In the final game of Northern Illinois’ (3-17-1, 1-2 MAC) opening Mid-American Conference series versus Buffalo (10-7, 2-1 MAC) at Wheaton College, the Huskies outhit Buffalo, 5-4, and reached base four times via errors but were unable to scratch enough runs as NIU fell, 3-1.
Pitcher Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) tossed 7.0 innings, striking out five batters with zero walks. The senior threw 103 pitches, 73 strikes (.708 strike/ball ratio).
“It’s week one of a nine-week conference season and if prognosticators are correct, Buffalo is going to be one of the top teams in the MAC and we lost by one run yesterday and two runs today,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “We played a good opponent tight so have to continue this level of play throughout the rest of our season.
“We left a lot of runners on base today, which is a good news, bad news situation. We just have to bring those runners home,” Mathey added.
With temperatures no higher than 30 degrees throughout the game, both Northern Illinois and Buffalo blanked each other in the first three innings as it was 0-0 through three. The Bulls would score two runs in the fourth inning and one in the fifth to take a 3-0 lead. Nick Sinay hit a leadoff double in the fourth to start UB’s rally and scored on a single up the middle. The Bulls scored one more on a fielder’s choice back to Klonowski.
UB manufactured its final run playing small ball as Brian Dudek singled to lead the fifth frame. After advancing to third on a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice, Jimmy Topps hit a sacrifice fly deep to center field to put Buffalo up, 3-0.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Huskies loaded the bases as Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) walked to lead the frame, followed by a single by Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central). Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) drove in the first run of the inning as the third baseman double-clutched on a fielder’s choice to score Hook from third.
On the next pitch, Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence) hit a ball to first base and after an error on the play, NIU loaded the bases with one out. After a strikeout by Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area Tech), catcher Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) was hit by an 0-2 pitch on the elbow, however, he was not awarded base as the ball was not in the batters box and was ruled a dead ball to make it a 1-2 count. Zubek would foul out to first base on the next pitch.
NIU would load the bases again with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning but the Huskies failed to score in the stanza as they fell, 3-1.
As a pitching staff, the Huskies only allowed one walk in the contest as Ben Neumann (Verona, Wis./Verona Area) walked a batter in the ninth inning. The staff also struck out nine batters in the contest.
Northern Illinois will return to action Friday, March 28, when it heads to Bowling Green for its first MAC road trip of the season.