A seven-run top of the second inning and consistent pitching propelled Northern Illinois (3-13) to victory over Murray State (7-10) at Regan Field, 8-4.
“Our pitchers did a great job limiting the damage while on the mound and our hitting helped us overcome a couple of defensive lapses in the game,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “Micah (McCulloch) delivered for us in the second inning to start things off and we did a good job of sustaining that offensive run behind him to score seven. I was a little disappointed we couldn’t score anymore until the ninth inning but I thought we did a good job of keeping the foot on the throttle when we needed to.”
NIU’s first five batters reached base in the second inning, highlighted by Micah McCulloch’s (Rochelle/Rochelle Township) double to score Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) and Brian Sisler (DeKalb/DeKalb) to open Northern Illinois’ scoring. Jameson Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) followed with a fielder’s choice to score McCulloch to make it 3-0 NIU.
Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview/St. Laurence) scored on a passed ball with Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) at bat to extend the Huskies run in the inning. On the first pitch of his at-bat, Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) singled straight up the middle to score Hook and Wells for the fifth and sixth runs of the frame.
NIU closed the scoring when Sisler hit a sacrifice fly down the right field line to score Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney), who reached on a walk, to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead heading into the middle of the second inning.
All told Northern Illinois had eight batters reach base in the inning, three of which were via base hits. McCulloch and Zimmerman each accounted for two RBI in the inning, marking the first time since April 21, 2010 at Iowa that multiple Huskies drove in two RBI in an inning. NIU’s previous 2013 best for runs in an inning occurred Feb. 23, when it scored five in the top of the seventh at Nevada in the Huskies 12-4 victory over the Wolf Pack.
With a cushy lead, the Northern Illinois pitching remained consistent throughout the game, led by starting pitcher Badgley. Though the Thoroughbreds reached base nine times in his five innings on the mound, scoring three runs, the senior remained cool under pressure as he fanned one and recorded the necessary outs when he needed to. Badgley earned his first win as a starting pitcher since his first-career start at Chicago State in April 2009.
“Zach did a good job of getting out of his jams today,” added Mathey, “he gave up a couple of walks and hit a few batters but he did a good job of keeping his head out there. Jonny did a nice job in relief to earn a big save for his team and for himself.”
Savarise stepped onto the mound in relief in the bottom of the sixth inning and was solid as a rock in the finishing role. Though he surrendered one run in the sixth inning, he posted goose eggs in the final three frames to hold the Breds to four runs in the game.
Entering the day with only 2.2 innings pitched, Savarise, a 33rd round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, scattered four hits and struck out two to earn the first save of his young career in four innings. He is the first true freshman since Klonowski in 2011 to record a save for Northern Illinois.
NIU added an insurance run in the ninth inning on a double down the left field line by Hook to score pinch runner Danny Seiton (Batavia/Batavia) and make it an 8-4 lead for Northern Illinois over Murray State. The win was the Huskies first over the Thoroughbreds since 2001. Hook finished with two hits, an RBI, a double and a walk in the game.
The Huskies will close their spring break this weekend with a trio of games in Nashville at the Music City Tournament. NIU will play at Belmont and Lipscomb over the weekend to round its preparation for Mid-American Conference play.