Both teams enter the series with clean slates as it is the 2010 season opening weekend for each. The Huskies and Sun Devils will play a four-game series at ASU’s Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark. The series will begin with the season opener on Friday night under the lights. Then, there will be a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon with the second game starting approximately 45 minutes after Game One. Finally, the series will end on Sunday afternoon as the finishing touches will be put on the 2010 season opening weekend.
The All-Time Series
The Huskies have yet to defeat the Sun Devils, who own a 4-0 mark against NIU dating back to 2006. ASU took a three-game series from NIU to start the 2006 season (5-3 | 9-6 | 8-3) at Packard Stadium and took down the Huskies again in last year’s second weekend of the season, 6-1, in Tempe.
Last Match-Up Against ASU
Despite outhitting Baseball America No. 8 Arizona State eight to seven, the Northern Illinois baseball team was defeated by the Sun Devils 6-1 behind a four-run third inning on Friday, February 27, 2009 at Packard Stadium as ASU (7-0) took advantage of three NIU (1-5) errors and six free passes.
The Sun Devils capitalized on two Huskie errors and pushed across four runs in the third inning on three hits, creating a 4-0 lead that NIU could not recover from. Johnny Ruettiger led the inning off with an infield single and then Mike Murphy was hit by a pitch to set up Raoul Torrez's bunt single that scored both runners after Troy White's throw to first was offline. Zack MacPhee followed with an RBI single to right field to score Torrez. Then a dropped fly ball by senior Justin Behm allowed runners to advance to second and third which resulted in an RBI ground out by Ramirez. Senior Matt Behren ended the rally by throwing out a pair of ASU base stealers, catching Jason Kipnis at third and Jared McDonald at second.
ASU scored its last two runs of the game in the next inning. Matt Newman started the fourth inning with a solo homerun to right-center. After a Calhoun walk, Ruettiger reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a Murphy fly out and a Torrez walk, Ruettiger then stole third and scored on a Torrez's steal attempt in which Torrez was caught stealing second base, but not before Ruettiger crossed home plate.
ASU reliever Jason Franzblau (1-0) was credited with the win after taking over for starter Matt Newman with one out in the fifth. Newman gave up six hits and tallied four strikeouts while not giving up a run. Franzblau pitched four innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Huskie freshman starter Chris Wakefield took the loss (0-2) after going five innings, surrendering five earned runs on six hits and three walks.
After Wakefield's scoreless fifth, the Huskie bullpen pitched the final three innings with sophomores Zach Oates and Tom Zelasko and freshman Kyle Glancy combining to give up one hit with three strikeouts and two walks.
Newman led all ASU hitters with a 2-for-4 night at the plate while driving in and scoring one run. NIU junior Dave Reynolds also went 2-for-4 while Behren drove in the lone Huskie run in addition to throwing out four base runners from behind the plate.
The Huskies' best scoring opportunity came with loaded the bases in the fifth and two outs after singles from Marvin Sanchez and Dave Reynolds and a walk by Behm, but Behren grounded out to first base to end the threat.
NIU scored its only run of the game in the eighth as Behren had an RBI ground out to score Jordin Hood, who reached on a single through the left side, advanced to second on a passed ball and got to third on a wild pitch.
Meet The Sun Devils
The three-time defending Pac-10 champs begin the season as Collegiate Baseball’s No. 5th ranked team in the nation. ASU will not only be opening the season, but will also be opening the Sun Devil head coaching career of first-year skipper Tim Esmay, who spent the previous nine seasons at ASU as an assistant coach. Esmay takes over a squad that reached the 21st College World Series in program history last season with a 51-14, 21-6 Pac-10 record.
The 2010 Sun Devils return 17 players and are led by All-American LHP Josh Spence and 2009 Freshman All-American LHP Mitchell Lambson.
Ten Huskies have been selected by Mathey to formulate a “Leadership Council” this season with the purpose of having a weekly team discussion on various team building topics in order to help the program succeed. Every week each council member will read literature on a various team building topic and bring their thoughts to each week’s team meeting. The group is composed of five seniors, two juniors and three sophomores. The seniors are Andy Deain, Jordin Hood, Sam Kapacinskas, Dave Reynolds and Brian Smith. The juniors are Joe Etcheverry and Zach Oates. The sophomores are Alex Beckmann, Kyle Glancy and Troy White.
The Four Captains
The team captains of this year’s Huskie baseball squad are seniors Jordin Hood, Dave Reynolds and Brian Smith and junior Zach Oates.
A few Huskies have active streaks entering the season that are carrying over from the end of 2009. Dave Reynolds has a 10 game hitting streak. Joe Etcheverry has five straight games with a walk. Chuck Lukanen has five consecutive outings with four or more strikeouts on the mound. Tom Zelasko has not allowed a run in his last three appearances.
Senior Jordin Hood spent a significant amount of time last season scratching NIU’s records, and figures to do the same in 2010. In 2009, he was named to the All-MAC second team for the second time in his career, making him the sixth Huskie to be selected to an All-MAC team more than once. He set career-highs in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, homers, RBI and steals, while he also finished the season ranked in the top ten in several categories of the NIU record book. His 76 hits rank in a tie for third on the single season all-time NIU list, while his junior campaign also ranks fifth in runs scored (57), eighth in RBI (46) and tied for 10th in homers (10).
Hood ranks fourth in program history in hits (204), tied for fourth in homeruns (23), tied for fifth in triples (7), sixth in RBI (118), seventh in at-bats (614), seventh in steals (37) and eighth in runs scored (127) and doubles (36).
Hood finished an outstanding 2009 with a .474 on-base percentage (sixth in MAC), 57 runs (tied for sixth in MAC), 76 hits (eighth in MAC), a .382 average (ninth in MAC), 14 steals (tied for ninth in MAC) and 125 total bases (10th in MAC). He also had 46 runs batted in, 15 doubles, two triples, 10 homeruns, 12 walks, a .628 slugging percentage, and was hit by 23 pitches (tied for third in nation). Additionally, he had 24 multiple-hit games and 13 multi-RBI contests, while he had a career-best hitting streak of 18 games from February 27 to March 27.
Being an exception athlete, freshman Jamison Wells will not only be playing baseball for Northern Illinois, he will also be playing football for head coach Jerry Kill in the 2010 campaign. Wells was a three-year letterwinner at Kimberly High School in Combined Locks, Wis., earning two-way Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFC) first team all-state, two-way WFCA all-region, and 2008 WFCA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was also named to the Associated Press' 2008 Wisconsin all-state football team at both wide receiver and defensive back.
Boys of Summer
A trio of Huskies earned all-star nods during the summer of 2009 as they were competing in various summer leagues. Jordin Hood represented the Quincy Gems, Alex Jones represented the KC Bandits and Chuck Lukanen represented the Green Bay Bullfrogs.
Head coach Ed Mathey enters his eighth season at NIU as the program’s all-time wins leader (186-203-1). He sits just nine wins shy of 400 for his 16-year career (391-374-3) and 14 victories away from his 200th win at Northern Illinois. He also owns four of NIU’s five best single season win totals, including the top three spots (34 in 2003 | 34 in 2007 | 31 in 2004).
Additionally, throughout his career Mathey has coached 54 all-conference, 18 all-region and four All-American selections.
NIU has hosted at least one game in a professional ball park in each season since 2005. The Huskies have played and won four games at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Ill., home of the Oakland Athletics’ Low-A affiliate Kane County Cougars. In 2008, NIU hosted No. 29 Notre Dame at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Ill., home of the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. Despite losing 5-4, the Huskies and White Sox raised over $65,000 for the NIU February 14 Forward, Together Forward Scholarship Fund. Last season, NIU hosted Milwaukee at Road Ranger Stadium in Loves Park, Ill., home of the Northern League’s Rockford RiverHawks. Even though the Huskies lost 7-6, the game marked NIU’s first in the Rockford area and the first Division I baseball game at the stadium.
In 2010, the Huskies will return to Road Ranger Stadium to face Northwestern on Wednesday, April 14 at 6:05 p.m. After a one-year hiatus, NIU will also come back to Elfstrom Stadium to take on Illinois Chicago at 6:05 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20. Additionally, NIU will be hosted by Milwaukee at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, on Wednesday, May 12, as the Huskies and Panthers will start approximately 30 minutes after the Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves noon contest.
At least one Huskie has signed a Major League Baseball contract in each of head coach Ed Mathey’s seven years at NIU. Overall, 21 NIU players have signed pro contracts under Mathey, and seven have been selected in the MLB Amateur Draft.
NIU Staying Classy
The NIU baseball program has kept pace with the rest of NIU’s sports programs to help extend Huskie athletes’ streak of semesters with a combined cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better to nine. Through the fall of 2009, 12 players have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
Mathey’s 2010 signing class of 11 future Huskies is the largest of his seven-year tenure. The class, which is full of large, athletic frames of raw talent, is composed of eight players from the state of Illinois with one each from Arizona, Minnesota and Missouri. The group includes RHP Eli Anderson (Glenview, Ill./New Trier Township), LHP/OF Anthony Andres (Western Springs, Ill./St. Rita of Cascia), RHP/OF Bo Andrews (Roscoe, Ill./Harlem), C Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph), IF Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic), IF Tom Keating (Chicago, Ill./St. Laurence), RHP/IF Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney), RHP/OF Trey Lange (Mesa, Ariz./Skyline), OF Jordan Rishavy (Rochester, Minn./John Marshall/North Iowa Area C.C.), RHP/IF Kevin Sweeney (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) and IF Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park, Ill./Victor J. Andrew).
It’s All In The Family
Sophomore Zach Badgley is the fourth member of his family to take the mound for Northern Illinois, following Dan (1997-2001), Mark (2003-07) and Nick (2008-09). Since 1997, there has only been one season (2002) of NIU baseball without a Badgley family member.
Keeping Up With The Smiths
Sixth-year senior pitcher and Student Athlete Advisory Committee President Brian Smith is the younger brother of second-year assistant coach Jason Smith, who handles hitting and first base coaching duties for NIU. You can follow the Huskies all season long through Brian’s blog --- Can O’ Corn: Bloggin’ NIU Baseball With Pitcher Brian Smith (http://www.niuhuskies.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/10-m-basebl-blog.html).
This week’s Can O’ Corn highlight: As Brian mentions in his first entry, being brothers, he and Jason look pretty similar. The two have been mistaken for each other many, many times and he has issued a challenge for everyone to not get the two mixed up anymore. The two talk about this issue often and he will call you out in his blog if you do mess up.
NIU will return home for a few days of practice before heading south to Clarksville, Tenn. to play a three-game series against Austin Peay State next weekend. Games are scheduled for Friday, February 26 at 4 p.m., Saturday, February 27 at 1 p.m. and Sunday, February 28 at 1 p.m.