Down 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh to Miami (Ohio) (20-22, 10-8 MAC), the Northern Illinois baseball team (18-23, 13-5 MAC) rallied back to within one run but was unable to get over the hump as the Huskies fell to Redhawks, 6-4.
Pitcher/designated hitter Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) finished 3-for-5 with two RBI in the game. Northern Illinois outhit Miami (Ohio), 11-9.
“We got off to slow start and Miami came out trying to win a baseball game. We just didn’t have it early,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“From my standpoint, we had four innings of pretty good baseball and it’s hard to beat a team that way. We had opportunities at the end to at least even this thing up but we gave up too much early on. That’s the thing about baseball – runs in the first count just as much as runs in the eighth or ninth innings, they’re just not as dramatic.”
Miami opened the game with a run in the top of the first, and would go on to tally one run in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh as well to accumulate a 5-0 lead. The Redhawks racked up eight hits in that span, including a towering lead-off home run in the second inning by Dan Walsh over the trees in right field.
Northern Illinois broke through in the bottom of the seventh as MU starting pitcher Seth Varner loaded the bases on a double by Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College), a walk on Micah McCulloch (Rochelle/Rochelle Township) and single by Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC).
The Redhawks then threw Charles Zubrod on the mound in relief, who walked across two runs with Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) and Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) eye balling each pitch. From there, Klonowski drove a first pitch line drive just over the glove of jumping shortstop Scott Slappey to scratch two runs across and put the Huskies within one run, 5-4.
In the top of the ninth, catcher Max Andresen hit a solo home run just over the fence in right field, just escaping the reach of McCulloch on the jump, to give the Redhawks a 6-4 lead.
The Huskies began their final charge in the bottom half of the inning when Klonowski, again, tattooed the first pitch, this time off of closer Ryan Powers; whom NIU overcame Saturday to earn its walk-off win, to single to centerfield to put a man on base. He would advance to second on a Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) fly ball. With two outs and a full count, Ruzich walked to put the tying run on base but Northern Illinois was unable to capitalize as McCulloch grounded out to end the game.
Duckhorn finished 2-for-5 in the contest with a triple and a run with McCulloch also hitting 2-for-5, adding a run and a double. Along with his 3-for-5, two RBI effort at the plate, Klonowski also threw seven innings as he surrendered seven hits, with four earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts.
Northern Illinois holds a four game lead over Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference West Division standings with a 13-5 conference record.
The Huskies will return to the diamond Tuesday afternoon when they head to Bradley for a midweek contest, followed by another game at UIC to open the month of May.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.