With a win: NIU will play Buffalo or Toledo Thursday at 6:30 p.m. CT With a loss: NIU will play Buffalo or Toledo Thursday at 8 a.m. CT
LEAD OFFS Northern Illinois captured the MAC West division championship last Sunday at Ball State, the first such championship in program history. In the MAC Tournament against the seven other teams in the tournament, NIU is 7-6 all-time. It is the first regular season championship of any kind for NIU baseball since 1972. NIU last won a conference tournament in 1996 when it won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament. Northern Illinois went on to play Northeastern Illinois in the NCAA Play-in series, falling to the Golden Eagles in the doubleheader. The Huskies are the No. 3 seed in the tournament, the highest ranking ever for NIU in the MAC tourney. Northern Illinois did not face Bowling Green in the regular season. Buffalo and Toledo are NIU's potential opponents in Thursday's game. NIU did not play Buffalo either. This is the Huskies second trip to the tournament in the last three seasons. NIU eliminated Bowling Green from the MAC Tournament in 2011, the last meeting between the teams.
WALK-ONS WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS In the top of the 10th inning last Saturday at Ball State, Northern Illinois loaded the bases with one out as Nate Ruzich was intentionally walked, preceded by singles by Jeff Zimmerman and Micah McCulloch. The Huskies were unable to bring any runners home with Brian Sisler at the plate to put two men down for NIU. After stepping into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning as a left fielder, Connor Schomig made his only at-bat of the day count in the 10th inning as he doubled down the left field line to clear the bases and put Northern Illinois on top of the Cardinals, 6-3. The insurance was needed as Ball State singled twice in the inning to plate one run but NIU held strong as it defeated Ball State for its first extra innings win of the season and its first ever MAC West championship, 6-4. Schomig walked on to the NIU baseball team in the fall of 2010, appearing in 83 games with 30 starts in the outfield over the last three seasons. He has six doubles this season in his 14 hits.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS VERSUS THE 2013 TOURNAMENT FIELD Against teams in the Mid-American Conference Tournament this year, Northern Illinois is 7-8 against those teams this season. The Huskies did not play Buffalo and Bowling Green in 2013 and have earned series wins at No. 8 Central Michigan, 2-1, and versus No. 5 Miami (Ohio), 2-1.
A FAMILY FIRST FOR THE BADGLEYS The Badgley family has put in 16 seasons of work for Northern Illinois baseball, dating back to 1997. While honors have followed the family in the past, no member of the Badgley family had ever won a championship until last Sunday with Zach. The redshirt senior is the first of his brothers, Dan (1997-2001), Mark (2003-07) and Nick (2008-09) to win a championship at Northern Illinois. To read more on the Badgley family history at NIU, click here.
LIMITING THE STRIKEOUTS No. 3 hitter Alex Klonowski and cleanup man Jeff Zimmerman posted impressive numbers at the plate in Mid-American Conference play this season as they hit .325 and .370, respectively. However, the most-impressive number posted by the duo is six by Klonowski and seven by Zimmerman, each representing the times they struck out in the team's 27 MAC contests this season. Klonowski has ranked amongst the nation's toughest to strikeout this season as he ranks 53rd in the NCAA's toughest to strikeout category.
NIU'S CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY Since it's first Division I campaign in 1968, the Huskies have only won one regular season championship, doing so back in 1972 (Midwestern Conference) when the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Regional at Bowling Green. NIU won the 1996 Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament in 1996 to advance to the NCAA Play-in series as well.
ANDERSON'S DOMINATION OF THE MAC Junior Eli Anderson had one of the most impressive season's recorded by an NIU starting pitcher in recent years. However, it was his pitching in conference play that set him apart from his competition in 2013. In his nine starts during MAC play, Anderson posted an 8-1 record and a 1.17 earned run average in 77.0 innings pitched of a possible 81.0. Along with six complete games, a shutout and a combined shutout, the Glenview, Ill. native struckout 54 batters, while walking only 14. Anderson also carried a 0.98 WHIP against conference foes. His only loss occurred May 16 at Ball State, a 3-2 complete game loss.
A NEW STANDARD ON THE LINE Pitcher Eli Anderson could set a new standard in the Northern Illinois baseball program Wednesday as he goes for his 10th win of the season, an unprecedented mark at NIU. Four other Huskie pitchers have reached the nine win mark in program history - first recorded by Jesse Richardson in 1995. Paul Erschen (1996), Joe Piekarz (2004) and Tony Manville (2011) have all followed suit as well.
