For the third time this season, the Huskies and Panthers will compete against each other as NIU hopes to sweep the series to build momentum for its final regular season games this weekend with Western Michigan coming to town. Northern Illinois started its non-conference home schedule with Milwaukee, and fittingly, will end it with the northern neighbor, looking to keep up its stellar midweek play with a 7-4 record in midweek competitions.
Coming up with a win in five of its last eight home contests, NIU enters the game after being swept at Ball State despite two strong mound efforts from Chuck Lukanen and Tom Barry in the first and last games of the three-game series.
The Panthers come to DeKalb after winning three of four weekend Horizon League games. UWM swept a doubleheader at home versus Butler Friday and split a double-dip at Illinois Chicago Saturday. Milwaukee has won eight of its last 11 contests with one of the losses being against the Huskies last Wednesday.
The AccuWeather.com forecast for the game calls for a mostly sunny, 65-degree afternoon.
The All-Time Series
NIU leads the all-time series, 33-22, over Milwaukee. The Huskies have twice defeated the Panthers this season already, winning the 7-6 home opener March 24th and the 5-3 Miller Park game last Wednesday at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Last Match-Up Against Milwaukee
Just like another team with a shade of red before them did, the Northern Illinois Huskies defeated a Milwaukee baseball team under a closed roof at Miller Park last Wednesday. With the help of back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning and a strong effort on the mound by Jake Hermsen, NIU took down the Milwaukee Panthers 5-3 at Miller Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers.
After watching the Atlanta Braves take a 9-2 noon contest over the Brewers, the Huskies (20-28) and Panthers (23-21) took the field 45 minutes later. In its third game in a professional stadium this season, NIU improved to 2-1 in pro parks with its first win in as many tries at Miller Park and second in as many attempts against the Panthers this season.
Down 2-0 following a two-run second inning by the Panthers, the Huskies plated a run in each of the next two frames. In the third after a Brett Frantini walk, Marvin Sanchez moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and Jamison Wells’ grounder to short stop Cole Kraft moved him to third, as Kraft booted it to allow Wells to reach. Joe Buonavolanto then scored Frantini on a sacrifice fly to center. In the fourth, Sanchez delivered a two-out single through the right side to score Hood, who reached on a single, moved to second after Joe Etcheverry was hit by a pitch and third on an Alex Beckmann walk.
NIU then broke the tie with consecutive home runs of opposite types in the fifth. Alex Jones hit the first on a smash to left-center that one-hopped the wall and bounced left instead of right off the tricky Miller Park indentation, causing the two Panthers outfielders to chase the ball. Jones was then able to motor around the bags and beat a close relay play at home for an inside-the-park home run, his first homer of the season. Hood then followed by blasting an offering over the left field wall to give the Huskies a 4-2 lead.
Milwaukee trimmed the deficit with a Jonathan Capasso leadoff long-ball in the fifth, but it was the last run the Panthers would score. New London, Wis. native Hersmen retired the last six hitters he faced to grab with his second win (2-1), giving up three runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six frames. Zach Oates and Andy Deain combined to log the last three scoreless innings, giving up just a hit apiece. Oates worked the seventh and eighth, while Deain tallied a strikeout in the ninth to help claim his 11th save of the season.
Panthers reliever Lucas Annen (1-2) took the loss after giving up his only two hits, the two homers, in his lone frame on the mound.
Hood led the offense by going 2-for-3 with three runs scored and his 10th home run of the season.
Meet The Panthers
Following a seven-game losing streak from March 12-26, the Panthers have reeled off wins in 22 of their last 32 games.
The offense possesses a .326 batting average, 328 runs, .472 slugging percentage, .394 on-base percentage, and 42 steals.
Ben Long fronts the bats with a .328 average (61-for-186), 35 runs, 12 doubles, seven home runs, 48 RBI, 15 walks, .505 slugging percentage, .402 on-base percentage, and two stolen bases. Cameron Amsrud (2-5) leads the bullpen with seven saves and a 3.86 ERA, allowing 16 runs on 34 hits and nine walks with 18 strikeouts in 28 innings over 21 appearances.
Dating back to the 2009 season, lefty Chuck Lukanen has a current streak of 18 consecutive starts, five last year and 13 this year, with four or more strikeouts on the mound, compiling 112 Ks over 126 innings.
