Quickly putting any memory of Tuesday’s game behind them, the Northern Illinois Huskies scored six runs in the first three innings en route to an 8-5 win Wednesday afternoon over Bradley at Ralph McKinzie Field.
After taking five innings to produce a hit in yesterday’s game against Illinois State, the Huskies (11-15) needed just two batters to do the trick versus another Missouri Valley Conference opponent, and they did more than just generate a hit.
Alex Jones, the next batter, lifted a ball to right field and Bob Schuch looked as if he had the ball tracked down. However, the ball bounced off his glove as he reached for the catch, allowing Wells to score. After Joe Etcheverry moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt, Troy White capped the inning with a two-run single to right.
“Offensively, today was a much better day for us,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “Our approach was good and we took advantage of situations when we needed to. A big part of this game was that we took advantage or our opportunities when we need to and they didn’t, and they did have some chances.
“Taking advantage of [the first inning error] was big. Joe Etcheverry took it upon himself to put the bunt down. That was not on me. Being a senior, he took one for the team to set up someone the next batter. Troy White came through and it was a great thing to see. Unselfish play is a great thing to see and we need to see more of it.”
The three-run frame did more than negate the one run Tony Manville gave up in the first inning.
With a 3-1 advantage to work with, the junior settled in to allow no more runs over his last three frames. Earning his second win in as many starts (3-1), Manville allowed the run on just one hit with five walks and two strikeouts. If it weren’t for the walks that drove his pitch count up, Manville could have extended his most effective outing as a Huskie even further. However, Mathey removed the right-hander to preserve him for the weekend series against Miami (Ohio).
“Tony has thrown the ball better for us (lately),” Mathey said. “He has quality pitches and when he works ahead he does a good job. He limited the damage today and that was key.”
Distancing themselves even more, the Huskies received RBI singles from Jones and Etcheverry in the second inning and another by Wells in the third to go up 6-1.
While the lead looked to be more than enough to improve to 11-5 over its last 16 games, NIU would end up needing to bring in closer Kyle Glancy to nail down the Huskies’ third win in a row against Bradley and fifth win in seven tries against Illinois schools in 2011.
Bradley added another run in the fifth, and after two Huskie runs in the sixth, the Braves started to make things interesting. Jerrod Eigsti singled home a run in the seventh. Then in the eighth, Rob Elliott drew a one-out, bases-loaded walk from Tom Zelasko, who would bring in another run on a wild pitch during the next at-bat. With the tying run at the plate, the lefty setup man regrouped to fan Mike Tauchman.
Entering the game a perfect 3-for-3 in save chances, Glancy then relieved Zelasko and induced Austin Jarvis into a lineout to center to escape unscathed. The right-handed stopper gave up a leadoff single to start the ninth, but erased it with a double play ball to second base and struck out the final batter to pick up his fourth save.
Falling to 2-1, Eric Holmes took the loss after surrendering six runs (five earned) on six hits and four walks in four innings.
Jones and White led the NIU offense with a hit and two RBI apiece, while freshman Jeff Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to seven games by going 1-for-4.
The Huskies continue their five-game home stand this weekend as they host Miami (Ohio) for a three-game Mid-American Conference series. The games are slated for 3:05 p.m. Friday, April 8, and 1:05 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and Sunday, April 10.