Starting 90 minutes late with a rain delay and trailing in the bottom of the ninth to instate Big Ten foe Northwestern, Northern Illinois battled back to break a shutout and attempt its first walkoff win of the season.
The Huskies could not overcome the deficit and fell to the Wildcats, 2-1.
“We saw a couple good arms on the mound today and it helped us prepare for the weekend but you’d sure like to take advantage of the opportunities we had to score some runs in the game,” said head coach Ed Mathey after the game. “We had a well pitched game on our end as well and we let that one go.”
Northwestern (15-26) went on the board in the top of the first as it loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. The Wildcats catcher Geoff Rowan drew a second consecutive walk for NU to score the lone run of the first eight stanzas and take the early 1-0 lead.Both teams put up blanks in the next seven innings, but the Huskies held an 8-4 hit advantage over the Wildcats.
Hurling 30-plus pitches in the first inning, Tom Barry (Orland Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) carried a high pitch count for most of the game. The senior southpaw settled down in the sixth and seventh innings, throwing 13 and 10, respectively, to close the game with 109 thrown and 60 for strike. Barry also struck out six batters, two looking, and only surrendered one hit in seven innings of work.
“Tom struggled a bit at the beginning of the game and it looked a little slick out there for him, but he came out and competed well for us. He gave us a great chance to win out there, even despite all that. He did his job today. If we get a few more hits, we don’t worry about the run that he gave up.”
Connor Duckhorn (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) doubled down the left line in the bottom of the fifth, sending Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park, Ill./Victor J Andrew) to third base, who reached base after being hit by a pitch. Northern Illinois was unable to tie the game in the inning and stranded both runners on base.
Northern Illinois continued to flirt with the tie as they stranded three runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings. In danger of being shutout for the first time all season and the first time in 53 games, the Huskies broke the goose egg when Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo.) shot a laser past the second baseman’s glove and scored Troy White (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) from second. White reached base on a single earlier in the inning.
Duckhorn stepped up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but finished the game with a strikeout to close the Huskies evening at Elfstrom Stadium, 2-1. It was Northern Illinois’ first ever loss at the stadium.
Wells finished the day 3-for-4 at the plate to lead the Huskies, while Duckhorn added two in four at-bats in the contest.
The Huskies (13-31) will return to action today when they head to UIC. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.