Joe Buonavolanto (12-for-26 | .462) has a career-high tying six-game hitting streak, while Dave Reynolds (5-for-12 | .417) has hit in three in a row.
Buonavolanto has also reached base in nine straight games, while Jamison Wells has done it in four in a row.
On the mound, Brett Frantini has not allowed a run in each of his first four collegiate outings, compiling four strikeouts and one walk, while allowing only two hits.
Jake Hermsen has not given up more than three runs in each of his last three starts, allowing six runs over his last 18 innings with 14 strikeouts and two wins.
Chuck Lukanen has lasted at least six innings in each of his last nine starts, averaging over seven frames per start with two complete games, while Tom Barry has lasted six or more in three straight. Lukanen has also had three straight starts of giving up three earned runs or less, while Jeremy Gonzales has done so in four consecutive.
Zach Oates has not allowed a free pass in each of his last four appearances, covering four innings, and has not allowed a run in his last three outings. During the 3.1-inning scoreless stretch, he has given up just two hits and has one strikeout.
National Leaders Through May 9
Jordin Hood has been hit by a pitch 19 times, which ranks 21st.
Joe Etcheverry’s 33 walks rank 90th.
Andy Deain’s 10 saves rank 11th.
Chuck Lukanen’s 73 strikeouts rank 86th.
MAC Leaders Through May 9
Andy Deain’s 11 saves rank first.
Joe Etcheverry’s 36 walks rank third.
Jordin Hood’s 15 steals rank fifth.
Chuck Lukanen’s 90.2 innings pitched and Jeremy Gonzales’ 79 rank third and seventh, respectively. Lukanen also ranks second in strikeouts with 78, while Gonzales ranks fourth in batting average against with a .245 mark. Additionally, Lukanen ranks second with two complete games.
Andy Deain (31) and Tom Zelasko (27) rank first and second in appearances on the mound.
Joe Buonavolanto exploded May 9th to tie the school single-game hit record by posting a 5-for-5 day at home against Eastern Michigan. His perfect game marked the ninth time that an NIU player had totaled five hits, and he also added four runs scored, three steals, one walk and an RBI. He joins teammate Alex Jones on the list, as the sophomore was the last to reach the five-hit plateau.
MAC POW One-Two Punch
Chuck Lukanen has taken home MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week twice this season for outstanding performances against Buffalo (April 6th) and Central Michigan (April 30th). Lukanen twirled a gem versus the Bulls, getting a 6-1 win and going the distance for his second career complete game and the Huskies’ first this season. The lefty helped Mathey get his 400th career win by scattering five hits, surrendering just one run and three walks with five strikeouts. The senior then threw 7.2 innings against the Chippewas in a 4-1 win, allowing just one run on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts to help win the weekly conference award for the third time in his career.
“The Ralph” Advantage
Under Mathey, the Huskies are 90-56-1 at Ralph McKinzie Field, home of Huskie baseball, and a 7-5 win over Milwaukee March 24th, gave NIU its seventh win in its last eight openers. An 8-7 mark last season gave the Huskies their sixth above .500 season in their last seven at “The Ralph,” where they are 7-7 in 2010.
NIU is 5-3 against Illinois foes this season with the most recent win being over Bradley April 28th for the second time this season as the Huskies took a 6-3 home decision last April 28th. NIU beat Illinois Chicago, 5-4, as the Huskies hosted the Flames at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Ill. April 20th. NIU also defeated Bradley, 8-3, March 31st in the Braves’ home opener and defeated Southern Illinois, 13-9, March 20th in the finale of a three-game series. In eight seasons under head coach Ed Mathey, the Huskies are 56-27 versus intrastate opponents.
In the Huskie 13-2 drubbing of Iowa April 21st on the road, NIU used a pair of 10s to get the victory. Starter Jake Hermsen posted 10 strikeouts, while allowing just one hit and walk, retiring 21 of 23 batters and 17 in a row at one point. His only blemish was a first-inning leadoff triple that led to the Hawkeyes’ only run off the southpaw. A 10-run sixth inning then blew the game wide open to help NIU cruise to an easy victory over Big Ten Conference member Iowa. Alex Beckmann and Jamison Wells each had two hits in the frame, while Wells and Brian Smith had two RBI apiece in separate plate appearances.
