With plenty of offensive support Saturday afternoon, Northern Illinois starter Tony Manville earned his ninth win of the season to tie the NIU single season wins record.
Manville’s accomplishment came as the Huskies beat Western Michigan 9-4 in the rubber match of a three-game Mid-American Conference series to end the regular season.
In his first season in a Huskie uniform, Manville (9-1) has etched his name into NIU (29-25, 16-11 MAC) lore. By throwing six innings and allowing only an unearned run on six hits and six walks with two strikeouts, the Iowa-transfer has moved into a four-way tie for the highest win total in Huskie single season history.
He joins Jesse Richardson (1995), Paul Erschen (1996) and Joe Piekarz (2004) on the impressive list.
“Today was a challenge out there,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “Both teams’ pitchers struggled with the zone. Tony kept battling and made pitches and plays when he needed to. He helped start two double plays when he really needed to. He just did what he’s been doing all year: he challenged hitters and gave us a chance. When you’re a pitcher, it’s a great thing when your offense helps you out.”
The win for Manville also marks his ninth in a row, and third quality start.
As of May 15, his streak ranks 12th in the nation. During the stretch, which started March 19, the right-hander has posted a 3.60 ERA, surrendering 27 runs on 63 hits and 27 walks with 36 strikeouts in 60 innings over 16 appearances, seven of which were starts.
Manville was not the only Huskie to set a record on the day, though.
By tripling home Cory Krupp in the seventh to put his team ahead 7-1, Alex Jones tied the NIU single season and career record for triples. With his sixth three-bagger of the season and 11th of his career, he shares the top season honor with Mark Brines (1978) and Steve Webb (1996) and shares the career mark with Jeff Sevenich (1977-80).
“Alex has been a very big part of what we’ve done this year so far,” Mathey said. “The record is great for Alex; something he’ll be able to tell his kids about forever.”
Jones would later come around to score on a Joe Etcheverry sacrifice fly, but it was the Huskies’ four-run third inning that got NIU going.
Down 1-0 after a first inning run by WMU (25-29, 12-14 MAC), Brian Riegler led off with a walk. An out later, Jamison Wells reached on a bunt single. The ensuing play resulted in an RBI single by Krupp. Then back-to-back walks to Jones and Etcheverry pushed another run across, chasing starter Steve Laudicina from the game.
His replacement, Mike Moyer, did not fare much better as he unleashed a wild pitch to Troy White that let Krupp score. After White walked, Jeff Zimmerman picked up an RBI ground out to give the Huskies a 4-1 lead that would have held up if not for the three-run seventh that the Broncos produced.
“The zone was tight today on both ends, which wasn’t a bad thing, but our hitter’s showed a lot of maturity and patience,” said Mathey. “We probably could have had another run or two, but it was a very good inning. It gave us much-needed momentum. It also took an edge off Tony and he was able to relax.”
Fortunately for the Huskies, they scored an unearned run in the fourth and scored another in the sixth on an Alex Beckmann sacrifice fly before their two-run seventh put the game out of reach.
Allowing the four runs on three hits and five walks with one strikeout, Laudicina (4-4) was handed the loss.
In gathering their 29th win of the season, despite a 0-10 start to the year, the Huskies moved into a tie for fourth on the NIU all-time single seasons wins list. The last time the program had exactly 29 wins in a campaign was in 1995. Mathey is now responsible for all five of the top winning seasons in NIU history. The program record is 34, which he accomplished in each of the 2003 and 2007 seasons.
Additionally, NIU’s 16 MAC wins tied a Huskie all-time high for conference wins. Mathey achieved the 16-win mark in 2007 and 2008.
“It’s nice to have all of these records,” Mathey said. “When it’s all said and done for me, it will be nice to look back at. Where we are, we are looking for 30 wins. But it’s a reflection of our staff that has been here for a long time and done a great job. We’ve had our challenges and play a competitive schedule every year. To put up those numbers says a lot.
“If you would have asked me in early March if we’d have 29 wins by the end of the regular season, I would have said it would be pretty darn tough to do. We’ve done a good job of putting this together. Setting a wins record, taking second place in the regular season and getting a home game in the tournament are all positive things for our kids.”