Oct. 14, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - Despite some less than favorable weather, the Northern Illinois baseball team was still able to complete its annual five-game Red/Black Series over the last 10 days as the series came down to a decisive Game Five in which assistant coach Jason Smith's Black Team came out on top of assistant coach Ray Napientek's Red Team, 8-2, to claim this year's intrasquad title and complete a comeback from a 2-0 series deficit.
"It was a good team effort," said Smith. "The pitching really carried us in the final game and we took advantage of the Red Team's early mistakes. I was also very happy that the four guys who had class were able to make it to the game in time."
Napientek declined to comment after losing his first Red/Black Series in four years.
The Black Team ran away with Tuesday's final game early in the first inning by putting five runs on the board and not looking back as sophomore Kyle Glancy (Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest) threw four scoreless innings in relief to help seal it.
In that huge first frame, sophomore Brandon House (Richton Park, Ill./Marian Catholic) drew a bases-loaded walk for the first RBI and junior Marvin Sanchez (Chicago, Ill./Clemente Academy) followed with an RBI walk of his own. Then junior Austin Smith (Machesney, Ill./John A. Logan College) delivered the back-breaker with a two-run double that was followed by a sac-fly from freshman Jayme Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly). Along with Austin Smith's two RBI, Wells helped Black to victory by going 2-for-3 with an RBI, a run and a pair of steals.
In the series, Napientek's team jumped out to a 2-0. His Red team took Game One, 6-5, in ten innings as freshman Cody Jacobson (Rock City, Ill./Dakota) came through with a game-winning bases-loaded RBI single. Sophomores Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) and Jake Hermsen (New London, Wis./New London) led the way for Red. Jones went 3-for-4 with two runs and a double, while Hermsen went 2-for-4 with a double and two steals.
In Game Two, rough weather shortened the contest to seven innings as Red won 8-6 behind senior Jordin Hood's
(Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) game-winning grand slam in the fourth inning. Hood went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs and four RBI to lead Red. Jones also had another good game, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run.
Black started its series comeback in Game Three by winning a high scoring contest, 12-10. Krupp erased an early 1-0 Red lead in the third frame with a three-run triple, but Red freshman Ben Etcheverry (Winter Haven, Fla./Eagle Lake) knotted the game, 3-3, with a two-run double in the fourth. Then with the score in favor of Red, 10-8, House exploded with a sixth-inning two-run single and a seventh-inning two-run homer to give Black a 12-10 lead that it would not relinquish.
Both teams then could only manage three runs each in Game Four and ran out of pitching to force the game to end in a tie. Hood gave Red a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single, but Krupp tied the game in the third with an RBI double. Red then took a two-run lead in the fourth after Hood and Hermsen scored. However, Black cut into the lead with an RBI from junior Kevin Smith (Wheaton, Ill./North) in the bottom of the fourth and tied it in the seventh with a sac-fly from Krupp. With no arms left on either side, the teams then called it a tie to create the winner-takes-all situation for Game Five.
"With Game Four being tied after regulation, we did not want to run any of our pitchers out there for any more innings," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "So I made the commissioner's decision to make the final game worth two."
Overall in the series, Jones led all batters with a .615 average (8-for-13), while he also added seven runs, three RBI, eight walks and two steals. House had a big series as well with a .333 average (5-for-15), six runs, a homer, five walks, a steal and led all hitters with seven RBI. Hood was the only other hitter to drive one out of the park with his grand slam as he totaled five RBI in the series. Additionally, Krupp stole nine bags to lead all runners with the next closest being Wells' four.
"It's invaluable to try to put us into situations where it's as close to a competitive game as possible," said Mathey. "We get a lot of feedback that helps us direct instruction and practices. I thought both teams did a nice job of bringing competitive spirit to the field. It's never going to be like you're playing another team, but the spirit that they brought helped us, as coaches, start to figure out what the rotation and depth chart will be for the spring.
"We had a good fall with the guys wanting to work hard and get better. Now with fall ending, it's going to be about the guys getting better individually over the winter to get ready for October 19 in Tempe, Arizona, which is when we will officially be competing again."
The Huskies, who return 25 players and welcome nine newcomers, will begin the 2010 season in Tempe, Ariz. with a four-game series against national powerhouse Arizona State from Feb. 19-21.