Pressure – the burden of physical or mental distress, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
NIU (8-17, 4-2 MAC) did not carry a burden or feel distress versus Akron (4-20, 2-4 MAC) on Easter Sunday as it scored 11 of its 14 runs with two outs to sweep the series and defeat the Zips, 14-4. It was the most runs scored by the Huskies this season and the first road sweep since April 13 to 15, 2012, at Miami (Ohio).
“That second inning was huge and I told the team that after the game. Akron had already scored and had recorded two outs on us. Ruzich got a hit and the guys started rolling from there to get four runs that inning,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “Our hitters really put the pressure on the pitchers and on the defense in the game and that allowed us to have some pretty big innings offensively.”
Akron kicked off the scoring in the bottom of the first inning as it gained its first lead of the weekend with one run on a single through the left side for a 1-0 Zips lead.
With their backs against the wall and trailing in the game, the Huskies responded in the top of the second as Connor Schomig (Darien/Hinsdale South) worked a full count on pitcher Pat Dyer with runners on first and second. Schomig singled with a shallow bloop single on the edge of the right field line to tie the game, 1-1.
The Huskies took the lead as Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) tripled to left centerfield to clear the bases and increase Northern Illinois’ lead, 3-1. A hustle-it-out chopper single by Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) scored Wells from third to make it a 4-1 game.
In the fifth inning with Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) on third base and two outs, Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC) hit a line drive to left center field that went in and out of the glove of Jared Turocy to score Tenhagen and give the Huskies a 5-2 lead.
One frame later, Northern Illinois loaded the bases with no outs on a single by Wells and two hit by pitches, Hook and Klonowski. Wells and Hook scored on consecutive wild pitches to make it 7-2 and Jeff Zimmerman’s (Tinley Park/Andrew) second triple of the weekend increased NIU’s lead, 8-2.
The Huskies tacked six more runs on with two men down as Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College) doubled, and Duckhorn, Hook and Zimmerman singled to give NIU a 14-2 lead.
All told, the Huskies scored nine runs in the top of the sixth inning, the most by NIU in an inning this year. The Zips scored two more runs in the bottom of the ninth to end the game, 14-4
NIU combined for 18 hits in the game, four of those from Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney). He reached base in every plate appearance and also pitched five innings, with eight strikeouts, one walk and only five hits allowed with two runs. Klonowski finished the weekend 9-for-12 (.750) at the plate this weekend.
With Wells and Zimmerman collecting triples, it was the first time since March 17, 2011 that NIU has two-or-more triples in a game.
The Huskies will return to action Thursday when it hosts Milwaukee in the team’s home-opener at Ralph McKinzie Field. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.