The Northern Illinois baseball season came to a close in the Mid-American Conference Tournament against Buffalo Thursday morning as Bulls pitcher Mike Burke threw a complete game shutout to defeat the Huskies, 13-0.
MAC West Champion NIU ends the 2013 season 22-34. It was only the third such pitching performance since 2004 and the 15th in tournament history, dating back to 1981.
“Burke was outstanding today; he didn’t allow us to get any traction,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey.
“We did a good job of keeping it close as they had a chance to spread it early. Jordan Ruckman was battling in there but Buffalo eventually got to him; they are very good hitting team, and they turned the tides and never looked back, which is unfortunate because we had a very good year,” Mathey added. “I’m really proud of our guys though and proud of their efforts. This wasn’t the finish we had envisioned but again, a first-ever MAC West Championship is something that can never be taken away. It’s something to build on and move forward with.”
UB put one on the board in the bottom of the first and had a chance to score more but a spectacular unassisted double play by Brian Sisler (DeKalb/DeKalb) ended the inning with Bulls runners in scoring position.
Following the Bulls scoring first, starting pitcher Ruckman (Kankakee/Herscher) held Buffalo scoreless for three innings despite runners reaching base in the frames.
The Huskies had their first chance to score in the third as Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview/St. Laurence) walked and Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) singled to put two runners on base and one in scoring position but NIU was unable to advance any further in the frame.
The Bulls scored five in the fifth, started by Alex Baldock’s lead-off home run to make it 2-0. Ruckman would come off the mound that inning, finishing the game with 4.2 innings pitched, six hits surrendered, four earned runs, four walks and three strikeouts. Zach Badgley (McHenry/McHenry) entered in relief to close the inning, giving up one run in the inning.
The Huskies put runners on in the next two innings as Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) and Micah McCulloch (Rochelle/Rochelle Township) singled in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, but Burke and the Buffalo defense held NIU hitless in those rally attempts.
Buffalo would add another five runs in the eighth to take a 13-0 lead in the contest. Junior reliever Kevin Sweeney (Chicago/Fenwick) finished the stanza and the game for the Huskies on the mound, facing three batters and striking out the last two hitters of the game.
Northern Illinois closes its season with the MAC Tournament loss, ending it as the Mid-American Conference West Division Champion, the first-ever title for the Huskies. NIU finished 7-20 in MAC games in 2012, finishing at the bottom of the division.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.