Northern Illinois (21-28, 15-9 MAC) dropped game three of its series to Eastern Michigan (24-26, 11-13 MAC) Sunday as the Huskies fell to the Eagles, 12-7.
NIU is now two games ahead of Ball State in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division with three conference games remaining at BSU for the division championship.
NIU celebrated Senior Day prior to the game, honoring seniors Zach Badgley (McHenry/McHenry), Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC), Jacob Goldenberg (Syracuse, Ind./Wabash Valley) and Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly), all of whom made an impact in today’s game.
“Today was a similar story as yesterday, Eastern Michigan swung the bats well and they kept moving the ball around, they worked the whole field today as hitters with a good approach,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“The big thing for me is we have to limit the big innings, we had three of them yesterday, we had 1.5 today and it’s a situation that we need to improve upon. 17 and 12 runs are hard to overcome today. We swung the bats yesterday and today, we swung well enough to win some games but not when you can’t get some outs.”
EMU scored the first runs of the game in the second inning when it scored on three hits in the inning, led by a two run single up the middle by Nick Rotola to take a 2-0 lead. Northern Illinois responded in the bottom half of the frame when Micah McCulloch (Rochelle/Rochelle Township) doubled to lead off the inning.
After a walk by Duckhorn put the tying run on first, the Huskies recorded to two-straight outs, but Sisler took a 2-0 pitch to the wall in right centerfield to tie the game with his bases clearing triple, 2-2.
The Huskies took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with two more runs to take a 4-2 lead on RBI singles by McCulloch and Ruzich, but the Eagles responded in the top of the fifth with three runs to take a 5-4 lead. As with the spirit of the weekend as a whole, NIU tied it up in the bottom of the fourth as Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) drove in Sisler on a ground ball to third base to make it 5-5.
The Eagles would take the final lead of the game in the top of the sixth however as it scored six runs in the frame, three of which came from a Lee Longo homerun over the left field fence, making it an 11-5 EMU lead.
Northern Illinois changed its approach in the seventh, recording two hits on the first pitch in the first three at-bats, including one by Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew) to score Hook from second. The Huskies added one more run in the bottom of the ninth as Ruzich hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) and put NIU within five at game’s end, 12-7.
NIU will return to action Tuesday, May 14, for a pair of seven inning games at UW-Milwaukee. First pitch at Henry Aaron Field is set for 3 p.m. The Huskies will then close the regular season from Thursday, May 16, through Saturday, May 18, at Ball State with the MAC West Division Championship on the line.