For the third time in four days, the Northern Illinois baseball team earned a victory Tuesday afternoon as the Huskies defeated Illinois State 4-1 at Duffy Bass Field.
Fittingly, the main factor in the win was starting pitcher Tony Manville, who also earned his third straight win, coming over his last three starts. Sparking the Huskies (14-16) to their third winning streak of the season, the junior allowed just one earned run on two walks and four hits with five strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
After being roughed up in his first three starts (1-1, 13 IP, 20 H, 19 R, 14 BB, 11 SO), the right-hander has found his groove, nearly cutting his walks and hits given up in half recently.
Over his last three starts, Manville has surrendered just five earned runs on 11 hits and eight walks with nine strikeouts in 14.2 innings, which are numbers that help a pitcher reel off three straight wins and improve to 4-1 on the year. The turnaround can be attributed to hitting the strike zone more consistently and relying on the fielders behind him, NIU head coach Ed Mathey said.
“Tony’s dad picked up on his arm slot not being the same a few weeks ago,” Mathey said. “Coach Ray (Napientek) went to work with that, and sure enough, got him up to a better arm slot, and he’s benefited. He’s been locating his fastball, change-up and slider a lot better. He has three solid pitches that he can do well with right now.”
Helping avenge a 7-4 loss just seven days ago in DeKalb to the same ISU (21-10) team, the Huskie offense spotted Manville the lead in the fourth inning, breaking a scoreless game with three doubles. Back-to-back two-baggers by Joe Etcheverry and Troy White, who extended his hitting streak to a season-best eight games, started the inning, and gave NIU a 1-0 lead, while Jordan Rishavy scored White with a two-out double to right-center. Both runs came off of Ryan Camp, who took the loss to fall to 3-2 on the season.
“We found some gaps in the outfield,” Mathey said of the doubles. “The first two were opposite field. They gave us a lot of different looks with pitchers. We were opportunistic. We could’ve done more but we’re happy with what we got.”
After the Redbirds bounced back with a run in the bottom half of the fourth on a Mike Hollenbeck double, NIU got the run back in its next at-bat. Jamison Wells started the fifth with a double down the left field line and scored after moving to third on a wild pitch and coming home on a sacrifice fly from Alex Beckmann.
An inning later, the Huskies put the final scoring touch on the game with a two-out RBI single up the middle by Brett Frantini, and turned to the bullpen to finish the game.
Entering for Manville in the sixth, with a runner on second and two outs, Tom Zelasko started the bullpen’s flawless performance by getting the final out of the frame and throwing a perfect seventh. Alex Klonowski gave up only a single and struck out one in the eighth. Kyle Glancy did the same in the ninth to improve to a perfect 6-for-6 in save chances.
“The bullpen did a solid job today,” said Mathey. “Illinois State is a dangerous offensive team with good speed. Our whole pitching staff neutralized that today.
“Kyle is doing a great job right now [as the closer]. Last year, he had some tightness in his arm and it’s gone this year. He’s coming out of the pen with good movement, is throwing strikes and working ahead. When you do that, the defense is aware and wants to help. We hope he continues to pitch like this.”
In splitting with the Redbirds on the season, the Huskies improved to 6-2 against Illinois schools this season. Overall under Mathey, NIU is 62-29 versus intrastate schools.
“Our kids take pride in being a Northern Illinois Huskie,” Mathey said. “A lot of our guys know the other players and coaches [around the state] through high school and travel ball. It means a lot to them and reflects in our level of play. They want to see it continue.”
With a 14-6 mark over their last 20 games, the Huskies resume their six-game road trip with the second stop of the journey: Chicago. NIU is slated to take on Chicago State at 3 p.m. today.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, www.niuhuskies.com