May 9, 2014
DeKALB - The NIU Huskies (15-33-1, 9-13 MAC) scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to send the series opener with Akron (24-23, 11-11 MAC) to extra innings tied, 4-4. However, the Zips would go on to score three runs in the top of the 13th to clinch the opener, 7-4.
The 13 innings were the Huskies most played since a 6-5 victory over Miami in the Mid-American Conference Tournament on May 25, 2007. Lasting 4 hours and 22 minutes, the contest was NIU’s longest of the season. The game ended just 38 minutes of sunset (8:02 p.m. Central).
Left fielder Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Illinois/St. Laurence) went 3-for-6 with a double while Alex Smith (Mahomet, Illinois/Parkland College) went 2-for-5 with two runs, a solo home run and an RBI. The Huskies used nine pitchers in the game with Andrew Frankenreider (Peoria, Illinois/Dunlap) throwing 4.0 innings, allowing only one hit with two strikeouts to start the NIU comeback.
“I don’t know why but we didn’t come out with a lot of energy today, we started out a little flat and we weren’t playing well. I thought this game had a chance to get away from us,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey. “But I thought Andrew did a great job of righting the ship for us but giving us a good performance and allowed us to stay in this game early. In this second half of the game, I thought we had the momentum and the opportunities to win this game. We scored a couple runs in the ninth but I thought we had enough to score a couple more runs, even in extra innings. We showed a lot of character and a lot of fight to get runners on and in scoring position we just didn’t get the hit we needed.”
Akron took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning as it amassed three hits off of starting pitcher Anthony Andres (Western Springs, Illinois/St. Rita) in the frame. UA continued to pressure Andres into the third inning but the Huskies were able to turn the tide with the appearance of Frankenreider on the mound after 2.2 innings from Andres.
The freshman hurler tied his career-high in innings pitched with 4.0 stanzas of work, facing 15 batters of a possible 12.
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Smith got the Huskies on the board with a a high and deep fly ball that carried over the left centerfield fence to put NIU within two, 3-1. Northern Illinois scored one more in the seventh as Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Illinois/St. Joseph) led the inning with walk. Pinch runner Carl Russell (Grayslake, Illinois/Grayslake North) entered for Battaglia and wound up scoring on a sacrifice fly by Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Illinois/Illinois Central) to cut the lead, 3-2.
Akron led the top of the ninth inning with a home run by Kris Simonton to give the Zips a 4-2 lead. The Huskies would tie the game in the bottom of the frame as it loaded the bases on a walk by Smith, a hit by pitch on Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Illinois/Oak Forest) and a single by Mallder. The first run would cross via a wild pitch and the next on an RBI hit by pitch by Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Missouri/Kearney).
NIU had runners on base in both the 10th and 11th innings, including runners on first and second in the 11th frame. A stale 12th inning for both teams, would open the door to the 13th, in which the Zips scored three runs on two hits and two errors. Northern Illinois was unable to overcome the deficit in the bottom of the 13th as it fell, 7-4.
Northern Illinois University and the University of Akron will return to action tomorrow afternoon at Ralph McKinzie Field with first pitch set for 1:05 p.m.