Two days removed from its spring break trip in Tennessee, Missouri and Southern Illinois, the Northern Illinois baseball team will play its home-opener against UIC at Ralph McKinzie Field at 3:05 p.m. today.
The Huskies finished their trip 4-5 and highlighted it Sunday with a 3-0 shutout over Illinois.
“It’s going to be great to be at home. The guys have had two extended road trips, been in and out of hotels and its always good to be back in your base, your foundation, and be back in your own bed, so we’re looking forward to getting after it,” head coach Ed Mathey said less than 24 hours after returning to campus.
The team departed the NIU campus Thursday March 8 and returned back Sunday night, playing nine games in 10-games during the course of spring break. The Huskies (4-16) played last weekend in Carbondale, Ill. where they met Southern Illinois and Illinois, taking one contest from each team.
Against the Salukis on Saturday, NIU combined for six hits and nine runs, including eight of which that were scored in the final two innings of the contest to claim the 9-4 victory. SIU outhit the Huskies, 10-6. On Sunday, junior Taylor Nawrocki took control of the game on the mound, hurling 8.1 innings with four strikeouts against Illinois. The Huskies first five batters were 8-for-20 (.400) at the plate to seal the victory, 3-0.
Even with the favorable results over the weekend, Mathey and the team feel they have yet to reach their pinnacle.
“We got some work to do yet, there’s no doubt about that as a team. We’re not satisfied with it and I don’t think the players are satisfied with the results. However, a lot of it is on us and we need to get better. We’re capable of it. Once we do that, there’s going to be a lot of games like the Illinois game, like the Austin Peay game, like Arkansas State. I think we’re starting to see some things come around.”
Against the Flames, a series that dates back to 1971, the Huskies are 28-23 all-time against UIC and have won the last eight meetings and 10 of the last 12 games as well.
Sophomore Eli Anderson is starting his second-straight contest for the Huskies on the mound, as he got his first career nod March 14 at Saint Louis. The New Trier, Ill. native pitched 4.1 innings, struck out three, walked one and surrendered two runs on five hits. He had only made 10 relief appearances up to his first start.
“Eli has been working at it. He’s been altering a few things that are going to help him be competitive and he’s got a good arm” said Mathey. “People probably would have seen a lot more from him his senior year in high school, but he got an injury and he did not play. Last year was his rehab, regaining strength and getting his confidence back year and he’s starting to get that now.
“He’s pitched well for us in spots and we look forward to him having a strong start for us tomorrow to keep us on the winning way. It’s going to be exciting for him and the rest of us.”
Following the midweek game against UIC, Northern Illinois will open its Mid-American Conference season at Kent State this weekend.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.