Behind a brilliant pitching performance from Jake Hermsen, Northern Illinois (6-19) defeated UW-Milwaukee (6-15), 5-4.
Hermsen struck out five Panthers and walked zero in six innings of work to earn his first win of the season for NIU at a windy Ralph McKinzie Field.
“Under the conditions today I thought we played pretty good defense and so did Milwaukee. (Manager) Scott (Doffek) does a good job for that ball club every year,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“I thought our hitters responded well and strung some hits together in the first inning to score four runs. Jake came out on the mound and pitched well to keep us in a position to win the game.
“When things got tight in the eighth inning, our defense stepped up and made some big plays which ultimately made the difference in the game today.”
With a steady 20-plus mile an hour wind blowing in from left center field throughout the game, Milwaukee scored the first run of the game on two singles and a sacrifice bunt to take a 1-0 lead. It would be the only run Hermsen would surrender in the game.
NIU bounced back in the bottom half of the inning accounting for four hits, a walk and a sacrifice bunt. Connor Duckhorn would drive in two runs on a single with two outs in the inning to put Northern Illinois up 4-1 over the Panthers.
Both Troy White and Alex Jones played spectacularly offensively and defensively, charging ground balls and making diving stops to combine for eight assists in the field. At the plate, the left side of the infield was 2-for-7 (.286) with two runs scored, two RBI and three walks.
Jeff Zimmerman and Jordan Huffman both had three hits and a run in the game, with Zimmerman driving in two runs. In the fourth inning Zimmerman drove a well hit fly ball to left field that had a chance for a grand slam home run, but the ball got caught in the wind and he flied out to end the inning with three runners on base.
After UWM added a run the top of the eighth inning to cut the lead in half, 4-2, NIU scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth, led by Brett Frantini’s double to left field. With Jones being intentionally walked and Huffman singling to load the bases, Milwaukee pitcher Kyle Spurley walked Zimmerman to send Frantini home and give NIU a 5-2 lead.
UWM was not going without a fight in the top of the ninth inning and were convinced to test closer Kyle Glancy. Glancy struck out the first batter of the inning, hit the next with a pitch and walked another to setup Paul Honecke’s single to bring the Milwaukee to within one, 5-4. But Glancy struck out Sam Koenig for the final out of the inning to earn the save, his fifth, and secure the Huskies victory.
Hermsen has started five games and made one relief appearance in his career against Milwaukee and is 3-1 all-time against the Panthers in 25.1 innings pitched.
NIU will continue its home stand with a three game, Mid-American Conference series against Akron beginning Friday, March 30.