Northern Illinois surged back in the top of the ninth inning from a four run deficit and attempted to tie the contest, but a play at home plate from right field prevented the Huskies from tying and the Broncos won the contest, 5-4.
“Their pitcher was throwing pretty good today and only allowed two hits on us. We had our chances but we left a few runners on base and we didn’t score when we had our chances,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “We got going a little bit later than I would have liked but sometimes those things happen.”
Following a pair of runs by Western Michigan in the first inning that accounted for a 2-0 lead, Troy White (Chicago/Whitney Young) singled to leadoff the second inning and advanced to third on a pair of passed balls. White went on to score on a Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo.) fielder’s choice to cut the lead, 2-1.
The Broncos pitcher Steve Laudicina pitched a gem for WMU, only allowing two hits, one in the second and the other in the seventh, in seven innings of work and striking out eight. The Huskies would draw three walks on Laudicina and reach base three times on errors by the Broncos defense.
Jake Hermsen (New London, Wis.) was solid for the Huskies on the mound as he hurled 7.1 innings, scattering eight hits, four earned runs and two strikeouts and walks a piece in a 100 pitch effort (67 strikes). Both walks accounted for runs.
Adding one run in the fifth and two more in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Broncos commanded a 5-1 lead from the Huskies. As the rain began to mist from the trees behind Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field, the Huskies bats awoke in the top of the ninth and mounted a charge.
Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park, Ill./Victor J. Andrew) doubled to lead the top of the ninth and advanced to third on a single by Klonowski. Catcher Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph) ripped an RBI single to left field to advance Klonowski to third and score Zimmerman and make it a 5-2 game.
Pitcher Tom Barry (Orland Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) pinch ran for Battaglia and would advance to second when Connor Schomig (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) reached base on error to score Klonowski and act as the game’s tying run. Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) walked to load the bases with one out. Jordan Huffman (Sergaent Bluff, Iowa) hit an infield fly for the second out of the inning.
With the sacks juiced and the tying run on second base, Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) stepped to the plate 0-for-3 on the day and with a 2-1 count, Jones singled to right field to score Barry from third and put the Huskies within one run.
With right fielder Jack Scanlon collecting the ball on the second hop, Schomig rounded third to home to tie the game. The outfielder wound up and chucked the ball to catcher Jared Kujawa, and at first glance appeared to be sailing high over the plate.
The ball dropped to Kujawa, who wrapped his left leg around home plate to prevent Schomig from touching home, and tagged the Huskie to end the game 5-4.
“It was a good throw and a good tag. With limited opportunities in the game and a good runner on second base I’m going to take my chances. It started raining a little bit and figured the ball was a little slick so the variables were there to send Connor home and they made the play,” Mathey said.
The Huskies (14-36, 7-16 MAC) will close their series with the Broncos (22-25, 12-10 MAC) Sunday afternoon, with first pitch at 1 p.m.