Huskies Host Zips in MAC Weekend Series

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March 29, 2012

DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois will hold its first home Mid-American Conference series this weekend when it hosts Akron, beginning Friday March 30 at 3:05 p.m. The Huskies are 2-0 at home this year and will seek to extend that streak and earn their first MAC win of the season as well.

LEAD OFFS
- It will be the Huskies and Zips first series since 2009, a 3-0 series sweep by Akron.
- All-time NIU owns a 14-10 record over UA, last recording a victory in 2008.
- Jordan Huffman is batting 8-for-13 (.615) in his last three games with 3 runs scored and one RBI.
- Northern Illinois as a team has turned 23 double plays, 27th most in the nation.
- Junior Jamison Wells is ranked 25th nationally in stolen base.

PROJECTED MATCHUPS
 
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (6-19, 0-3 MAC)
FRIDAY    RHP Taylor Nawrocki (1-2) 31 IP, 5.23 ERA
SATURDAY    RHP Tony Manville(1-4) 38.1 IP, 6.10
SUNDAY    LHP Tom Barry (0-4) or LHP Jake Hermsen (1-2)

AKRON (9-15, 2-1 MAC)
FRIDAY    RHP Andrew Brown (3-3) 36.0 IP, 5.50 ERA
SATURDAY    LHP Pat Dyer (2-1) 25.2 IP, 3.51 ERA
SUNDAY    RHP Alex Loftin (1-0) 25.1 IP,  2.49 ERA

FOLLOW FROM HOME
Fans can follow all three three games via GameTracker on NIUHuskies.com. Visit the baseball schedule and click on the corresponding game on the schedule. Fans can also follow along on Twitter, by following @NIUAthletics or NIU_Baseball.

LAST TIME OUT: NIU AND UWM PLAY A THRILLER
Northern Illinois and UW-Milwaukee played a thriller Tuesday afternoon, as the Panthers came back to within one run in the top of the ninth inning. Though UWM was close to overcoming the deficit, the Huskies pitching staff proved to be too much for UWM and fell, 5-4. Jeff Zimmerman and Jordan Huffman each totaled three hits in the game for the Huskies, with Zimmerman driving in two RBI.

THE UBIQUITOUS ONE
It may just be a fancier word for utility man, but sophomore Alex Klonowski is ubiquitous on the diamond for Northern Illinois. In his 22 starts this season, the Kearney, Mo. native has started five different positions (2B, SS, 3B, RF, LF) and has made 10 relief appearances on the mound.

He has comitted one error in the field, sports a .289 batting average and is second on the team in RBI (13) and doubles (five) at the plate. In his nine innings of work on the mound, Klonowski is 2-0, has struck out 15 batters, allowed 13 walks and an ERA of 7.00.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER
Northern Illinois has had the defensive edge over its opponents this season comitting seven fewer errors this year than its opponents, 44-37.  The Huskies have played six errorless games this season, two of which were against nationally ranked teams (No. 11 Arizona State, No. 24 Texas Tech).

DOUBLE-TROUBLE
Senior Alex Jones has cranked out the two-baggers lately, totaling nine in 23 games this season. His most impressive stretch of the season was five in five games as he recorded two against Southern Illinois March 16, another versus Illinois March 18 and added two more against Illinois-Chicago March 20 in the home-opener. As a freshman, Jones hit nine in 47 games played.

THE WRAP SHEET
The series between Northern Illinois and Akron is a fairly young one as the first meeting occured in 1992, a 10-9 victory by the Huskies in seven innings. All-time Northern Illinois leads the series 14-10, with Akron sweeping the last three games in 2009, while NIU took the previous three in 2008. The Huskies have won three of the last four series against the Zips.

Akron            
NIU leads UA, 14-10 (Last 10: 6-4)
4/2/06      W 8-3 (7)
3/30/07    W 8-3
3/31/07    L 5-0
4/1/07      W 7-4 (11)
4/11/08    W 5-4
4/13/08    W 14-11
               W 14-10
4/10/09    L 14-10
                L 14-11
4/12/09    L 10-9

SCOUTING THE ZIPS
Akron is 9-15 in 2012 and 2-1 in Mid-American Conference games, as it opened conference play at Ball State. The Zips took the first two games of the series against the Cardinals and dropped the final contest to sit in second place in the MAC East behind Kent State (3-0). Just previous to their conference opener, Akron met West Virginia for a doubleheader in Morgantown, taking game one, 8-2, before falling in game two, 12-7. The Zips Head Coach Rick Rembielak is in his first season with the school and is no stranger to the MAC, having guided Kent State to 373 victories, 200 in conference.

Akron has had some decent success at the plate this year as three players are bating over .300 with Tyler Begun leading them all at a .378 clip. Begun leads the Zips in nearly every statistical category possible, including slugging percentage (.622) and on-base percentage (.472). Pitcher Scott Foster has an impressive 3:1 ratio in strikeouts to walks this season as he's fanned 21 and walked seven in 25 innings pitched.

