March 20, 2014
Video: The Road Through Avon
DeKALB, Ill. - Friday afternoon marks the start of the Mid-American conference baseball season. For Northern Illinois University, the defending MAC West Division Champions, it means beginning its title defense versus the University of Buffalo.
In late November 2012, on the heels of a disappointing season, Head Coach Ed Mathey and his staff developed a conditioning test called "The Road to Avon" --- a test that would hope to inspire the team of reaching the conference tournament once again in Avon, Ohio.
The Huskie baseball team of 2013 embraced that challenge. While it may have taken a step back in 2012, it moved two steps forward when it won the division championship on May 18, 2013 at Ball State as Connor Schomig, a walk on to the program, hit a three-run double down the left field line in the 10th inning. NIU would claim its first ever MAC West Division Championship that afternoon.
However, Northern Illinois would fall short of its ultimate goal in the Mid-American Conference Tournament at All Pro Freight Stadium as it fell to Bowling Green, the eventual tournament champion in the first round, 6-4, in 11 innings. Heartbroken from the loss to the Falcons, the season ended the very next morning versus Buffalo, 12-0.
A new precedent was set for the program last season and it was time to do something only one team has ever done - reach an NCAA Regional. The 1972 Huskies earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Regional and the 1996 squad advanced to the tournament's play-in round, eventually falling to Northeastern Illinois in the three-game series.
The Road Through Avon was the new challenge presented to the team last November, ramping up the tests from the year prior to ensure the Huskies were properly fit for the tough road ahead.
To accomplish a great task, an unprecedented feat must be completed. You're either moving backwards, or you're moving forwards. It's time to move forward. It's time to take The Road Through Avon.