AN UNPRECEDENTED ACCOMPLISHMENT Northern Illinois centerfielder Jamison Wells became the first player in NIU baseball history to have three-consecutive seasons of 20-or-more stolen bases in the country. In fact, of the NCAA's top-25 base stealer's this season, only one player - Illinois State's Chad Hinshaw - has accomplished that feat. Wells is ranked 58th in the NCAA in stolen bases with 22 this season.
PATIENCE AT THE PLATE Northern Illinois has been very patient at the plate in its 27 conference games this season, walking 92 times, compared to its opponents 74. Huskies Tommy Hook and Nate Ruzich pace the team at 15 and 17, respectively.
ANDRES THE GIANT Northern Illinois relief pitcher Anthony Andres has been impressive for the Huskies this season, called upon in late relief and as a closer. Thus far, Andres has a 4-2 record on the mound along with three saves with a 3.58 ERA. In his 24 appearances on the mound, he has also picked off three batters this season.
RUZICH THE ROAD BLOCK Junior catcher Nate Ruzich recorded four putouts Saturday at Ball State, two of which prevented runs that would tie the game. In fourth inning, Ball State's Sam Tidaback laid a sacrifice bunt down the first base line to force a suicide squeeze at home, which Jeff Zimmerman scooped up with his glove and flipped it with his glove Ruzich to get the out. The play turned into a 3-2-1-3 double play as Tidaback stopped running to first. In the sixth inning following a single to centerfield, Jamison Wells lasered a ball home that Ruzich collected while blocking out Cody Campbell to get the second out of the inning. NIU would go on to win the game 6-4 in 10 innings.
A TWO-WAY GUY Junior Alex Klonowski has been a two-way player for Northern Illinois all season, starting 14 games as the third starter in the rotation and another 38 contests between second base and designated hitter. Klonowski has a .297 batting average entering the tournament and shares the team lead in RBI with Jeff Zimmerman at 30. From the mound, he has a 4-7 record with a 4.97 ERA and two complete games.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MICAH After a sporadic role in 2012 as a designated hitter (22 games played, eight starts), sophomore Micah McCulloch has stepped into a prominent role in the Northern Illinois as a right fielder. McCulloch has been steady in the NIU lineup with a .276 average with nine doubles in 34 hits between the Nos. 5 and 6 spots in the batting order. Over the summer and in the offseason, McCulloch dropped over 40 pounds and has tripled his at bats this season (123) in 40 appearances with 34 starts.
OUT OF THE BULLPEN - BADGLEY Senior Zach Badgley has been one of the go to guys for the Huskies in the MAC this season, making 11 appearances for Northern Illinois in Mid-American Conference games. Often coming in with runners in scoring position, Badgey hurled 11.2 innings and carried a 0.77 earned average. He's scattered 10 hits in that time with only three walks and six strikeouts. In NIU's 14-3 loss at Ball State last Friday, Badgley tossed 4.2 innings in relief, allowing only two hits with two walks and two strikeouts in three perfect innings. His only only run came via a homerun in the fifth inning.
OUT OF THE BULLPEN - SAVARISE Freshman Jon Savarise has been a solid addition to the NIU lineup this season, after signing with the Huskies late last summer. In his rookie campaign, the Lincolnshire, Ill. native has made 23 appearances with one start to his credit. In 21.0 innings pitched, Savarise holds a 3.86 ERA, surrendering earned runs in only two outings. In his 22 relief appearances, Savarise has surrendered zero earned runs in 21 of those 22 outings. He is 0-2 on the year with one save - a four inning outing at Murray State March 13 - with 15 strikeouts and walks. Savarise was a 33rd round draft pick by Chicago White Sox in last June's Major League Baseball draft.
OUT OF THE BULLPEN - SWEENEY After making only four appearances from the bullpen last season, Kevin Sweeney began a prominent role in the Northern Illinois pitching staff this season. He made 23 appearances in the regular season, tied for the second-most on the team with fellow reliever Jon Savarise, and pitched 19.0 innings in spot duty. The junior carries a 4.26 earned run average with 10 strikeouts this season. He pitched a career-high 2.0 innings last Saturday at Ball State to help secure the Huskies first ever Mid-American Conference West division championship. A former hockey player, Sweeney has previously appeared as a reliever and as a pinch-runner for NIU.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK - ALMOST .500 IN THE MAC Northern Illinois has collected Mid-American West Division Pitcher of the Week honors four-of-nine times this season with Eli Anderson collecting it three times and Jordan Ruckman rounding it out with one award. Anderson earned it the first two weeks of conference play and again earned it in week four of MAC play. Following a two-hit complete game versus Miami (Ohio) in week six, Ruckman collected his first MAC Pitcher of the Week Award.