NAME AND RANK
The Huskies are holding their weight against some of the nation's top teams statistically, as NIU ranks in the top 100 in several categories in the NCAA's March 25 stats report. See for yourself.

NOTE: Tuesday's game against UWM is not reflected in the report.

TEAM
Category    Rank    Actual
Stolen Bases/Game    81st    1.33
Stolen Bases              64th    32
Double Plays/Game    42nd    0.96
Double Plays              27th    27

INDIVIDUAL
Category                   Player           Rank    Actual
Doubles                    Alex Jones           48th    9
Doubles/game           Alex Jones           64th    0.41
Triples                      Alex Beckmann    93rd    2
Stolen bases              Jamison Wells    25th    14
Stolen Bases/game    Jamison Wells    41st    0.58
Saves                       Kyle Glancy        57th    4
Games Started          Tony Manville    17th    6
                               Tom Barry         17th    6

HE MAKES GOLD RECORDS
It may just be a line from an SNL skit, but it applies to senior Alex Jones. Against Illinois March 17, Jones broke the Northern Illinois record for career triples with the 12th of his career in the bottom of the eighth inning. He set himself apart from NIU Hall of Famer Tom Wittum (1969-72) and Jeff Sevenich (1977-80), who were previously tied for the career lead.

HE'S HONORED
Junior Taylor Nawrocki earned the Mid-American Conference West Division Pitcher of the Week honors March 20th after shutting out Illinois to earn his first victory at NIU. The Fairmont, Minn. native pitched 8.1 innings against the Illini, tallying four strikeouts, three walks and six hits against the defending Big Ten Conference Champion. Nawrocki transferred from North Iowa Area Community College in 2011.

THE GLUE THAT BINDS BEHIND THE PLATE
Senior Brett Frantini was selected to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List March 7, awarded to the nation's top-Division I catcher. So far in 2012 the Minooka, Ill. native has thrown out 15 runners attempting to steal base and has knocked in five RBI with five doubles and five runs scored on 10 hits. Past recipients of the award include the Oakland A's Kurt Suzuki and the San Francisco Giants Buster Posey.

PINCH-HITTING HEROES
The Huskies are batting an impressive .438 (7-for-16) in pinch hitting situations with freshman Micah McCulloch leading the way with four hits in five pinch-hit situations (.800). He has accounted for three doubles in that stretch, including one that tied the Huskies with No. 18 St. John's at the Brooks Wallace Memorial Challenge in Lubbock, Texas Feb. 25 in the ninth inning. Chris Divarco, Jordan Huffman and Michael Kane have also contributed a hit to the Huskies pinch-hitting annals.

THERE'S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
In his 11 previous appearances for Northern Illinois, sophomore pitcher Eli Anderson had only appeared in relief for the Huskies. In his 12th career call-to-duty March 14 at Saint Louis, the Glenview, Ill. native made his first career start on the hill. Against UIC tuesday, he earned the first win of his career with a five inning outing, striking out four and walking two. It was 13th outing for the Cardinal and Black.

FINDING A WAY
Senior Alex Jones just finds a way to get on-base for the Huskies as he has currently reached base safely in the last 17 games he's played in. So far Jones has batted .311 during the season and has a team leading 28 hits and nine doubles. He's also second on the team in walks this season with 11 so far, including one intentional March 27 against Milwaukee.

ROCK SOLID IN THE PEN
Redshirt junior Zach Badgley has been solid for the Huskies in his 10 relief appearances in 2012. The McHenry, Ill. native leads Northern Illinois in ERA with a 3.18 clip in 11.1 innings and has allowed 10 hits, seven walks, seven strikeouts and two earned runs.

THIEVERY
Normally, stealing from another would be frowned upon. But in baseball, its ok. Junior Jamison Wells currently has 15 stolen bases this season and racked up 27 for the Huskies last season, tying for the third most in a single season in program history. In his career Wells has accrued 54 stolen bases in 119 career appearances and is second all-time in NIU history. Alvin Maynard (1979-80) holds the career record (71) and single-season record (41).

SWINGING A HOT STICK
Junior Jordan Huffman has been on a hot streak as of late, batting 8-for-13 (.615) in his last three games with two doubles, three runs and an RBI. In the month of March, the Sergaent Bluff, Iowa native is batting .359 and has batted safely in 10 of his last 12 games played.

TURNING TWO
The Huskies defense has been efficient this season, capitalizing with runners on base and turning 24 double plays this season. Twice this season, March 3 against St. Mary's and March 17 versus Illinois, NIU has turned three double plays in a game. As of the NCAA's statistical report last released March 25, the Huskies ranked 27th in the nation in double plays turned.

NEXT UP
The Huskies will return to action next weekend for another MAC series, hosting Ohio April 6-8.