First Pitch: Huskies Open Season in Lubbock, Texas

GO HUSKIES Jeff Zimmerman had a big summer in the Northwoods League and is hoping to carry it over in 2013
GO HUSKIES
Jeff Zimmerman had a big summer in the Northwoods League and is hoping to carry it over in 2013
GO HUSKIES

Feb. 14, 2013

Week 1 Notes | NIU Baseball Podcast (Week 1) | Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic home page

WEEK ONE SLATE

Day/Opponent/Time Coverage
Friday: vs. Texas Tech, 6 p.m. Audio & Video* / GameTracker / Twitter (@NIUscores)
Saturday: Brigham Young, 10 a.m. Gametracker / Twitter (@NIUscores)
Sunday: Northern Colorado, 9 a.m. Gametracker / Twitter (@NIUscores)
Sunday: Texas Tech, 1 p.m. Audio & Video* / GameTracker / Twitter (@NIUscores)
The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois2
No. 24 Texas Tech3
February 27, 2012
Lubbock, Texas
Big-Hearted Huskies Rally, But Fall to No. 24 Red Raiders
Facing a no-hitter, the Northern Illinois baseball team surged in the top of the ninth inning with three hits and two runs to tie No. 24 Texas Tech, 2-2. However, the Red Raiders had their own surge in the bottom -half of the inning to defeat the Huskies, 3-2 ...

The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois5
BYU8
February 26, 2011
Lubbock, Texas
NIU Swept in Texas Doubleheader
Prior to Saturday, the Northern Illinois baseball team had received solid pitching but little run support in nearly each of the first three games of the 2011 season. In a doubleheader against Brigham Young and Texas Tech, the Huskies dropped each game at Dan Law Field despite a combined 20 hits and 11 runs.

The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois2
No. 24 Texas Tech3
February 27, 2012
Lubbock, Texas
Big-Hearted Huskies Rally, But Fall to No. 24 Red Raiders
Facing a no-hitter, the Northern Illinois baseball team surged in the top of the ninth inning with three hits and two runs to tie No. 24 Texas Tech, 2-2. However, the Red Raiders had their own surge in the bottom -half of the inning to defeat the Huskies, 3-2 ...

* - Subscription required

NORTHERN ILLINOIS PROJECTED PITCHING ROTATION

Day/Pitcher Pitching Notes
Friday: Senior RHP Zach Badgley First start since 4/19/09 at Chicago State
Saturday: Freshman LHP Jordan Ruckman 7-1, 12GS, 4CG, 32BB, 103K, 1.84 ERA  (2012)
Sunday (G1): Junior RHP Eli Anderson Five starts in midweek contests last year (1-2)
Sunday (G2): Junior RHP Alex Klonowski First start since May 3, 2011 vs. Valparaiso


OPPONENTS PROJECTED PITCHING ROTATION

Day/Pitcher Pitching Notes
Friday (TTU): Sophomore RHP Dominic Moreno Howard CC transfer; 5-1, 5 starts, 2 saves
Saturday (BYU): Sophomore RHP Jeff Barker 3.1 IP, 4 App, 3 H, 4 K, 2 BB in 2011
Sunday (UNC): Junior LHP Nick Miller JC transfer; 7-2, 69.2 IP, 98 K, 13 BB in 2012
Sunday (TTU): Freshman RHP Matt Withrow All-state and all-district out of Odessa, Texas

LEAD OFFS
• Northern Illinois has met each of these opponents, last facing BYU in 2011, Northern Colorado in 2004 and Texas Tech in 2012.
• Senior Jamison Wells is on the verge of becoming NIU’s all-time leader in stolen bases, entering the season with 64 in his career, just seven shy of tying the record.
• The Huskies have 14 freshman, 12 true, on this year’s roster.
• True freshman Jordan Ruckman is anticipated to make his first collegiate start Saturday on the mound. (See note on page 2).
• Senior Zach Badgley is making the move from the bullpen to a starting role this season,  last starting in his freshman year. Badgley is also the last of an era at NIU as three of his older brothers played baseball for NIU. (See note below).
• Head Coach Ed Mathey begins his 11th season as skipper of Northern Illinois and 20th overall. Mathey enters with a 255-301-1 mark at NIU and a 460-472-3 career mark.

OPENING WEEKEND
The Huskies are opening their 103rd season this weekend in Lubbock, Texas to take on host Texas Tech, BYU and Northern Colorado in the annual Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic. This is the third-consecutive season NIU has played down at TTU.

WELLS’ STOLEN BASES WATCH
Senior Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) enters the season with 64 stolen bases in his career, only seven shy of tying Alvin Maynard’s mark of 71 set in 1979-1980. Wells has stolen at least 25 bases in the last two seasons, robbing 27 in 2011. He was named CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s Top-Baserunner in the MAC in the 2013 preview. Wells finished 2012 ranked 43rd in the country and first in the MAC with 25 steals.

ORANGE YOU GLAD TO BE A TWO-SPORT ATHLETE?
Jamison Wells also plays football for the Mid-American Conference Champion Huskies (12-2), who made national headlines in December when they were invited to the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl to play Florida State. Wells appeared in all 14 games this fall at wide receiver, making 16 grabs for 180 yards.

