April 7, 2014
NIU - April 2-6 Stats
DeKALB, Ill. - Coming off of a 2-2 week with a win at Valparaiso last Wednesday and a dominant performance Sunday versus Toledo, the Northern Illinois baseball team will host a pair of home games Tuesday and Wednesday when it welcomes Illinois State and UW-Milwaukee.
The Huskies bats were alive and well in the April opener against the Crusaders as they combined for 13 hits, four doubles and 10 runs. The bottom of the NIU lineup was impressive in the contest as the Nos. 6-9 hitters accounted for 9 of the Huskies 10 runs with Connor Schomig and Alex Smith scratching five of those runs. Smith knocked in three runs in the game to lead the Huskies while Carl Russell led the averages with a 3-of-6 clip.
NIU's momentum from the Valpo game did not carry over to game one of the series with Toledo as the Rockets scored six unearned runs on four Huskie errors in the first two innings, eventually taking a 10-0 lead. However Northern Illinois did not go down without a fight as it loaded the bases on three-straight singles in the bottom of the ninth, setting up pinch-hitter Micah McCulloch, who roped a grand slam around the pole in left field in NIU's 10-4 loss.
The Huskies carried some momentum into game two as it put runners in scoring position during the first two innings but could not bring them around. Toledo would go on to lead 6-0 in the contest, until Northern Illinois scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning on a pair of walks and error. NIU would fall in game two, 6-4.
However, Sunday saw a new dawn for the Huskies as they scored two runs in the first and sixth innings and capped of their day with three runs in the seventh. A leadoff dinger by Carl Russell started the three run seventh and was preceded by senior Chris Divarco's first career RBI triple and a squeeze bunt by Joe Battaglia, which scored Divarco in Battaglia's first game back since March 11th at No. 8 Cal Poly.
On the mound, Klonowski had one of the top performances in Huskie history as he tossed a one-hit, complete game shutout. Klonowski only allowed four base runners in the game as he struck out a career-high nine batters, including four in the eighth inning as batter Jacob Britt reached on a wild pitch. At the plate on Sunday, he was 1-for-3 with an RBI, a run and walk to his credit.
Klonowski's one-hit effort on the mound was the first by an NIU pitcher since former Huskie and Academic All-American Paul Erschen accomplished the feat April 1st in 1997 at Valparaiso. Erschen opened the game with six hitless innings before surrendering a double in the top of the seventh inning but would strikeout the final two batters to secure his complete game, one-hit shutout.
He was selected as the MAC West Pitcher of the Week for his effort, the first such award of his career.
Moving forward, NIU will begin its midweek slate against Illinois State Tuesday and resume play Wednesday versus Milwaukee with both games beginning at 3:05 p.m. at Ralph McKinzie Field.
The Huskies will be on the hunt for its first win over the Redbirds since 2011, when NIU defeated ISU, 4-2, and their first win at Ralph McKinzie Field over Illinois State since 2009. The task will not be easy for Northern Illinois however as ISU owns a 19-10 record but is 2-2 in its last four games. The Redbirds are hitting .288 as a team with Paul Dejong leading with a clip of .378 and 21 RBI with a .595 slugging percentage. The Redbird pitching staff will carry a 3.56 ERA into the game and has six wins from its bullpen this season with a WHIP of 1.33.
The Panthers are 9-12 this season but are hot to trot as they've won four-straight games and have triumphed in five in their last six games. Last season, the Huskies went 1-2 against Milwaukee with their lone win at Ralph McKinzie Field on April 3rd, 10-6, before dropping a doubleheader at Henry Aaron Field on May 14. UWM is not far behind ISU in batting average as it is hitting .276 this season with 45 extra base hits, four more than its opponents. Ryan Solberg has been the complete hitter, carrying an average of .306 with four doubles and four homers, while Ryan McShane leads UW-Milwaukee in average with an average of .311.
The midweek games will serve as a precursor for NIU's next Mid-American Conference series April 11th to the 13th when the Huskies head to Ypsilanti, Michigan for a three-game set with Eastern Michigan at Oestrike Field. The Eagles are 1-8 in the MAC, having played Akron, Ball State and Kent State.