May 14, 2009
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - With its Mid-American Conference postseason hopes at stake, Northern Illinois responded in a huge way at the plate by totaling season-highs with 25 hits and 21 runs as the Huskies defeated Western Michigan 21-9 on Friday afternoon at Hyames Field behind a 10-run third inning.
"This was a good team win," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "All we can do is go out and win our games. We had that opportunity the last few weeks, but didn't get it done. We now have to watch others, too. We tried to do too much early in the game and then made nice adjustments in the third inning, which turned into a big inning."
Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) led the Huskies (18-33, 9-15 MAC) with a superb performance as he became the eighth Huskie to total a program record five hits in a game and the third to reach a school record eight RBI, while he also scored three runs and added a stolen base . Two of his hits were singles, one was a double and the other two were triples, which ties teammate Jordin Hood (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) for the NIU record. Jones highlighted the huge Huskie third inning with a double and a three-run triple, marking the second time this season that he has belted two hits in an inning as he also did it with a triple and a single in the first inning against Central Michigan on May 1.
"Alex swung the bat very well today," Mathey said. "It was good to see him setting the table at the top of the order and driving in runs, which means that the bottom of the order was getting on base. That's a good thing."
Hood also had a huge game with a career-high tying four hits along with four RBI, two runs, a walk, and his career-best 10th homerun of the season, giving him his third long ball in the last two games. He now has a career-high 44 RBI, which is tied for ninth in the NIU record book for a single season. Like Jones, he also had a pair of hits in the third inning with an RBI single and a solo homer that helped NIU recover from an early 2-0 first inning deficit.
"Jordin is in a good place right now and it's great to see," said Mathey. "That's where he has been for most of the year. After he went through a bit of a rough patch, he is seeing the ball really well right now and we hope he can stay locked in for the rest of the season."
Western Michigan (13-34, 8-17 MAC) came back with four runs in the bottom of the third and another in the fourth to narrow the NIU lead to 10-7, but then the Huskies fired back with one in the fifth, five in the sixth, two in the seventh and three in the ninth to seal the series opener and give starter Chuck Lukanen (Lombard, Ill./North Iowa Area C.C.) his seventh win (7-6) of the year, putting him in a tie for the eighth best win total in NIU single season history. He recorded nine strikeouts in seven innings to get the victory despite allowing seven earned runs on 11 hits and two walks.
"Western Michigan has some guys that can hit and they came scrapping back with four in the third and put up a zero against us in the top of the fourth," said Mathey. "Then we got the momentum back in the fifth and Chuck put up a zero. We ended their run and then broke the game open in the sixth and seventh.
"Chuck battled today. He wasn't the best he has been, but he was good enough. He established a presence on the mound, competed and battled even though he didn't have his best stuff. The attitude that he sets helps us go out and win ball games because the team feeds off it. Seven wins in a college season is a pretty good year, especially for a team that is below .500. Hopefully we get a chance to get him another win."
Bronco starter Billy Morrison (2-9) was tagged with the loss after giving up nine earned runs on 11 hits and a walk with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings.
Several other Huskies had a strong day at the plate as a season-high nine players tallied two or more hits. Matt Behren (Elmwood Park, Ill./Holy Cross) went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. Pat Minogue (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central) went 2-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and two doubles. Joe Buonavolanto (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) went 2-for-4 with three runs. Justin Behm (Downers Grove, Ill.North) and Joe Etcheverry (Bakersfield, Calif./Centennial) each had two hits, two runs and an RBI. Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) had two hits and two runs, while Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) had two hits and a run. Additionally, Marvin Sanchez totaled a career-high two RBI in his only at-bat of the day with a double.
Kyle Galbraith led the Bronco offense with four hits in five at-bats, three runs and an RBI. Tim Cross had a team-high three RBI with a run and one hit. Chris Lewis went 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, while Pedro Dager went 2-for-4 with two runs and one RBI for WMU.
Bowling Green helped out the Huskies by defeating Akron 14-9 in Bowling Green, Ohio. Along with an NIU sweep, the Falcons need to sweep the Zips, and the Central Michigan-Eastern Michigan series needs to end in a sweep for the Huskies to reach the MAC Tournament. The CMU-EMU game in Ypsilanti, Mich. will be completed later today.
The Huskies and Broncos will play again tomorrow at 12 p.m. CT and will finish the series at noon on Saturday. Tomorrow's pitching matchup will be NIU RHP Chris Wakefield (1-5, 8.10, 40 IP, 48 H, 28 BB, 19 SO) versus WMU RHP Brian Stroud (3-8, 7.08, 68.2 IP, 91 H, 32 BB, 58 SO), while Saturday's hurlers will be NIU LHP Brandon Copp (0-4, 10.50, 24 IP, 36 H, 14 BB, 17 SO) and WMU RHP Eric Heckaman (3-3, 6.33, 54 IP, 61 H, 22 BB, 31 SO).
- Reynolds has an eight-game hitting streak.
- NIU has scored 10-plus runs 12 times and has recorded 10-plus hits in 28 games.
- With 74 hits this season, Hood is tied for fifth in the single season program record book, fifth in runs scored with 56 and tied for tenth with 10 homers. He is also tied for fourth at NIU with 23 career homers, ranks sixth with 116 RBI, seventh with 36 doubles, and eighth with 126 runs.
- Jones is tied for fourth in single season NIU history with four triples this season.
- Behm now ranks seventh all-time at NIU with 113 RBI.
- Minogue now ranks third in program history with 205 games played, he is tied for fifth with 37 doubles, and ranks eighth with 116 runs.
- The last time NIU had two hitters each get two or more hits in an inning was last year in game two of a doubleheader against Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. when Reynolds (double, homerun) and Behm (homerun, single) did it in the seventh inning on March 22, 2008.
- The last time NIU had 20 or more hits was on May 21, 2005 in Toledo, Ohio as the Huskies had 21 hits in a 19-11 win over Toledo. Today's 25-hit game ranks second all-time at NIU, two shy of the record 27 set on April 4, 2000 against Trinity International.
- The last time the Huskies scored 20 or more runs was in a 20-6 win against Chicago State in DeKalb on May 15, 2007. NIU's 21-run game today was one run short of the program record that has been set twice, first against Fordham with 22 runs on March 18, 2000 and most recently against Trinity International on April 4, 2000.
- The last time NIU scored 10-plus runs in an inning was in the seventh inning of a 20-6 win over CSU on May 15, 2007 when the Huskies scored 12 in the frame.