The Northern Illinois baseball team outslugged Illinois 15-14 on Friday to capture its fourth straight win.
The Huskies (4-10) scored early and often against a quintet of Illini pitchers, pounding out 18 hits at Southern Illinois’ Abe Martin Field. Junior Alex Beckmann started the barrage in the first when he laced a John Anderson offering down the left field line for a two-RBI single. Jeff Zimmerman and Jordan Rishavy crossed home plate to spot Huskie starter Jake Hermsen a 4-1 lead after one.
“We had some good, sustained approaches throughout the game,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “We seemed to keep pressure on throughout the game, which ended up being a needed thing with how the game played out. One of the big things was our outstanding two-strike approaches. We had a lot of clutch hits with two strikes.”
Kevin Smith and Brian Riegler recorded run-scoring singles in the second to extend the lead to 7-1. The Illini answered back in their half of the third with five runs of their own. A three-run blast off Hermsen by Brandon Hohl highlighted the inning to put Illinois (4-10) back in the ballgame.
The lefty was chased from the game in the fourth when he allowed the first two Illini batters to reach base. Freshman Alex Klonowski relieved Hermsen, but was unable to strand those runners and put NIU at its second deficit of the game at 8-7.
Northern Illinois leap frogged back in front with a pair of scores in the bottom half of the inning, courtesy of RBIs by Beckmann and Riegler. Zimmerman added a home run of the three-run variety, his first collegiate longball, in the fifth. The blast made Klonowski (1-0) eligible for his first collegiate win, and he would nail it down after boasting 2.2 innings of two-run baseball today.
NIU capped off its hot day at the plate in the seventh, when they took control of the tug-of-war battle. Zimmerman and Riegler both knocked in their fourth runs of the game with singles, while Jamison Wells forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk.
“Staying on the attack was something that we talked to our guys about,” Mathey said. “It was one of those days where you need to keep pressure on, keep your foot on the gas pedal. It just shaped up to be that type of day and we sensed it. It was one of those days where you weren’t comfortable with any lead. We were up six going into the third inning and they all of sudden come back. Those extra runs in the seventh proved to be very important for us.”
Tom Zelasko and Kyle Glancy would nurse the 15-10 lead the rest of the way to preserve the NIU victory. In earning his first save of his career, Glancy allowed one run in 1.2 innings and gave up two hits to hold off a late push by Illinois that saw the Illini score three in the eighth and one in the ninth.
“It was a well-earned save for Kyle,” Mathey said. “On a day like today, the earned run was probably a result of defensive indifference. We had a two-run lead and didn’t want to hold him on. We had three, maybe four, situations when guys came out of the bullpen with runners in scoring position and didn’t allow the runs to score. That does a couple things. It keeps runs off the board and kills momentum. Zelasko, Badgley and Glancy all did it. Kyle’s throwing the ball well. We went to him a little earlier than we wanted to because we wanted to get this win.”
Zimmerman and Riegler paced the run-producing effort for NIU, each driving in four runs. Zimmerman (2) and Riegler (3) were also part of the six Huskies that had multiple hit performances. Joining the duo were Alex Jones (4), Rishavy (2), Kevin Smith (2) and Beckmann (2).
“It’s always good to have production spaced throughout the order,” Mathey said. “When we are swinging the bats well, we have a chance to score runs throughout the order. Alex Jones has been swinging a really good bat the last two days in the two spot. He’s seeing the ball really well right now. Jeff Zimmerman hit the first home run of the year for us and is really starting to make his presence felt in the cleanup spot of the lineup. Riegler had a real good day in the eighth spot. We have guys doing good things to help those guys out and be productive. It was nice to see the adjustment we made from yesterday.
“It’s a feel game; right now, we are feeling good,” he added. “We were doing some things well during that 0-10 start, but just not enough to win baseball games. Winning four in a row really helps, but our approach is just win tomorrow’s game. If we keep that, we’ll be okay. It’s always good to beat instate teams. To beat a team like Illinois twice in a 16-hour period shows some resiliency for our guys.”
The now scorching-hot Huskies will stay in Carbondale tonight forSaturday’s 2:30 p.m. matchup with SIU.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.