The Northern Illinois baseball team (18-24) jumped on the board first with one run to lead the game, but a five run first and a four run fourth by Bradley (15-25) overcame a first inning deficit as the Huskies fell to the Braves, 11-5.
The Huskies left 14 runners on base during the game and outhit the Braves, 12-8.
“We had something good going at the start of the game with three-straight hits and our four, five and six hitters coming up. As a coach, you hope to get a little more out of that situation,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“The difference was the guys left on base. We left 14 and Bradley only left seven. They took advantage of their opportunities,” Mathey added. “The positive out of today was we got a lot of guys into the baseball game that hadn’t gotten a lot of time this year and some of those guys took advantage of their time in the game.”
NIU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after a leadoff double to right centerfield by Connor Schomig (Darien/Hinsdale South) and a single to the same spot by Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC) to put the Huskies up 1-0. Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) singled after Duckhorn but the Huskies went down 1-2-3 after the three hits.
Bradley responded in the bottom half of the inning as it rattled off five hits and reached on two errors to take a 5-1 lead in the game. Though NIU was retired 1-2-3 in the top of the second, starting pitcher Ben Neumann (Verona/Verona Area) found a comfort level in the stanza as he caught two Braves batters looking at called strikes, including one to end the inning.
With two quick outs on them, the Huskies put a rally together in the third, started by Klonowski reaching on error to score one run. Junior Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) singed off the handle of his bat to push Klonowski to third, followed by a Joe Battaglia (Westchester/St. Joseph) RBI single to left centerfield to make it 5-2.
Bradley would score five unanswered runs to take a 10-2 lead through six. NIU tacked on another run in the top of the seventh as Battaglia hammered a 3-1 pitch over the left field fence to chip away at the Braves lead, 10-3. It was the junior catcher’s first homerun of the season.
Freshman Justin Ruckman (Kankakee/Herscher), who started the evening at left field, stepped onto the mound in relief at the start of the fifth inning, and shut BU down in two innings of work. Facing seven batters in the game, Ruckman fanned one and walked one, without allowing a single hit.
In the eighth inning, Northern Illinois loaded the bases on a leadoff walk by Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest/Oak Forest), a follow up single by Danny Seiton (Batavia/Batavia) and a second walk by Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township). A final walk on Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) gave NIU another run to make it 10-4 Braves.
After a walk by Chris Divarco (Long Grove/Carmel Catholic) and a double by Zubek, the Huskies had two runners in scoring position, where they scored on a Seiton ground out to second base to score the final run of the game, 11-5.
Zimmerman finished 1-for-3 in the game and extended his hit streak to eight games and his reached base streak to 20 games, a season long and one game shy of his all-time high set in 2011. Battaglia finished 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBI, while both Ruckman and Seiton were 2-for-3. It was the first career multiple-hit games for Ruckman and Seiton.
The Huskies will return to tonight in a showdown with UIC at Les Miller Field in Chicago. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.