For the second-straight game, the Northern Illinois baseball team (9-17) tallied at least 10 hits and runs in a game as it defeated UW-Milwaukee (11-12) in the Huskies home opener, 10-6.
Freshman Bobby Kuntzendorf (Yorkville/Aurora Christian) earned his first career victory as the starting pitcher.
Senior Jamison Wells batted 3-for-4 with three runs, four RBI and a career-high three stolen bases.
“When you win a game or two, it really starts to relax the guys and their natural tendencies come through and the players don’t fight themselves. I think we’re at that point right now,” said head coach Ed Mathey after the game. “We had pretty good zone discipline today, we didn’t chase a lot of balls outside of the zone and Alex Klonowski really got momentum going for us in the first inning. I think those runs we scored in the first inning really helped Bobby relax out there.”
Milwaukee jumped out to early lead in the top of the first inning as Derek Peake got a leadoff single and scored after tagging on a shallow fly ball in the outfield dropped by NIU to make it 1-0.
With leadoff batter Wells reaching base after being hit by a 1-2 pitch, the Huskies mounted their comeback charge. Wells stole his first base of the ball game and would tie the contest on an RBI single up the middle by Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney). Northern Illinois would gain its lead with two outs as Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) singled through the left side to score Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) from second base, 2-1.
After battling his nerves in the first, Kuntzendorf settled and posted three zeros on the scoreboard to finish with a season-high four innings pitched, striking out three, walking two with one earned run and only hit allowed. In only his second career start, the freshman picked up his first victory to even his record to 1-1.
“I thought Bobby did a fine job today,” said Mathey, “he was a little tentative in the first inning, trying to feel some things out and by the third and fourth innings his breaking balls were really starting to snap and that became a really effective pitch for him to keep both left-handed and right-handed batters honest.”
Northern Illinois tacked on five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on four Huskie hits and two errors by the Panthers. Wells recorded his first of two twin RBI singles in the fourth inning to lead the NIU scoring. The senior centerfielder notched his second two RBI single in the fifth stanza.
“Jamison got a couple big hits with two outs on him and we took advantage on a couple of their errors out there. Those are all good things by us from an offensive standpoint,” Mathey added.
The Huskies threw six relief pitchers in the game for a total of seven pitchers in the game. The bullpen combined for four hits, three strikeouts, three walks and four earned runs in the game. Heading into the game, Coach Mathey stated he wanted to get the bullpen some work during the week to get them ready for the weekend at Central Michigan.
“I think overall the bullpen did fine. We want to get guys ready for the weekend and the best way to get ready is to be in the line of fire. We didn’t do a good job in the seventh inning though when Milwaukee scored its runs – hit by pitches, walks and non-plays on our part. That makes it tough for the pen. We didn’t give up a lot of hits today and Milwaukee is a good hitting team. As the year plays out, it will prove that they are good hitting team. It played to our favor today and if they had hit the way they normally do this game would’ve been a lot closer.”
NIU last scored 10 runs in back-to-back games May 15-17, 2012 versus Milwaukee (W, 10-4) and Ball State (L, 11-10 (10)). Leftfielder Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview/St. Laurence) finished 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI. Also finishing 2-for-4 were Joe Battaglia (Westchester/St. Joseph) and Tenhagen.
The Huskies will return to the diamond Friday afternoon for a three game series at Central Michigan for Northern Illinois’ first Mid-American Conference West Division showdown. Game one of the series will start at 2 p.m. Central.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.