Like a heavyweight title fight, Northern Illinois (14-21, 9-4 MAC) and Ohio (9-6, 5-8 MAC) traded blows in game one of its Mid-American Conference series Friday. It was the Bobcats that would prevail however, as they defeated the Huskies, 5-4.
Ohio responded with runs in two of the Huskies three scoring innings.
“Ohio did a nice job of putting the pressure on us in the game and put momentum on our side,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “The two innings that we came out and scored, they came out and scored some runs on their own. I thought our hitters had a good approach and only had eights hits to show for it but we centered up a lot of balls, we just hit them right at guys.”
The Huskies put lead off runners on base in the first three innings of the game, coming up scoreless in the first two stanzas. In the third inning, NIU came up big as it scored two runs to take the first lead of the game. Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College) walked to lead the inning and was sacrificed over to second by Connor Schomig (Darien/Hinsdale South).
Senior Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) singled up the middle to score Ruzich from second for a 1-0 lead. Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) would increase the lead 2-0 with a double to right field to score Wells all the way from first.
Ohio responded in the bottom half of the third inning to tie the game 2-2 on a homerun to right centerfield by Cody Gaertner. The Bobcats took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning on a bases loaded sacrifice fly.
In the sixth inning, NIU tied the contest, 3-3, following a walk on four-straight balls by Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) and a single by Micah McCulloch to left field. With two outs on him, Ruzich singled to left field to score Tenhagen from second and square it up.
Ohio followed up in the bottom half of the frame with two runs to regain a 5-3 lead. The Huskies countered in the top of the seventh as Wells walked and stole his 18th base of the season with Hook at the plate, who was unable to get anything going. Junior Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) doubled down the left field line to score Wells from third for his 19th RBI of the year and make it a 5-4 game.
The Huskies would post zeroes on Ohio’s scoreline in the next two innings off of strong performances by Kevin Sweeney (Chicago/Fenwick) and Jon Savarise (Lincholnshire/Stevenson). Sweeney hurled 2.0 innings and did not surrender any hits, walks or run, striking out two. Savarise closed the bottom of the eighth, throwing two pitches to force a flyout with only two pitches thrown.
“Kevin was outstanding tonight, he faced six batters and retired them all. He got a big strikeout to end the sixth inning and kept us in a position to win the ball game and that’s what you ask out of your bullpen, especially when you’re chasing runs, and Kevin did that,” added Mathey.
Wells led the Huskies in runs scratched across with two, including a hit and an RBI. Hook went 2-for-4 at the plate to pace all hitters in the game, alongside OU’s Kyle Dean.
NIU and Ohio will return to the diamond Saturday afternoon for game two of the series, starting at 2 p.m. The Huskies will look to even the series tomorrow with Eli Anderson (Glenview/New Trier) taking the mound.