THE USUAL WEEKEND ROTATION There has been no ambiguity in the Northern Illinois weekend pitching rotation as Eli Anderson, Alex Klonowski and Jordan Ruckman have all made 14 starts this season. Over the last three weeks, Anderson has been the No. 1 starter, while Ruckman and Klonowski round out the rotation at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Anderson is the confirmed pitcher for Wednesday's game against Bowling Green.
FOURTH AND FIFTH STARTERS NIU has tried a variety of pitchers this season during the midweek to get starts under young pitchers belts. Freshman Bobby Kuntzendorf has been the one constant in Northern Illinois' midweek rotation as he has started five games this season, with a 1-3 record. In the opening weeks of the season, Zach Badgley was in the starting pitching rotation, starting against Texas Tech and Nevada in the first two weeks of the season. He made his last start at Murray State March 14 for his lone win of the season. NIU has started four other pitchers in midweek games, calling on freshman Jordan Ruckman and Jon Savarise, sophomore Ben Neumann and senior Jacob Goldenberg. To see complete pitching charts, go to pages 14 and 15 of the notes.
POTENTIAL TWIN KILLING Since the start of the season, freshman Jordan Ruckman has been in NIU's starting pitching rotation while twin brother Justin Ruckman has pitched in relief for the Huskies. However, last Tuesday May 14 at UW-Milwaukee Justin started his first career game on the bump for NIU, opening the game with 4.1 hitless innings of work. He finished with only one hit allowed, two walks and one strikeout in his first career start. Ruckman has a 5.40 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched.
A COMFORT LEVEL IN AVON Northern Illinois has already played three games at All Pro Frieght Stadium in Avon, Ohio as the Huskies took on Akron March 29-31 there due to unplayable field conditions at the Zips facility. NIU is 3-0 at the stadium this year, sweeping Akron in the three game series. The series was highlighted by a 14-4 victory on Easter Sunday in which the Huskies scored 11 runs with two outs on them in the contest.
THE STAFF - THEN TO NOW Though it's nearly impossible to compare the present to the past when talking baseball, the Northern Illinois weekend rotation has posted incredible numbers this season, most notably in innings pitched and complete games. The Huskies have gone the distance nine times this season, the most for NIU since 2003, Ed Mathey's first season with the program. The program record stands at an unbreakable 24 games in 1977, when contests were seven innings. By those parameters, starts of 7.0 innings or longer, the NIU pitching staff would have 22 complete games this season - 10 by Eli Anderson, eight by Alex Klonowski and four by Jordan Ruckman..
MULTIMEDIA EXTRA - THE CELEBRATION Following Saturday's win at Ball State, the Huskies stormed the field and dog piled catcher Nate Ruzich and pitcher Anthony Andres as the team celebrated its first ever MAC West Division Championship. To see the celebration and post game comments from Connor Schomig and Coach Ed Mathey addressing the team, click here.
TWO OUTS? NO PROBLEM Northern Illinois created most of their runs with two men down this Mid-American Conference season. The Huskies drove in 60-of-125 RBI (.480) with two outs, compared to their opponents 53-of-119 (.445). What pressure?
WELLS SMASHES STOLEN BASES RECORD Against UW-Milwaukee in the Huskies home-opener, senior Jamison Wells set a new NIU standard for stolen bases in a career with his 72nd, 73rd and 74th against the Panthers. The three stolen bases were a single game for the senior. Wells now has 86 in his career, surpassing Alvin Maynard's mark of 71 set in (1979-80).
STEALS FEW AND FAR BETWEEN AGAINST ANDERSON When runners get on base against Eli Anderson, they've generally had a hard time advancing via the steal as he's kept runners in check from the mound. Opposing baserunners are only 4-for-10 this season when trying to steal base with Anderson on the mound.
THE FINAL THIRD... When it comes to the final three frames of a ball game, Northern Illinois does not back down from its opponents. In the last three innings during MAC play, the Huskies have outscored their opponents, 49-39, including 21-13 in the ninth inning. In the 10th or beyond, NIU has outscored other teams 3-1. Northern Illinois has had two walkoff victories this season, both at home. The Huskies defeated Western Michigan following a series of errors on a hard ground ball to third base by Nate Ruzich April 14, 9-8, and another versus Miami (Ohio) April 27, 4-3, on a single by Alex Klonowski through the left side of the infield, scoring pinch runner Brandon Mallder from third base.
TOURNAMENT FIELD CHEAT SHEET
Kent State, No. 1
2013 Overall Record
2013 MAC Record
NIU versus KSU in 2013
1-2 March 22 - L, 3-2 March 23- - W, 4-0 March 24 - L, 13-1