BROTHERS BADGLEY
Senior Zach Badgley (McHenry, Ill.) is the fourth and final Badgley brother to play for Northern Illinois in 2013. All pitchers, the Badgley era began in 1997 with Dan playing through 2001, followed by Mark (2003-07) and Nick (2008-09). Mark was named to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team in 2003 and finished his career with 19 saves in his career, including a program record 14 in 2003. Nick also appeared as an outfielder.

GROWING UP FAST
Freshman Jordan Ruckman (Kankakee, Ill./Herscher) is anticipated to make his first collegiate start Saturday on the mound versus Brigham Young. As a senior in 2012, Ruckman was 2A first team all-state with a 7-1 record in 12 starts. He also had 4 CG, 103 K, 32 BB and a 1.84 ERA. He is the first NIU true freshman to start the opening weekend on the mound since Justin Wakefield Feb. 20, 2009 at Mississippi State. Wakefield faced 27 batters, allowing six runs in 5.1 innings with four strikeouts and six walks in NIU’s 8-1 loss.

JOHN OLERUD AWARD WATCH LIST WORTHY?
Junior Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo.) has been a solid two-way player for the Huskies since his arrival in 2011, appearing in 72 games throughout the infield and the outfield, with 39 games played on the mound. At the plate “Klono” carries a .282 batting average in his career with 41 RBI and four homeruns, while on the the mound he sports a 4-1 career record with two saves, 47 strikeouts and 27 walks with a 6.13 ERA. The John Olerud Award is given to the top Division I player who excels on the mound and in the field.

YOUNG AND OLD
While the story of Northern Illinois baseball may be that there are 14 freshman, two redshirts, on this year’s roster, it should also be noted that there are also a healthy number of upper classmen with 11 juniors and five seniors. Here are the roster totals.

Freshmen - 14
Sophomores - 2
Juniors - 11
Seniors - 5

TALE OF THE TAPE
The Huskies have met each of their opponents within the last 10 years, however, they are only a combined 2-17 aginst their three oppoments. All-time, the Huskies are 2-14 versus the Red Raiders, last winning in 2007, 0-1 versus Northern Colorado and 0-2 against BYU. Series history is listed below.

Opponent W L Pct. First Last
BYU 0 2 .000 2011 2011
Northern Colorado 0 1 .000 2004 2004
Texas Tech 2 14 .125 2004 2012

LAYING THEM DOWN
As a team in 2012, the Huskies played the short game very well, laying down 29 sacrifice bunts to advance the runners. NIU was also successful reaching base via the bunt, reaching safely in 14-of-29 attempts (.412). Jamison Wells led the squad in attempts and hits by bunt, finishing 8-for-22 (.364) with seven sacrifices.

2013 - ZIM’S REVENGE
In his last 19 starts at first base in 2012 before sustaining injury at Western Michigan, then-sophomore Jeff Zimmerman hit .374 (25-for-73) with 13 RBI, 10 runs, seven doubles and three homeruns. Zimmerman carried that over into summer with the Northwoods League Madison Mallards, batting .274 and setting franchise records for home runs (13) and RBI (57) in a season. The junior will be hoping to build off that experience in 2013.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON HIM
Junior Jeff Zimmerman was named to Perfect Game USA’s Top-75 Northwoods League prospect list back in September for his amazing season in Madison. Zimmerman was ranked the 50th-best prospect in the league, considered to be the second-best summer ball league behind the infamous Cape Cod League.

ON OPENING DAY...
Since 1949, the Huskies are 14-42 on Opening Day. NIU last won its season opener Feb. 24, 2001 at Tennessee-Martin, which led to a series sweep over over the Skyhawks. Since the baseball team was reinstated in 1991 (no team 1983-90), the team is 4-18.
NOTE: There are no records of the 1950 season in the NIU media relations archive. Season was not counted in tally.

“MY BOY’S WICKED SMAHT”
Yes, it was line from the film “Good Will Hunting”, but it also applies to freshman catcher Johhny Zubek, who earned a 4.0 in his first semester at NIU. Zubek is a catcher from Oak Forest, Ill.

THE SKIPPER
Head Coach Ed Mathey will begin his 11th season at the helm of the Northern Illinois baseball program this year and his 20th overall as a head coach. Mathey carries a career mark of 255-301-1 with Huskies, the most-wins in program history, and combined with his nine year stint at alma mater North Central College, he has a 460-472-3 record.

THE REPLACEMENTS
The Huskies are replacing three infielders and two outfielders and two of its weekend starters to graduation this season. All told, NIU lost nine players to graduation from the squad of 2012.

KLONO THE STREAKER
Junior Alex Klonowski ended 2012 with a career-long seven game hit streak, which began with a four hit, three RBI afternoon at Western Michigan May 11. A similar situation occurred last season, when Jamison Wells ended 2011 with a 14-game streak. Wells ended the streak at 19 games, eight contests shy of the all-time record set by Mike Bersa between 1992-93.

