Northern Illinois outhit Nevada in a series finale pitcher’s duel at Peccole Park, 7-4, but a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth handed the Huskies a 3-1 loss.
Junior Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) pitched career-highs in innings pitched (7.1) and strikeouts (6).
“It was a well played college baseball game, both pitchers were throwing strikes and the defense was making plays for the most part,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “But baseball is a game of inches, and those inches made the difference in a couple plays in the eighth inning. If we have better execution on the base path and at the plate, we take the lead and break the tie, which changes some circumstances of the game. We continued to hit the ball hard and we need to keep doing that and keep plugging away. If we do that, we’ll win ball games.”
The Wolf Pack (5-3) opened the scoring in the bottom of the fifth inning, breaking up Klonowski’s no-hitter on a single and a couple of bunts to small ball the Huskies to a 1-0 lead. Northern Illinois (1-7) responded quickly to Nevada lead as it equalized the contest in the top of the sixth.
Junior Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) hit a leadoff double and was advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC). Senior third baseman Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC) drove Zimmerman home with his first pitch single to score the Huskies lone run.
Klonowski pitched strong in the game in 7.1 innings of work with six strikeouts and three walks. He took full stride in the sixth and seven innings when hurled seven pitches in the sixth and nine in the seventh before finishing the day with 101 pitches (68 strikes) in the eighth frame.
Nevada would take the lead in the eighth inning on a two-run homer by Kewby Meyer to right field to give the Wolf Pack their final 3-2 lead.
Freshman right fielder Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview/St. Laurence) had a big day for Huskies, leading NIU in hits as he finished 2-for-4. He highlighted his day with his first collegiate hit through the right side in the top of the fifth inning. Duckhorn finished 1-for-4 at the plate with his RBI.
The Huskies played errorless baseball once again in the contest, signifying the sixth time this season the defense played without a blemish.
Northern Illinois will return to the field March 1 when it kicks off the Dairy Queen Classic versus Utah in Minneapolis, Minn. First pitch is set for 12:15 p.m. Central. NIU will also take on Dartmouth and host Minnesota.