Huskies Cool Flames, Defeat UIC 9-7

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May 4, 2011

Final Stats

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Northern Illinois 9, Illinois Chicago 7
Les Miller Field | Chicago, Ill.
 
1 2 3
4
5
6
7
8
9
R
H
E
NIU
0
3
2
3
0
1
0
0
0
9
10
3
UIC 1
0
0
0
1
3
0
1
1
7
14
1

W: Gonzales (5-5)  L: Weyer (2-1)  S: Klonowski (1)
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Attendance: 113
 Player of the Game

Troy White
2-for-4 (.500)
3 RBI
2 R
1 BB
 

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CHICAGO - After struggling over his past four outings, Northern Illinois starter Jeremy Gonzales got back on track to earn an abbreviated win as the Huskies took down Illinois Chicago 9-7 with a steady stream of runs in the early going on Wednesday night at Les Miller Field.

Prior to his struggles, Gonzales had just earned Pro-Line Athletic National Pitcher of the Week on April 12th. The right-hander had won three straight starts, compiling a 26-inning scoreless streak.

Then, like a switch had been flipped, the Californian failed to get past the fourth inning in any of his next four starts, allowing 27 runs during the stretch.

In an effort to get one of his important arms going well again for the conference stretch run, NIU (22-21) head coach Ed Mathey decided to put Gonzales on the bump in a less-stressful midweek game, and the strategy seems to have paid off. On a limited pitch count, the senior responded by throwing three innings and allowing the Flames (22-19) just one run on five hits and three walks with one strikeout to earn his career-high fifth win (5-5).

"The plan, and hopefully it's moving in the right direction, was to get Jeremy back on the mound after Sunday's outing," said Mathey. "This was our last opportunity to get him out there before the weekend. We are going to need four or five solid starters to get through the MAC tournament. He got into a little trouble but worked out of it. Hopefully he gained some confidence. I think it was a good thing for him tonight."

The lone run came in the first inning as a leadoff single came around to score after back-to-back one-out singles by Matt Serna and Joe Betcher. Following the first frame, though, Gonzales let only one runner reach second base the rest of the way and the NIU offense took over.

After Joe Etcheverry, Troy White and Jeff Zimmerman all reached base to start the second inning, Brian Riegler drew an RBI walk and Marvin Sanchez took an RBI hit-by-pitch, his second in as many plate appearances over the last two days. Then Jamison Wells picked up a fielder's choice RBI on a grounder to shortstop.

With a 3-1 lead, NIU extended the advantage with two runs in the third and three more in the fourth. Three of the runs came off the bat of White as he had an RBI fielder's choice in the third and two-run single in the fourth.

"The first five or six innings, we swung the bats well," Mathey said. "We were hitting to the opposite field, working counts, getting two-strike hits and drawing walks. We did all those things that help us. We wound up needing every one of those runs, and I'm not happy with how we finished the game offensively, but I was real happy with the approach we started out with."

The 8-1 advantage was just enough to hold off a late rally by UIC as Alex Klonowski picked up his first career save. The freshman entered in the eighth with a 9-6 lead, two runners on and two outs. Despite a wild pitch that moved the runners up 90 feet, Klonowski recovered to strike out Joe Betcher swinging to end the threat. The Missouri native then worked in and out of a jam in the ninth, loading the bases and giving up a run before striking out Ryan Shober swinging with the tying run on second base to end the game.

"The eighth inning was huge," Mathey said. "We didn't start it out well and it was getting a bit out of hand. Alex came in with two outs and needed to make a big pitch. He did that and did the same thing to the first batter of the ninth. UIC battled, they are a tested team. They made a good run at the end. I was happy with how Alex adjusted after [pitching coach] Ray [Napientek] went out to talk to him. The kid has a lot of guts, that's for sure."

Klonowski's work helped the Huskies move to 2-0 on the week and 7-2 in midweek games during the Mid-American Conference schedule. The perfect week thus far is exactly what NIU was looking for after being swept at Central Michigan last weekend in a three-game set that took the Huskies out of first place in the MAC West.

"The guys are feeling a little better about themselves," said Mathey. "We have a big weekend ahead of us. To go there on a good note can't hurt you."

On deck for NIU is a trip to Ypsilanti, Mich., to face MAC West first place Eastern Michigan in an important three-game series. Standing in second place in the West, the Huskies face the Eagles on Friday at 5 p.m. CT., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m.

-NIU-