THEY’RE PUTTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER
Two former Huskies are on the NIU coaching staff in 2013 with the additions of Marvin Sanchez (2008-11) and Trevor Feeney (2005-08). Sanchez is serving as an assistant coach while getting his master’s degree, while Feeney is a student volunteer assistant as he finishes his bachelors degree. Feeney was a 31st round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers following his senior year at NIU in 2008. He reached as high as the Triple A level, pitching for the Toledo Mudhens in 2011.

PRESEASON PROGNISTICATION
Northern Illinois was picked to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference West earlier this week, as voted by the league’s coaches. Kent State (72 points, 9 votes) was picked as the MAC’s preseason favorite to win the tournament and advance to the NCAA Regional, one year after going to the College World Series.

MAC East Division Predicted Order of Finish
1. Kent State (72 points)
2. Miami (58)
3. Bowling Green (44)
4. Ohio (34)
5. Akron (25)
6. Buffalo (19)

 West Division Predicted Order of Finish
1. Central Michigan (65 points)
2. Toledo (60)
3. Eastern Michigan (54)
4. Western Michigan (36)
5. Ball State (23)
6. Northern Illinois (15)

Tournament Champion: Kent State (9 votes), Central Michigan (1), Eastern Michigan (1), Toledo (1)

SCOUTING THE RED RAIDERS
Texas Tech is under new leadership this season with former Assistant Coach Tim Tadlock now the skipper of the club. Tadlock has College World Series experience as the former assistant and recruiting coordinator for Oklahoma in 2010. Former skipper Dan Spencer (now at New Mexico) was relieved of his duties after TTU reached the Top-25 or the first time since 2005 and finished the season 29-26, failing to qualify for the Big XII Tournament.

On the field and despite losing nine players a year ago, including Pittsburgh Pirates first round selection Barrett Barnes, the Red Raiders return some major pieces including outfielders Scott LeJeune (43 RBI) and Brennan Moore and shortstop Tim Proudfoot, a Brooks Wallace Award Watch Lister. The starting pitching staff is the biggest question entering the season, as Trey Masek (six starts in 2012) is the most-experienced pitcher returning.

SCOUTING THE COUGARS
Brigham Young is also entering a new era of baseball as they have a first year Head Coach in Mike Littlewood, who previously spent the past 16 seasons at Dixie State College. While leading the Red Storm, Littlewood took DSC to four Junior College World Series, winning the title in 2004. Littlewood also led the team to its transition to NCAA Division II, taking the Red Storm to the West regional last year.

The Cougars are coming off of a 22-27 2012 season, which saw BYU finish 10-14 in West Coast Conference play and sixth place in the conference standings. Jaycob Brugman and Brock Whitney each return after driving in 30 RBI, as does Keiton Caldwell and his .315 batting average. From the mound, the Cougars return four pitchers with six-or-more starts last season, including Desmond Poulson, who finishished 1-3 on the mound with a 3.91 ERA in nine starts and 13 appearances in 76 innings pitched.

SCOUTING THE BEARS
Northern Colorado is coming off of a 27-33 season in 2012 that included four games played in the Great West Baseball Tournament (2-2). The Bears are in a similar situation as the Huskies currently, replacing a lot of seniors that played a lot of baseball in their times on campus.

However, still returning to the team this year is sophomore Jensen Park, who accounted for a .363 batting average with 10 doubles, seven triples and 38 RBI last season en route to Freshman All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball. Classmate Ryan Yamane also returns with a hot stick as he hit .319 last season in his rookie campaign. Perhaps the most impressive statistic is the 44 walks he drew last season to bolster his on-base percentage to .459.

REWIND - 2012 BROOKS WALLACE MEMORIAL CLASSIC
The Huskies finished 0-4 last year at the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic, with a loss to No. 18 St. John’s and three to Texas Tech, who also reached a national ranking of No. 24 heading into the series final with NIU. Northern Illinois battled through adversity that weekend as a large portion of the team fell sick with food poisoning and forced significant substitutions for the team’s doubleheader with the Red Storm and the Red Raiders.

The team battled through the conditions and forced extra innings with nationally ranked St. John’s, scoring six runs in the final three innings. Micah McCulloch appeared as a pinch hitter that game and finished 2-for-2 with two runs, two RBI and a double. Alex Klonowski had four RBI in the game but the Huskies fell in the 10th inning to the Red Storm, 11-9. Later that day, NIU battled back with the Red Raiders to score a combined five runs in the fifth and sixth inning but would fall, 8-5, to TTU.

Following a 10-4 loss Feb. 26, the Huskies and the Red Raiders battled to a 3-2 decision in favor of Texas Tech to close the tournament. Tony Manville led the way on the mound with a seven inning, five hit and one run effort. Manville and Klonowski were named to the all-tournament team for their high level of play over the course of the weekend.

NEXT UP
Following the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic, Northern Illinois will head West for a four-game series at Nevada. The Huskies and the Wolfpack will square off Feb. 22-24 with a doubleheader on the 23rd at Peccole Park on the Nevada campus in Reno.