After building a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning and mounting a comeback in the top of the ninth inning at No. 11 Cal Poly (14-3), Northern Illinois University (1-15-1) fell to the Mustangs in the series finale, 11-9.
The Huskies outhit Cal Poly in the game 17-11 and forced the Mustangs to use six different pitchers in the game, including its scheduled starter for Saturday Casey Bloomquist.
Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) led the Huskies with three hits in five at-bats while Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) was 2-for-4 with two RBI, two walks and a run to his credit. Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area Tech) also drove in two RBI.
“We did a lot of good things tonight that normally win you ball games. Our hitters deserve some credit tonight; they showed what we are capable of at the plate. I hate to complain with the effort they had, but we left a few too many runners on and that’s something we need to improve upon,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “Unfortunately, our pitchers were too inconsistent tonight, giving up too many free bases. Hitting, pitching and defense define you as a baseball team and we won two out of the three tonight.”
NIU accounted for four runs in the top of the first inning on four hits in the frame.
Carl Russell (Grayslake, Ill./Grayslake North) led the game off being hit by the first pitch of the contest. A single by Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence) put runners on second and first, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Fletcher to put two runners in scoring position with one out. RBI singles by Klonowski and Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) quickly put the Huskies up, 2-0.
Shortly after a walk by Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic), catcher Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) hit the Huskies third RBI single of the inning. Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area Tech) drove in the final run of the frame on his second sacrifice fly of the season to put the Huskies up, 4-0.
Pitcher Andrew Frankenreider (Peoria, Ill./Dunlap), who earned his first start of his career, tossed 2.1 innings on the mound, scattering five hits and striking out one while walking two. Frankenreider also surrendered four walks in the effort, though left the game with a 6-4 lead, as Ben Neumann (Verona, Wis./Verona Area) tossed 2.2 innings of relief to strikeout two hitters. Neumann surrendered three earned runs in the contest, his first of the season.
The Huskies would go on to score two runs in the top of the third, and a run in the fourth and fifth innings each. Tenhagen drove in his second run of the game as he doubled down the left field line to score Hook. He would eventually score from third base as he advanced on a wild pitch and cross the plate on a single by Russell to increase the Northern Illinois lead, 6-2.
Jason Gasser (Dyer, Ind./Mt. Carmel) recorded his first career RBI in the fourth inning as he hit a bases loaded single to score Sisler from third. The Huskies would add another run in the top of the fifth as the bases were loaded with Divarco at the plate. Mustang pitcher Chris Taylor balked to push NIU’s eighth run of the game of the inning across the plate and increase the lead, 8-5.
After two runs in the bottom the fifth inning, Cal Poly tied the game with the bases loaded as pitcher Kevin Sweeney (Chicago, Ill.Fenwick) hit batter Nick Torres to knot the game, 8-8. The Mustangs took their first lead of the game in the seventh inning with a run in the frame, followed by two more in bottom of the eighth to make it an 11-7 ball game. Sweeney would pick up his first loss of the season in the 3.0 inning effort.
The Huskies comeback attempt in the top of the ninth was a valiant one as Russell and Mallder singled to start the inning. With one out and Klonowski at the plate, pitcher Reed Reilly injured himself on the mound to make way for Saturday’s scheduled starter Bloomquist. Klonowski drove in the final of the run of the game on a fielder’s choice as the Huskies fell to the Mustangs, 11-9. Bloomquist earned his first save of the season in the effort.
Northern Illinois is scheduled to take on Bradley in a three-game series, starting Saturday, March 15, in Normal. Ill., at the Corn Crib at Dozer Field.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.