May 8, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - Brett Frantini delivered the go-ahead hit in the eighth inning to take starter Jeremy Gonzales off the hook as Northern Illinois defeated Eastern Michigan 3-2 Saturday at Ralph McKinzie Field in the second of a three-game Mid-American Conference series.
On a balmy afternoon with 19 MPH winds blowing out to left field, three home runs were hit with help from the gusts, but a bouncing ball in the infield was the difference maker. With the Huskies trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning, Joe Etcheverry drew a one-out walk from Steve Weber, who entered the game to start the inning, and was replaced by pinch-runner Tom Kotis. Two wild pitches later, Kotis stood at third and Alex Beckmann drew another walk and moved to second on Weber's third wild pitch of the frame. Frantini then came through with the clutch hit that NIU (19-26, 9-11 MAC) did not get in yesterday's loss. With the EMU (23-24, 12-8 MAC) infield in, the sophomore smashed the pitch into the ground, resulting in a high chopper that bounced over third baseman Brent Ohrman's head to score Kotis and Beckmann.
"Their pitcher is a split-finger guy so he's going to have a lot of action down in the zone," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "We told our runners to be aware of that and they read it really well. Joe Etcheverry did a real nice job getting on base with the walk. He has a very good eye up there and knows the strike zone well. Tom Kotis hasn't seen a lot of action this year but he came in and did a nice job on the bases, reading the balls in the dirt well. Alex Beckmann did the same thing.
"It forced them to bring their infield in, which was big because that ball Brett hit could have been a double play ball with the infield back. Brett did a nice job, as he has done all weekend, staying back and driving the ball. That was a big hit for us."
The two-run eighth turned Gonzales' fortune right around, putting him in line for the win, as opposed to the loss, after he left the game with a 2-1 disadvantage, surrendering just two runs on seven hits and pitching around six walks with six strikeouts. Both runs the righty gave up were solo home runs to center field. The first was off the bat of Wally Gerbus to start the third and the second came from Zack Leonard in the fifth. Despite the long-balls, Gonzales pitched himself out of trouble all day. The first batter of an inning for EMU reached four times on walks and twice on hits but Gonzales only allowed one of those batters to score, and it was the result of Gerbus' round-tripper. The junior used two pick-off moves, his six strikeouts, and the defense behind him to avoid any big EMU scoring innings in getting the win to even his record to 3-3.
"Jeremy wasn't on his A-game but he competed out there," Mathey said. "That's what he does and he gave us an opportunity to win the game. He helped himself out when he needed to, not only with some big pitches when he needed them, but with those pick-offs that he had. That's what good pitchers should do. They should be able to field their spot, control the running game, and help themselves out. He absolutely did that today and I'm proud of his effort. It was huge. He followed up Chuck's effort well. We've had two great pitching performances out here this weekend.
"Andy Deain then came out and had some good action on his pitches. He did a good job closing it out."
Closer Andy Deain finished the game by throwing a perfect ninth with a strikeout to record his 10th save of the season.
Weber (2-3) was given the loss after recording one out, allowing two runs on one hit and two walks.
While Frantini drove in two runs on his only hit of the day, Beckmann scored two runs and hit his first career home run to lead off the second inning. Both sophomores also drew a walk each. Additionally for the NIU offense, Jamison Wells produced his second straight two-hit game with a single and double, and added a steal.
"The bottom of the line-up has been producing all weekend and we need help from the top and middle to take the series tomorrow," said Mathey.
The teams will complete the set tomorrow with the rubber match at 1:05 p.m. CST.