Trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning, the Northern Illinois baseball team (11-18, 6-3 MAC) rallied back with a two-run homerun in the eighth and a pair of RBI walks in the ninth to defeat Central Michigan (12-18, 3-6 MAC) and claim the Huskies first series in Mt. Pleasant since 2009, 5-3.
Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) finished 2-for-5 with the two-run blast to tie the game in the eighth. The Huskies claimed sole possession of first place in the MAC West with the win.
“Both starting pitchers did well and so did the defenses. That made for a fun baseball game today,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“Central Michigan took a lead in the sixth and added one more in the seventh. They brought their closer on in the eighth and it helped our approach seeing him on Friday. Jeff lasered a double and Landon hit a nice shot with a little help from the wind to muscle one 10-15 feet over the fence and tie the game. We did a nice job of taking advantage of the freebies in the ninth and that made for a very good win. It will make for a nice bus ride home.”
The Huskies were the first to score as Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) doubled off the centerfield wall to leadoff the fourth inning and nearly grabbed his first homerun of the season, only missing by feet. After advancing to third on a fielder’s choice by Tenhagen, Zimmerman would score on a groundout by Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC) to take a 1-0 lead.
With Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) not allowing any damage in his first five innings on the mound, Central Michigan took a 2-1 lead off a triple by Pat MacKenzie over centerfielder Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly). The Chippewas added one more in the bottom of the seventh to increase their lead, 3-1.
Northern Illinois answered in the top of the eighth with CMU’s closer Matt Trowbridge stepping onto the mound. After a pair of strikeouts by Huskies Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) and Klonowski, Zimmerman recorded his second double of the day to mount a rally charge. After fouling a ball off the back stop, Tenhagen crushed a ball over the left centerfield wall to tie the game, 3-3.
Anthony Andres (Western Spring/St. Rita) stepped onto the mound in the eighth with an aggressive CMU lineup looking to tie it up. After a leadoff line out, Andres surrendered a walk and allowed the runner to second on a wild pitch, which led to an intentional walk. The junior hurler struck out the next batter and followed up with another wild pitch and another intentional walk to load the bases with two outs. With the sacks juiced and Logan Regnier at the plate, Andres forced Regnier to swing on the first pitch that Danny Seiton (Batavia/Batavia) collected and threw over to Hook at second to end the inning.
In the ninth, Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College) was hit by a pitch in the leadoff spot and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Duckhorn but an error on the throw kept Duckhorn on base. Seiton sacrificed both runners over and three-straight walks by Wells, Hook and Zimmerman gave NIU a 5-3 lead in the game.
Andres stayed on to finish the game, forcing two groundouts and a strike out in the ninth to pickup his second win of the season. The series win was the Huskies first at Central Michigan since 2009 and increased NIU’s record to 8-2 in its last 10 games.
Zimmerman finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs, an RBI and a walk in the game.
Northern Illinois will return to action Tuesday, April 9, for a midweek night contest at Illinois State. First pitch between the Huskies and the Cardinals is set for 6 p.m.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.