreless ninth inning, the Huskie bats went to work as Joe Battaglia led off with a single. After a Jake Hermsen walk, Jamison Wells singled to load the bases with no outs for Alex Beckmann, who fouled out to third.

With the tying run 180 feet away, Marvin Sanchez took one for the team to force in a run and put the go-ahead run where the tying run had just stood. Then, Wild balked in the tying run with Joe Etcheverry at the plate, as his right hand rubbed his right thigh as he drew his arm back to deliver the pitch and caused the ball to pop out of his hand, rolling toward the first base dugout.

The play left first base open and forced Valparaiso (20-24) to intentionally walk Etcheverry to reload the bases. The strategy looked as if would pay off after Troy White looked at a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner.

But Zimmerman flipped a 1-2 pitch down the left field line for the game-winning RBI single, sending the Huskies and their faithful into a frenzy of excitement.

"The finish was great for us," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "It was good for our kids to see and know that they can [come back like this]. We just kept that ninth inning going and I felt we had a good chance. The balk was something that I have very rarely seen. The guy hit the ball on his leg on his arm swing. It was fortunate for us, and we'll take that. Then, Jeff Zimmerman picked up his teammate and got the big base hit.

"I certainly hope that Jeff swings the bat the rest of the way like he did in his last two appearances, as opposed to his first two. That would be a big boost for us."

Up 1-0 after Alex Jones' RBI triple in the first inning, the Huskies (21-21) saw the lead quickly disappear as Michael Morman blasted a three-run homer over the left field fence in the second inning.

NIU got a run back on a two-out, third-inning RBI single by White, but the Crusaders once again answered with more runs. This time, a Will Hagel leadoff walk turned into a run after Robbie Robinson's sacrifice bunt attempt was fielded by pitcher Anthony Andres but not caught cleanly by Zimmerman at first, allowing Hagel to score. The error on the eventual hero would be redeemed but cost the Huskies an important run at the time and extended the inning.

Four batters later, Andrew Bain put Valparaiso up 5-2 with a two-out RBI single up the middle.

Then the teams exchanged scores with help from an error on each side. In the fifth, Jones reached on an error at second base and scored on a Joe Etcheverry double. In the seventh, Chris Manning led off with a triple and scored on another error by Zimmerman before the freshman got his redemption.

The Tinley Park, Ill., native's big knock gave Ben Etcheverry (3-1) his third career win and handed Wild (1-1) his first loss of the season. The hit also took Alex Klonowski off the hook in his first collegiate start that saw him allow three runs in three innings on three hits. Thankfully for the rookie, the bullpen combination of Zach Badgley, Tom Zelasko, Trey Lang and Etcheverry teamed up to allow just one run on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts over the final 4.2 frames.

"We had some chances to do some damage today, and unfortunately, we just couldn't take advantage," Mathey said. "We continue to struggle with some zone discipline. Hitting is hard enough, so we have to continue to work on that."

"I thought most of our pitchers did a nice job. We had some guys work out of tough situations -- Trey Lang and Ben Etcheverry. Those two came in during some tough spots and got the job done."

Improving to 6-2 in midweek games during conference play might just have gotten the Huskies back on track after a tough 0-3 weekend at Central Michigan that saw NIU fall out of first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.

"We had our day to think about Central Michigan," said Mathey. "We weren't happy about that. Now we are focused on what's ahead of us because that's all we can control. Hopefully this can kind of jump start us and we carry some momentum into the weekend after our game tomorrow at UIC. Hopefully we'll be feeling good about ourselves for the weekend and get some wins."

The Huskies play again tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. CT as they travel to Chicago to face Illinois Chicago before their big three-game set at first place Eastern Michigan this weekend.

-NIU-

 

 

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