For the fifth time in NIU head baseball coach Ed Mathey’s eight seasons, his Huskies will match-up against the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers in the first of three contests between the teams this season. The game also stands as the Huskies’ first contest at “The Ralph,” where in Mathey’s tenure, NIU has won six of its seven home openers.
The Huskies head into the game after a 13-9 win in the series finale at Southern Illinois, while the Panthers come to DeKalb after a 2-1 road loss to No. 25 Kansas State.
The AccuWeather.com forecast for the opener calls for a mostly sunny afternoon with a high temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
The All-Time Series
Northern Illinois leads the all-time series, 31-22, but the teams are tied at 6 in the series since Mathey’s arrival in 2003.
Last Match-Up Against Milwaukee
The Huskies could not hold on to a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning that was established by Jordin Hood’s second homerun of the game as UW-Milwaukee rallied for two runs in the eighth to claim a 7-6 win on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 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.
The fateful eighth for the Huskies (17-33) started with a lead-off double by Tim Patzman off NIU reliever Zach Oates, 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 to knot the game 6-6. Then with Cole Kraft batting, a passed ball by catcher Justin Behm 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.
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 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 went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run.
Meet The Panthers
The Panthers tallied a 28-27, 14-9 Horizon League record for a second-place finish in 2009 and are off to a 4-10 start in 2010. After a two-day, three-game winnig streak on March 6th and 7th, UWM has dropped five games in a row.
Milwaukee features a .285 team batting average, 70 runs, .430 slugging percentage and .352 on-base percentage. The Panther arms sport a 5.09 team ERA, surrendering 81 runs on 132 hits and 60 walks with 60 strikeouts in 116.2 innings.
Paul Hoenecke fronts the UWM offensive attack with a .373 average (19-for-51), 10 runs, nine doubles, one home run, 10 RBI, .608 slugging percentage, seven walks, and .443 on-base percentage. The bullpen is anchored by Cameron Amsrud, who has one save in six appearances over six innings, allowing five runs on 10 hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
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.
Dating back to the 2009 season, senior lefty Chuck Lukanen has a current streak of ten consecutive starts with four or more strikeouts on the mound.
White (16-for-43, .372 average) leads the Huskies with a career-best 11-game hitting streak, while sophomore Alex Jones (7-for-22, .318 average) has a hit in five straight.
Deain has not surrendered a run over his last six appearances spanning 5.2 innings, giving up four hits, while tallying five strikeouts and no walks.
“The Ralph” Advantage
Under Mathey, the Huskies are 83-49-1 at Ralph McKinzie Field, home of Huskie baseball, and went 8-7 in home contests last season to mark the sixth time in seven seasons that NIU has been over .500 at “The Ralph.”
Let’s Play More --- same time, different place
Exactly two years ago to the day, the Huskies’ 9-8 loss in 11 innings to Austin Peay on Feb. 28 this season marked the first 11-plus inning game since a 16-inning 9-6 loss to Portland in 2008.
Home, Sweet Home
With the trip to Bakersfield, Calif. over spring break from March 5-6, the Etcheverry brothers returned to their old stomping grounds. Joe was a four-year letterwinner for the Centennial High School baseball team in Bakersfield, while Ben was a two-year player before moving to Florida to finish his high school career at Lake Region High School in Winter Haven, Fla. As a senior, Joe earned Area Player of the Year and Southwest Yosemite League MVP, while Ben was named an all-state performer in his sophomore and final season at Centennial.
During the three-game NIU sweep over CSU Bakersfield, Joe Etcheverry recorded a hit in each game (4-for-9) with two runs and three RBI.
Gonzales also returned to his hometown, where he was a four-year letterwinner at South High School, and was named team captain and MVP in his senior season.
He started Game Two against CSU Bakersfield and had his best start of the year thus far, throwing seven innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts and two walks, and allowed no runs, to pick up his first win as a Huskie.
Additionally, California native Wes Shryock returned to his home state, as well, where he was a four-year letterwinner at Desert Christian High School in Lancaster, Calif., and was named first team all-conference and second team all-area in his final season.
He gathered his first hit of his NIU career in a pinch-hit at-bat against Cal Poly on March 9, and registered his first walk and stolen base as a Huskie against UC Santa Barbara on March 12.
Four Huskies notched their first hits in an NIU uniform in the season-opening Arizona State series. Cory Krupp got his in the season opener on Feb. 19, while the other three got theirs in the series finale on Feb. 21 as Ben Etcheverry, Tom Kotis and Brian Riegler each had a single. Jeremy Gonzales also made his first two appearances in a Huskie uniform on the mound on Feb. 19 and 20, and he had a stellar debut after compiling a 3.18 ERA in 5.2 innings while allowing two earned runs on three hits and six walks with four strikeouts.
In Krupp’s second game on Feb. 20, he notched his first run and walk, while he tallied his first RBI and steal on Feb. 27 against Austin Peay.
Jake Hermsen knocked out his first home run of his career against CSU Bakersfield on March 5, and has three long balls in the month of March, his first three of his career, which ranks second on the team.
Brett Frantini blasted his first career home run on March 6 against CSU Bakersfield.
Jamison Wells gathered his first collegiate hit in Game One of the Southern Illinois doubleheader on March 20.
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 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.
Hood entered the 2010 season ranked 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).
He now holds the all-time hit-by-pitch record at NIU with 50, breaking former teammate Bobby Stevens’ (2006-08) record of 45. He currently sits second all-time in home runs (28), fourth in hits (221), fourth in RBI (130), tied for fifth in triples (7), fifth in at-bats (677), runs scored (144), doubles (39) and steals (41).
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 (190-217-1). He sits just five wins shy of 400 for his 16-year career (395-388-3) and 10 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.
Smitten With Smitty
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).
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.
This week’s Can O’ Corn highlight: Smith hosted an interview with fifth-year senior catcher Sam Kapacinskas, in which he discovered that the Florida native is a jack of all trades, master of none.
After the UWM game, the Huskies will begin Mid-American Conference play this weekend with a three-game road series against Bowling Green with games at 2 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday.