It was Northern Illinois’ (7-17, 3-2 MAC) Eli Anderson (Glenview/New Trier) who emerged victorious in a pitchers’ dual Saturday afternoon versus Akron (4-19, 2-3 MAC) as the junior hurled his second-straight complete game shutout to defeat the Zips and clinch the series, 2-1.
Centerfielder Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) broke the NIU record for career stolen bases with his 72nd in the third inning.
“Winning a series on Saturday is a good thing, it puts you in a position to get a sweep and sweeps are valued commodity in this league, much like series wins are. Series wins are goal No. 1 for us,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “It was good to see our guys playing good, clean defense today and Eli continued to do good things for us on the mound. He went out and kept his pitch count down to give himself the opportunity to finish the game.”
The Huskies got on the board in the third inning, started by a leadoff single from Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College), who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC). Ruzich would score all the way from second on a single to right centerfield by Wells to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Wells promptly stole second base with Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) at the plate to set the new stolen base standard for Northern Illinois at 72 in his career. Wells broke the record set by Alvin Maynard during the 1979 and 1980 seasons with his eighth steal of the season.
“Jamison is a great kid, he’s worked hard to get better and when he’s on base, he can be that guy. If he continues to get on base he can put that record out of reach for the next guy that comes along. The thing that Jamison appreciates the most is that it came after an RBI single which helped his team win today.”
Two frames later, NIU added to its tally with three straight hits from Ruzich, Tenhagen and a bunt single by Connor Schomig (Darien/Hinsdale South). With no outs, Wells lasered a ball to shallow center field that looked like trouble, but Akron’s Devin Hart came up with the catch for the first out. Hook would come through for the Huskies with a single to right field, scoring Ruzich and giving NIU a 2-0 lead.
From the mound, Anderson extended his scoreless innings streak to 16.2 innings with six strikeouts, zero walks and six hits allowed. Anderson finished the game with 101 pitches thrown (68 strikes), 56 of which were thrown after six innings of play.
Anderson and the Northern Illinois defense did not allow the Zips to reach second base until the eighth inning of the game after a pair of hit-by-pitches. Hart drove in Akron’s run on a single up the middle in the eighth to make it a 2-1 game.
Anderson became the second pitcher this season for NIU to pitch consecutive complete games, matching Alex Klonowski’s (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) feat March 3 -9. NIU has hurled four complete games this season, the most by NIU since 2010.
Both Ruzich and Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) finished 2-for-4 in the game, with Ruzich accounting for both of NIU’s runs. Wells and Hook both record RBI.
The Huskies and the Zips will close the series Sunday at All Pro Freight Stadium, beginning at 11 a.m. Central.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.