Putout at Home Plate Secures NIU Win at Kent State, 6-5

GO HUSKIES Eli Anderson had his second 10-punch out night of the season at KSU with 11. (Photo courtesy of Kent State Athletics)
GO HUSKIES
Eli Anderson had his second 10-punch out night of the season at KSU with 11. (Photo courtesy of Kent State Athletics)
GO HUSKIES

May 3, 2014

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KENT, Ohio - An RBI single by Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Missouri/Kearney) gave the NIU Huskies (15-31-1, 9-11 MAC) a 6-5 lead entering the bottom of the ninth, however, the Huskie defense sealed the victory as it made the last two outs at third and home to tie the series with Kent State (29-17, 13-7 MAC), 1-1.

Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Illinois/St. Laurence) finished the game 3-for-3 with a three-run home run, a solo inside the park home run, four RBI and an intentional walk, while Eli Anderson (Glenview, Illinois/New Trier) tossed his second complete game of the season with 11 strikeouts and one walk while scattering 10 hits.

Mallder’s inside the park rounder was Northern Illinois’ first since May 12, 2010 versus UW-Milwaukee at Miller Park by former Huskie Alex Jones (2009-12). He also became the first Huskie since Jeff Zimmerman (2011-13) on May 2, 2012 at UIC to homer twice in a game.

“(Eli) gutted it out tonight,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey. “I don’t think this was the way he designed his night to go, getting the last two outs the way we did, but I decided to stay with him. He’s had a lot of tough losses and I was happy to see him battle this way.

“The defense, at times, was a little spotty but it made a lot of big plays when it needed to. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen, with a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth, the last two outs of the game at third and then home,” continued Mathey.

“Kent State battled all night at the plate and never quit. Brandon had a big night and that home run to right field was a good piece of hitting. I think the thing that gets overlooked on that play was Tommy Hook hustling to second and forcing a fielding error at second base to set up that last home run,” closed Mathey”

The Golden Flashes forced NIU pitcher Anderson to labor on the mound in the bottom of the first inning, working the senior for 24 pitches to take a 1-0 lead on a ground out that scored Alex Miklos.

After Anderson caught second baseman Justin Wagler looking at a called strike three to end the inning, Huskie right fielder Mallder drove the first pitch of his at-bat in the second inning to left centerfield and wound up rounding the bases as the outfielders tripped up on the turf to tie the game on an inside the park home run, 1-1.

Kent State’s Sutton led the bottom of the inning with a hard ball to left centerfield for an easy double but rounded for third. Jason Gasser (Dyer, Indiana/Mt. Carmel) hit cutoff man Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Illinois/DeKalb), who made the throw to Tommy Hook (Lockport, Illinois/Lockport Township) at third to record the 8-6-5 out at third to release the steam from Kent State’s engine.

The Huskies took advantage of the momentum as Hook led the top of the third with a single and reached second safely on a fielding error to put Sisler at first. Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wisconsin/Madison Area TC) scored Hook on an RBI single to give the Huskies their first lead with runners on first and second, 2-1.

Mallder proved to be Kent State’s worst nightmare again as he homered to right field on a 2-0 pitch to give Northern Illinois a 5-1 lead.

After three innings of scoreless baseball, Kent State put four on the board in the bottom of the sixth to tie it up on three RBI singles, 5-5. Three of the four runs allowed by Anderson in the frame were unearned.

Northern Illinois retook the lead in the top of the ninth inning as Gasser led the frame with a single down the left field line and quickly stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch with Hook going for a sacrifice bunt. Through Hook recorded the second out of the inning, Klonowski drove in Gasser to break the tie, 6-5.

With Anderson entering the frame with 130 pitchers, the Huskies defense rallied behind their pitcher as it made two spectacular plays to end the game and secure the victory. With one out and a runner on second, Sisler extended and dove to his right to trap the ball with the runner going to third. Sisler snapped up and whipped a ball to Hook at third, who made the tag to record the second out.

With Sawyer Polen reaching first on the fielder’s choice, Curtis Olvey stepped to the plate and roped a ball up the middle and to the right centerfield gap. As Gasser chased the ball to the wall, Polen was half way to third and was being signaled home to tie the game. Gasser relayed the ball to Klonowski at the top of the mound, and after a double clutch in his glove, the second baseman rifled a high ball home to Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Illinois/Oak Forest), who jumped to make the catch and blocked Polen’s left hand with his left foot as he landed to apply the tag for the last out on an 8-4-2 putout.

NIU and KSU will close the series tomorrow afternoon at Schoonover Stadium with the winner deciding the series. First pitch is set for noon Central.