May 12, 2009
LOVES PARK, Ill. - Northern Illinois could not hold on to a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning that was established by Jordin Hood's (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) second homerun of the game as UW-Milwaukee rallied for two runs in the eighth to claim a 7-6 win on Tuesday night at Road Ranger Stadium, home of the Frontier League's Rockford RiverHawks, in NIU baseball's first ever game in the Rockford, Ill. area and the three-year-old stadium's first Division I contest.
"It was a great experience," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "I think the kids really enjoyed coming out here to Rockford. Josh Olerud and the whole RiverHawk management staff has been great in setting this up, promoting it, making us feel at home, and rolling out the red carpet for us. We are very thankful for it. Hopefully it is something that they find valuable and want to look to do again because we would love to do it."
The fateful eighth for the Huskies (17-33) started with a lead-off double by Tim Patzman off NIU reliever Zach Oates (Wheaton, Ill./North), who then walked the next batter Shawn Wozniak. After Shaun Wegner failed to get a sacrifice bunt down, pinch-hitter Paul Hoenecke, who burned NIU with a three-run game-winning homer in the sixth inning in the last game against the Huskies on April 28, delivered an RBI double to center off Tom Zelasko (Lansing, Ill./Mt. Carmel) to knot the game 6-6. Then with Cole Kraft batting, a passed ball by catcher Justin Behm (Downers Grove, Ill./North) allowed Wozniak to score the game-winning run from third base. Zelasko would then get a pair of grounders to escape the jam, but NIU was unable to mount a rally in its final two at-bats to give the Panthers (23-25) their third straight win against the Huskies.
"Their pitcher Nate Caldwell did a nice job in this game," said Mathey. "We saw him earlier this year and got to him pretty quickly, but he came out and threw the ball well tonight. I'm only disappointed from the standpoint that a couple of the mistakes we made ended up being the difference. We had a runner picked off and didn't throw him out and then gave up a few walks, passed balls, and had a balk. They had a couple chances to run away and hide early, but Jake Hermsen limited the damage. He did a nice job of battling out there. We just made enough mistakes not to win the game."
Cameron Amsrud (5-1) earned the win in relief after recording only a perfect two outs by getting the last batter of the seventh and the first of the eighth, while Craig Meier nailed down the win for his eighth save of the season by pitching the last 1.1 innings in flawless fashion with a strikeout. Panther starter Nate Caldwell threw 5.1 innings with six strikeouts, giving up two earned runs on four hits and three walks, while he had a perfect game through three innings and faced the minimum through 4.1 frames.
Oates (0-4) took the loss for NIU after allowing two runs, one earned, on a hit and a walk with one strikeout in 0.1 innings. Huskie starter Jake Hermsen (New London, Wis./New London) escaped a few jams with minimal damage in four innings of work with three strikeouts, surrendering three earned runs on seven hits and three walks.
Josh Groves led the Panther offense with two hits and four RBI, while Patzman went 5-for-5 with two doubles and two runs. Andy Gerhartz also added a perfect 3-for-3 night with two runs, a steal, and a walk.
Hood led the Huskie offense with a career-best five RBI on a three-run homer in the sixth that cut the NIU deficit to 5-3 and a two-run shot in the seventh to put the Huskies up 6-5, giving him a team-high and career-best nine homers this season. Additionally, Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run.
"Jordin has been a very good hitter for us for a long time," Mathey said. "It was great to see him up in the batter's box with a chance to do some damage because there have been a couple times this year where we have left him in the on-deck circle when we were on a charge. It was great for him to come through for us a couple times. He really swung the bat well tonight."
The Huskies finish their regular season this weekend with a road trip to Kalamazoo, Mich. to face Western Michigan (13-33, 8-16 MAC) in a three-game set with contests on Thursday at 2 p.m. CT, Friday at 2 p.m., and Saturday at 12 p.m.
- Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) has a seven-game hitting streak.
- Hood is the third Huskie (Justin Behm and Matt Behren) to hit two homers in a game this season and has done so three times in his career. He also tallied his team-leading 22nd multi-hit game of the season.
- Jones has multiple hits in five of his last seven games, 17 overall.