All squared up 2-2 entering the eighth inning, the Northern Illinois baseball team (15-21, 10-4 MAC) added two runs in the eighth and seven more in the ninth on Ohio (9-27, 5-9 MAC) to defeat the Bobcats, 11-2.
The Huskies totaled 17 hits in the game, four of which came from freshman Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township). The Huskies lead the Mid-American Conference following the win and a Kent State loss at Buffalo today.
“We swung the bats well today and we had our opportunities early. I thought we let a couple opportunities get by us but the guys kept battling and we eventually broke through,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“Tommy had a great a day at the plate. He’s been making some adjustments in his swing and it’s starting to come around. The other thing about Tommy is that he’s such a versatile player us, he’s played a few different spots for us, including three today, and that versatility in the lineup is a good thing to have,” Mathey added.
“If Tommy keeps working hard and improves his speed over the summer, he’s got a good chance to be a very good player for us if he continues with his pace.”
The Huskies struck first blood to start the game as NIU strung three hits together, led by Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) leadoff double down the left field line. After advancing to third on single by Hook, Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) hit a long fly ball to right field to sacrifice Wells across the plate, 1-0.
Pitcher Eli Anderson (Glenview/New Trier) opened the game brilliantly with two perfect innings and four strikeouts, all of which caught the batters looking.
Ohio would even the game in the bottom of the third following a single that runner scored from third to tie it up, 1-1. The Bobcats took the lead in the next inning after a sacrifice fly by Scott White to make it 2-1.
Anderson found himself in some trouble in the fifth inning after hitting two batters in the inning and a groundout that moved the runners ahead to second and third. With two outs and the Bobcats big bat Jake Madsen up, Anderson intentionally walked Madsen to load the bases for Dan Schmidt, who popped out to Klonowski in shallow right field to end the inning scoreless.
As has been the team’s strength as of late, the Huskies mounted a two out rally in the eighth inning to regain the lead on back-to-back singles by Joe Battaglia (Westchester/St. Joseph) and Brian Sisler (DeKalb/DeKalb). Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC), who entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth, sent a tough fly ball to the gap that fell out of the diving outfielder’s glove to score two runs for the Huskies and give NIU its first lead since the third.
The Huskies tacked on runs in the top of the ninth, loading the bases after a single by Hook, a double by Klonowski and an intentional walk on Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew). Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) would clear the bases on the triple to right centerfield to make it a 7-2 game.
The Huskies would account for six hits and seven runs in the inning to give Anderson a comfortable lead in the bottom of the ninth.
Anderson completed the day with eight innings pitched, scattering four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts, four looking. Both runs on Anderson were unearned, extending his streak to 18-straight innings without an earned run. He last gave up an earned run in the eighth inning April 6 at Central Michigan.
In the Mid-American Conference, the junior is 5-0 with a 0.61 ERA, 39 strikeouts and eight walks in 44.0 innings pitched. In his last five starts, Anderson sports a 0.82 WHIP (walks and hits per inning).
“Eli fielded his spot and scattered four hits in eight innings which is pretty good. With the runs we got in the ninth inning, it made it easy to take him out and give him a little bit of rest – a well-deserved, well-earned inning off,” chuckled Mathey. “I thought one of the key parts of the ball was the first inning, we went out and scored and Eli held them down 1-2-3.”
At the plate, Hook batted 4-for-5 with a run and an RBI while Tenhagen finished 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBI. Despite limited playing time, Duckhorn batted 2-for-3 with a run and three RBI.
The Huskies and the Bobcats will play the final game of the series, beginning at 1 p.m. tomorrow. NIU, the MAC leaders at 10-4, will look to retain that lead behind Klonowski (3-4) on the mound.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.