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Freshman relievers lead baseball in opener

February 16, 2013
Jamison Wells

Jamison Wells

Northern Illinois combined for eight hits and zero errors on opening night while three freshman pitchers combined for four scoreless innings and one hit at Texas Tech in the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic.

NIU fell to TTU, 8-0, and will return to the diamond at 10 a.m. today versus Brigham Young.

“We saw some good things tonight out of our new guys and I was very proud of the way that they played. A couple of our guys swung the bat very well, Joe (Battaglia) and Jeff (Zimmerman) were a couple of guys who hit well tonight,” said head coach Ed Mathey.

“We played very well defensively, not giving up any errors so I was very happy with that as well. On the other hand, we have to force the action at the plate and make more contact with the ball. We have to do better offensively but credit to Texas Tech, their pitchers made good pitches when they needed too. They’re a good ball club.”

True freshman pitchers Bobby Kuntzendorf (Yorkville/Aurora Christian), Jon Savarise (Lincolnshire/Stevenson) and Justin Ruckman (Kankakee/Herscher) combined did not surrender a run in four innings of work, only allowing one hit with four strikeouts and two walks.

Kuntzendorf, who stepped onto the mound in the third inning, held the Red Raiders scoreless in the fourth inning. He would finish his debut with two innings pitched, one strikeout, one walk and zero hits surrendered.

Ed Mathey

Ed Mathey

“Bobby came into the game with the bases loaded and zero outs and he came in and he competed for two innings, throwing strikes to the batters,” Mathey said. “He and the rest of the freshman did a great job today in relief.”

In the fourth inning, Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) singled through the right side for his first hit as a Huskie and quickly advanced to third after a double by designated hitter Battaglia (Westchester/St. Joseph) to left centerfield. Northern Illinois would go on to strand three runners on base in the inning following Brian Sisler’s (DeKalb) walk and a ground out by Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College).

Following a single by Connor Schomig (Hinsdale/Hinsdale South) in the top of the seventh inning, the Red Raiders committed the first error of the game to allow the junior leftfielder to advance to second. Sisler earned his second walk of the game and Connor Duckhorn (Hinsdale/Cowley County CC) reached base on another error by Texas Tech but the Huskies were again unable to take advantage, leaving the bases loaded.

Savarise entered in the sixth inning for relief duties after a solid inning by Kevin Sweeney (Chicago/Fenwick) in the fifth. Savarise allowed the only hit by the freshman hurlers, but added a strikeout and a walk to his tally. Ruckman fanned two batters without surrendering a walk in his debut during the seventh.

At the plate Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) finished the evening 2-for-4 with a double and walk from the leadoff spot. Battaglia also batted 2-for-4 with a double. Sisler finished 1-for-2 with two walks.

“Moving forward, we need to do a better job offensively with runners in scoring position,” closed Mathey. “BYU is probably the most experienced team in this tournament and we’ll need convert those chances to compete with them.”

Northern Illinois (0-1) will make a short turn around as it takes one BYU today at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. Jordan Ruckman (Kankakee/Herscher) will take the mound for NIU.

For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit