The Northern Illinois baseball team split its seven-inning doubleheader against UW-Milwaukee Tuesday, winning 11-7 in Game One before dropping a 13-6 decision in Game Two.
Wisconsin native Jamison Wells paced the Huskies (27-24) to the first win, ending a triple short of completing the cycle. He led off with a single to right in the first, and later scored on an Alex Jones groundout as part of a three-run inning.
After walking, stealing second and scoring on a Jones single in NIU’s two-run second, the sophomore blasted his second career home run in the third. The two-run shot to left-center scored Joe Battaglia, who walked, and marked his second long ball in as many days, giving the Huskies a comfortable 7-1 lead.
Following Tom Kotis’ first career homer in the fifth, a two-run tally, Wells doubled to center and later scored on a wild pitch. The three-run frame put the Huskies up 11-2 and provided NIU with more than enough runs to withstand five late runs from the Panthers (25-25-1) offense.
Wells’ perfectly productive day gave him two new single game career highs: four hits and four runs scored.
Thanks to his teammate’s effort, another Wisconsin native was awarded with the win in Jake Hermsen (2-2). The junior left-hander allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings to pick up his second win, tying his total from a year ago.
“It’s always good for those guys to come back to their home state and do well,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “They usually have a few friends and family in the stands, and they’ve played against some of these guys in high school. They are always jacked up for these types of games.”
Consequently, Gunnar Eastman was tagged with the loss after surrendering eight runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks with three strikeouts in four innings.
In Game Two, a make-up of the postponed contest at Elfstrom Stadium on April 27th, the Panthers jumped on starter Jeremy Gonzales early. After withstanding two NIU runs in the first, UW-M plated six on seven hits and one walk in the bottom half.
Milwaukee then added five more in the third to give Gonzales (5-6) his sixth loss of the season, allowing eight runs on eight hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 2.1 frames.
Down 11-2, the Huskies scored in three straight innings, getting one in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the sixth. But the comeback was not enough to recover from the early deficit.
Jayme Sukowaty (4-2) was the beneficiary of the Panthers outburst as he received the win in relief, allowing no runs on three hits with one strikeout in two innings.
Among the Huskie highlights, however, was freshman Chris Divarco’s first two-hit game and first RBI of his career. The Long Grove, Ill., native drove in the run in the first inning, coming on a single up the middle that scored Jones.
“Chris has been working very hard in our program,” Mathey said. “He’s had limited opportunities with a senior in front of him and Zimmerman doing good things. It was really good to see him start and have success to build on. We are looking forward to Chris’ success in our program, that’s for sure.”
Wells also stayed hot, picking up three more hits and two more runs scored. For the day, the NIU two-sport athlete went 7-for-8 (.875) with six runs scored, two RBI and steals, one double, a homer and walk.
“Jamison did a nice job today,” Mathey said. “He really swung well and had a variety of hits. He had good two strike hits and had a couple infield hits. He definitely had a great day.”
With their first Mid-American Conference Tournament berth since 2008, the Huskies wrap up their MAC regular season with a trip to Western Michigan this weekend. The games a slated for 2 p.m. Thursday, May 19, 2 p.m. Friday, May 20, and noon Saturday, May 21.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.