In the final Mid-American Conference series of the regular season, the Huskies’ hopes of qualifying for the conference tournament are on the line against Western Michigan, but NIU will also need some help from two other foes. In order to make the postseason, the Huskies must sweep the three-game set against the Broncos, have Miami (Ohio) get swept at home versus Ohio (13-11), and have Buffalo lose one game at Bowling Green (15-9). Miami (10-14) stands one game ahead of NIU in the eighth, and final, spot of the tournament and owns the tiebreaker over the Huskies after taking two of three in Oxford April 9-11, while Buffalo (9-15) is tied with NIU for ninth and owns the tiebreaker over the Huskies after winning the head-to-head series 2-1 in DeKalb April 2-4.
Additionally, the series finale will mark the last regular season game for NIU and the final contest at home as Huskies for seniors Joe Buonavolanto, Andy Deain, Jordin Hood, Sam Kapacinskas, Chuck Lukanen, Dave Reynolds and Brian Smith, who all will be honored on Saturday’s “Senior Day” with a pre-game ceremony.
The Huskies enter the series fresh off a 21-6 drubbing of Milwaukee Tuesday at Ralph McKinzie Field to finish non-conference midweek play with an 8-4 record. NIU is 8-7 at “The Ralph” this season and has won six of its last nine games at home.
The Broncos head into the set after falling 6-1 at Illinois Tuesday, and like the Huskies, were swept in last weekend’s conference series, losing at Central Michigan.
The AccuWeather.com forecast for the series calls for a mostly sunny, 71-degree Thursday, cloudy, 71 Friday, and mostly sunny, 77 Saturday.
The All-Time Series
WMU leads the all-time series, 35-25-1, over NIU but the Huskies have won each of the last three series for a 7-2 record against the Broncos since 2007. Overall under head coach Ed Mathey, NIU is 12-10 versus WMU.
Last Match-Up Against Western Michigan
On May 16 in the last game of the 2009 season, the Northern Illinois baseball came up short in trying to complete a road sweep of Western Michigan, losing 6-5 after the Broncos (14-35, 9-18 Mid-American Conference) took the lead with a pair of runs in the seventh inning to leave NIU head coach Ed Mathey one win shy of reaching the 20-win mark for the sixth time in his seven seasons with the Huskies (19-34, 10-16 MAC).
NIU had a 5-4 lead entering the seventh inning with Kyle Glancy on the mound in relief of starter Brandon Copp, but the Broncos rallied for two runs to take the lead with the help of two extra base hits. Brent Gerlach started it off with a triple to left-center and after Kyle Galbraith grounded one back to Glancy, Pedro Dager doubled to left-center to score Gerlach. Chris Lewis then followed with a single up the middle to score Dager and give WMU a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
The Huskies had an opportunity in the eighth to at least get the tying run in with Alex Beckmann on second base with one out after being hit by an errant Casey Webber pitch and reaching second a on balk, but Webber settled down to get Jordin Hood swinging and after a walk to Dave Reynolds, he got Nick Badgley swinging as well.
Tim Mowry then came in and executed a flawless ninth to earn his fourth save of the season, giving Webber (1-4) the win after he relieved starter Eric Heckaman for three innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. Heckaman lasted five innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits and five walks with four strikeouts.
Glancy (0-3) took the loss after surrendering three earned runs on four hits and a walk with a strikeout in 1.1 innings. Copp threw the first five innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts.
NIU opened the game with a two-run first frame on RBI singles by Hood and Badgley, but WMU answered with two runs in the bottom half on Lewis’ seventh homer of the season and an RBI single by Tim Cross.
The Huskies scored two runs again in the second inning after a bases loaded hit-by-pitch gave Hood an RBI and a sacrifice fly gave Reynolds an RBI.
After an RBI sacrifice fly by Ryan McMillan in the fourth inning, the teams each exchanged a run in the sixth as NIU scored on a Reynolds single and WMU scored on a groundout by Brad Wehrmeyer that cut the Huskie lead to 5-4 before the decisive seventh.
Lewis led the Bronco offense with two hits, a run and two RBI, while Nathan Marquardt and Gerlach each had two hits and a run. Cross also had two hits and drove in a run.
Hood led the Huskie offense with two hits, two RBI, a stolen base and a run, while Reynolds also had two RBI and a hit. Brett Frantini tallied a hit and a run, and Badgley had a hit and an RBI. Additionally, Beckmann and Joe Etcheverry each had singles and Alex Jones totaled a season-high four walks and tied a season-best with three runs.
Meet The Broncos
The Broncos ended the 2009 campaign with a 14-35, 9-18 MAC record for a sixth place finish in the West Division, where they also currently stand in 2010 with a 5-19 mark. After a season-high, four-game winning streak April 13-17, WMU has dropped 15 of its last 18 games and has lost five in a row since its last win, a 6-1 decision over Ball State at home May 9th in Game One of a doubleheader.
The offense owns a .274 batting average, 262 runs, .395 slugging percentage, .348 on-base percentage, and 19 steals. The arms have a 7.75 ERA, allowing 453 runs on 604 hits and 236 walks with 278 strikeouts in 438 innings.
Chris Lewis paces the sticks with a .370 average (74-for-200), 38 runs, 18 doubles, seven home runs, 42 RBI, 19 walks, .565 slugging percentage, .436 on-base percentage, and three stolen bases. Tim Mowry (2-0) holds down the back end of the bullpen with three saves and a 6.83 ERA, giving up 27 runs on 33 hits and 13 walks with 28 strikeouts in 29 innings over 22 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 (14-for-30 | .467) has a career-high seven-game hitting streak, while Dave Reynolds (7-for-15 | .467) has hit in four in a row.
Buonavolanto has also reached base in 10 straight games, while Jamison Wells has done it in five in a row. Brian Smith has reached in three consecutive as well and has a walk in each.
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.
National Leaders Through May 16
Jordin Hood has been hit by a pitch 21 times, which ranks 17th.
Joe Etcheverry’s 36 walks rank 79th.
Andy Deain’s 11 saves rank 8th.
Chuck Lukanen’s 78 strikeouts rank 90th.
MAC Leaders Through May 16
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.
Mr. Jones And Three
Alex Jones has hit three home runs in his last seven days, tying his entire freshman season total from last year, and all three have been hit to right-center field. The first came on an in-the-parker at Miller Park in a win over Milwaukee May 12th. The second came May 15th in a loss at Ball State. The third came in another win over Milwaukee Tuesday.
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 91-56-1 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 also 8-7 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.
Kotis notched his first NIU RBI Tuesday in a home win over Milwaukee.
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 (175) and at-bats (809), second in steals (53), 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 (207-234-1). With a 6-1 home win over Buffalo April 2nd, he earned his 400th win (412-405-3) 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.
If the Huskies can find their way into the MAC Tournament, the postseason competition will begin Wednesday, May 26th in Chillicothe, Ohio.