Playing extra innings baseball for third time in the last five games, the Northern Illinois baseball team (22-33) surrendered two runs in the top of the 11th to Bowling Green (21-28) as the Huskies fell to the Falcons, 6-4.
“We had a great approach on the offensive side of the ball on their starting pitcher. We had an opportunity in the game in that third inning. They had their bullpen hot and ready to go and all we needed was one more hit and one more hit and we didn’t get it,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“We were up 4-0 after three innings but from there our approach just changed. We didn’t use the middle of the field and, from the defensive side, we didn’t protect what we had. We allowed them to be aggressive and make some plays whether it was a run down or a pickoff; those are things you can’t do in this tournament.”
NIU got on the board in the second inning as Connor Duckhorn (Darien/Cowley County CC) hit a popup that fell perfectly between the left fielder, center fielder and the shortstop as he legged out a double and put a runner in scoring position with two outs. After he advanced to third on a wild pitch, Duckhorn was driven home on a single to center field by Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College) to put NIU up, 1-0.
The Huskies scored again in the bottom of the third as it put up three more runs to take a 4-0 lead in the game. A leadoff double by Brian Sisler (DeKalb/DeKalb) and a bunt single by Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly) got things rolling for the Huskies in the inning. Tommy Hook (Lockport/Lockport Township) laid down a sacrifice bunt but an error on the first baseman left Hook safe at first and advanced Sisler home and Wells to third to make 2-0 NIU.
Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) hit an infield single to drive Wells home and Micah McCulloch hit a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 4-0 NIU through three innings.
In the fourth frame, Northern Illinois had a golden opportunity to extend its lead as Ruzich doubled to lead off the inning and the Falcons allowed two free bases on a walk and a hit by pitch to juice the bags. The Falcons then called on reliever Ethan McKenney, who pitched 5.0 innings against the Huskies and did not allow NIU any more runs in the game.
BGSU began its comeback in the top of the fifth inning as it scored two runs on four hits, breaking up Huskie pitcher Eli Anderson’s (Glenview/New Trier) perfect 4.0 inning start. Bowling Green did not get any runs in the sixth inning but accounted for one each in the seventh and in the eighth to tie the game, 4-4.
The Huskies had a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth inning as Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) got a pinch hit single to right field. Pinch runner Connor Schomig (Darien/Hinsdale South) advanced to second base but ended the inning there to force extra innings.
A pickoff by Anthony Andres (Western Springs/St. Rita) in the 10th inning proved to be a vital out for the Huskies in the frame as the Falcons put runners on base but were unable to score. NIU again put a runner on second, this time Klonowski as he reached on a hit by pitch, but stalled when it tried to regain the momentum.
The Falcons then racked up four hits in the 11th inning and went on to score two runs in the frame to take a 6-4 lead. Duckhorn singled to leadoff the Huskies last chance and Ruzich was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on first but Duckhorn was picked off to put the tying run back at bat. Two-straight strikeouts ended the game for NIU as the Falcons won, 6-4.
“Now we need to come out of the losers bracket and, like I just told the guys, take a one-hit-one-pitch-at-a -time mentality and see where it takes you because it’s a battle ground,” Mathey said.
The Huskies are 1-2 in extra innings this season, having played three such games in the last five.
Both Ruzich and Duckhorn collected two hits in the game with Ruzich adding an RBI. Anderson pitched eight innings, surrendering seven hits and four runs in the game with a walk and six strikeouts, four looking. It was the first no-decision for Anderson since March 16 at Lipscomb. Seventy of his 115 pitches went for strikes (.601).
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.