Beckmann and Wells are the newest Huskies to achieve the two-hits-in-the-same-inning club as Jordin Hood and Alex Jones did it last season in a 21-9 win at Western Michigan May 14th.
You Complete Me
Southpaw Chuck Lukanen earned the win April 2nd by throwing his second complete game of his career and NIU’s first this season. He was also the last Huskie to complete a start, doing so in a 16-3 win at Central Michigan May 1st, 2009. Against the Buffalo, he scattered five hits, surrendering just one run and three walks with five strikeouts.
Jeremy Gonzales followed Lukanen’s complete game by going the distance, as well, April 3rd but wasn’t lucky enough to get the win as he was given his first loss. The teammates are the first since Trevor Feeney and Adam Holdenrid to put together back-to-back complete game efforts as the former Huskies both did it against Buffalo, too, respectively, in a doubleheader sweep on March, 22 two years ago. Gonzales’ season-long outing resulted in three runs on six hits and two walks with a season-best tying eight strikeouts.
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.
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.
Hermsen knocked out his first home run of his career against CSU Bakersfield on March 5, and had three long-balls in the month of March, his first three of his career, which rank in a tie for second on the team.
Brett Frantini blasted his first career home run on March 6 against CSU Bakersfield and logged his first collegiate inning on the mound with a perfect sixth inning in the March 31st 8-3 win at Bradley, in which he notched his first strikeout, as well.
Jamison Wells gathered his first collegiate hit in Game One of the Southern Illinois doubleheader on March 20.
Kyle Glancy picked up his first collegiate win in relief by holding Milwaukee scoreless over 1.2 innings, surrendering only a hit March 24th.
Alex Beckmann notched his first career triple in the April 6th win at Illinois State and achieved his first collegiate home run Saturday in a win at home against Eastern Michigan on an opposite field blast.
Marvin Sanchez roped his first career home run April 18th against Ohio.
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 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 home runs (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 60, breaking former teammate Bobby Stevens’ (2006-08) record of 45. With his two hits win at Illinois State April 6th, Hood moved up to third all-time in career hits (234) at NIU, passing Rob Marconi (2001-04 | 233). April 30-May 2 against Central Michigan, he moved into second place, passing by Pat Kerrigan (1999-2002 | 244) with his second career two-home run game May 1, as he now has 257 career hits. He also currently sits second all-time in home runs (33), runs scored (173) and at-bats (807), second in steals (52), third in RBI (157), and fourth in doubles (47) and triples (8).
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 Jordin Hood, Dave Reynolds, Brian Smith and Zach Oates.
Master Mathey’s Milestones
Head coach Ed Mathey entered his eighth season at NIU as the program’s all-time wins leader (206-234-1). With a 6-1 home win over Buffalo April 2nd, he earned his 400th win (411-405-3) of his 16-year career. With a 5-4 walk-off win over Illinois Chicago April 20th, he picked up 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.
April 14th’s 6-3 loss to Northwestern at Road Ranger Stadium marked the first of NIU’s three 2010 pro stadium games. After a one-year hiatus, NIU made its return to Elfstrom Stadium April 20th for a 5-4 walk-off win over Illinois Chicago. Additionally, NIU took down Milwaukee 5-3 last Wednesday at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, 45 minutes after the Atlanta Braves won a 9-2 noon game over the Brewers to improve to 2-1 in pro park contests this season.
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 10. 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).
Boys Of Summer
A trio of Huskies earned all-star nods during the summer of 2009 as they were competing in various summer leagues. Hood represented the Quincy Gems, Jones represented the KC Bandits and Lukanen represented the Green Bay Bullfrogs.
Being an exception athlete, 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.
It’s All In The Family
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 gave an update on last week’s midweek games against Valparaiso and Milwaukee, saying that despite being a Chicago Cubs fan, he thinks that the Chicago White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field “blows away” the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park, as he has played an NIU game at each place during his career.
Following the last midweek game of the season, NIU will host Western Michigan this weekend in its last regular season games of the year. Games are slated for Thursday at 3:05 p.m., Friday at 3:05 p.m., and Saturday at 1:05 p.m.