Eight-Run Ninth Dooms NIU in 13-11 Loss to Eastern Michigan

GO HUSKIES Buonavolanto tied the school mark for hits in a game, roping five singles.
Buonavolanto tied the school mark for hits in a game, roping five singles.

May 9, 2010

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DeKALB, Ill. - Up 7-0 after six innings, all was looking well for the Northern Illinois baseball team. Then Eastern Michigan rallied for four in the seventh, one in the eighth, and eight in the ninth to take down the Huskies 13-11 Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of a three-game Mid-American Conference series at Ralph McKinzie Field.

The EMU (24-24, 13-8 MAC) comeback started in the seventh off NIU (19-27, 9-12 MAC) starter Tom Barry, who put together his third straight solid start. The lefty blanked the Eagles through six innings and seemed to run out of gas in the seventh, unable to record the final out. EMU rallied for four runs, with help from a three-run home run by Andrew Marshall, before Zach Oates came in to end the frame.

An Aaron Crooks leadoff single in the eighth turned into a two-out run after Bo Kinder singled to right off Tom Zelasko, who had just entered the game, scoring Crooks to trim the Huskies lead to 8-5.

Andy Deain then came in with the three-run cushion in the ninth to close it out, but only recorded one out. Todd Graves led off with a double, Marshall walked, Brent Ohrman reached on a Jordin Hood fielding error at third, and the bases were quickly loaded with no outs. Deain struck out Ken Battiston and was just a double play ball away from escaping, but the next four batters reached base to give EMU five runs and a 10-8 lead. Kyle Glancy replaced Deain on the mound and three more hitters reached base for three more runs, giving the Eagles a 13-8 advantage by scoring eight runs in seven straight plate appearances, totaling four singles, two walks and one double.

"We just couldn't get anybody out," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "Andy was catching the center of nearly every bat but I give Eastern Michigan credit. They came here swinging the bats to win and they are a dangerous club offensively. That's something that we've known and we tried to convince our guys to keep scoring. At one point in time we were up 7-0 and they were wondering why we kept telling them to score more.

"It's a Sunday in the MAC, which is notorious for games like this. We just couldn't stop it. We tried putting everyone out there that we thought could get it done for us, but we weren't able to get it done. It's unfortunate because today we swung the bats well enough and our starting pitcher did a nice enough job for us to come away with a win."

The Huskies fought back in the ninth with two outs by scoring a run on a Dave Reynolds double and Hood two-run homer. Down 13-11, Joe Etcheverry walked and Alex Beckmann stepped to the plate as the tying run, but Taylor Dimmerling entered the game and struck him out looking for his second save of the season.

"We've gotten the tying run to the plate a couple of times this year," Mathey said. "I know we didn't get it done and win the game, but that's the first objective: get the tying run to the batter's box. We did that today, but again, an eight-run spot in the top of the ninth and a five-run deficit is hard to overcome with three outs. The kids battled back, got guys on, and gave ourselves a chance, but it just wasn't enough."

Tim Combs (1-1) claimed the win despite giving up three runs on four hits and one walk in two innings, while Deain (3-2) took the loss by surrendering seven runs, six earned, on four hits and two walks with one strikeout. Barry took a tough no-decision after allowing four runs on 10 hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 6.2 innings.

"Tom pitched well, very well today," said Mathey. "That seventh inning was the third or fourth time through the line-up and they seemed to get to him a bit. Eastern is a good offensive club and is capable of hitting home runs. They are swinging for them and popped one on him, and it was a three-run shot.

"We still had the lead and a great opportunity to win. We still had our bullpen rested and ready to come in and get through situations and match-ups. Unfortunately, we just didn't execute."

Joe Buonavolanto paced the offense by going a career-best 5-for-5 with four runs scored, three stolen bases, one walk and RBI. The senior's perfect day tied the school record for hits in a game, becoming the ninth in NIU history to collect five hits and joining teammate Alex Jones, who was the last to accomplish the feat.

"Joe swung the bat well today," Mathey said. "The middle of the line-up swung well today. We had a crucial mistake in the fourth with runners on first and second and no outs. Hood hit a head-high line drive at the third baseman and Joe was on second, off and running, and didn't see it through. He got caught in a double play and that's a momentum swing. We had an opportunity to score more. It's a tough situation because Jordin centered that ball, and it's not to overshadow Joe's day. He really swung well today and we hope he continues to do that."

Reynolds was also perfect at the plate, getting three hits in three at-bats with three RBI, one walk and run. Hood racked up four RBI, two hits and runs, and a stolen base in six at-bats with help from his ninth long-ball of the season. Wells went 2-for-5 with two stolen bases and a run and RBI, while Jones also added a pair of hits and scored two runs.

"This is a tough loss because Eastern is in our division and we are on our home field," Mathey said. "We had a chance to win the series and move up on them, as well as keep ourselves in the hunt. Now, we have to sit and see what everyone else did. Then we have to play this week, go out to Ball State, and we have to get after wins."

On deck for the Huskies is a five-game road trip that begins at Valparaiso Tuesday, May 11 with a 3 p.m. CST first pitch.




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