The Northern Illinois baseball team dropped a pair of tightly contested ball games Sunday versus Bowling Green at Grand Park as NIU (4-19-1, 2-4 MAC) fell to Bowling Green (8-16, 2-4 MAC) in Sunday’s doubleheader, 4-1, 7-3.
The Huskies stranded seven runners on base in both contests.
“Today we just didn’t have the three phases of the game (hitting, pitching and fielding) in sync with each other in either of our ball games,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “I thought our three pitchers did enough to win a ball game in the first game. Defensively, if we read the ball the way we’re supposed to in the outfield, it probably eliminates three or four of Bowling Green’s seven hits in the game. Couple that with errors we committed and we’re chasing runs all of a sudden.
“In game two, we had enough hits and thought for the most part we threw the ball pretty well. Eli has been sharper on the mound but one inning is what really killed us and that was a result of the defensive side of the ball.
“Some guys are starting to swing the bats well but we really have to get back to playing our defensive brand of baseball, continuing to pitch well and staying as effective as possible out there. I thought we pitched well enough to win the series, but unfortunately, we didn’t come through in the other two phases of the game.”
The Huskies jumped out of the gate in the first contest as it scored one run in the top of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Pitcher Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) hit a ground ball to the shortstop to lead the inning, however, the first baseman pulled his foot off the bag to give NIU its first baserunner of the game. Klonowski quickly stole second base and was pushed to third on a groundout by Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) and would score on a groundout to the shortstop by Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence).
Bowling Green answered back in the bottom of the second with two runs of its own. The Huskies recorded two early outs in the frame but an error put runners on second and third with Logan Walker at the plate. Walker drove a 3-2 pitch from Klonowski to right center field to put the Falcons on top of the Huskies after two innings, 2-1.
Northern Illinois had its chances to counter back as it stranded three men on base in the sixth and two more in the eighth. The Huskies loaded the bases with two men out as Klonowski was hit by a pitch but a strikeout would end the attempt tie or retake the lead. BGSU would counter that with a run of its own in the bottom of the sixth to create a 3-1 lead.
In the eighth inning, Bowling Green made the call to its bullpen and NIU capitalized with one man down as it earned earned three-straight free bases on two walks and a hit by pitch. However, a line-drive, double play would end the rally and put momentum in the Falcons corner as they closed the game an inning later, 4-1.
The Northern Illinois bullpen, comprised of Andrew Frankenreider (Peoria, Ill./Dunlap) and Justin Ruckman (Kankakee, Ill./Kellogg Community College), was solid in its 1.2 innings of work as it only allowed one baserunner in the contest and zero hits.
Fueled by the loss in game one of the day, Northern Illinois came out swinging in game two as freshman Carl Russell (Grayslake, Ill./Grayslake North) singled on the second Falcon pitch.
Though the Huskies were retired in order during the second inning, NIU was sizing up pitcher Andrew Lacinak and capitalized on that in the following inning as senior designated hitter Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) hit a towering shot over the left field porch at Grand Park to leadoff the inning and put the Huskies on top in the third, 1-0. It was NIU’s first leadoff home run since April 14, 2013 when Landon Tenhagen did so against Western Michigan at Ralph McKinzie Field.
After giving the Falcons nothing in the first two innings, pitcher Eli Anderson (Glenview, Ill./New Trier) would shutdown the Falcons in the third and fourth innings as BGSU failed to record a hit in that span.
Two errors by the Huskies in the fifth would open the door for Bowling Green as they scratched across five runs, three before an out was recorded, in the stanza to take a 5-1 lead in the contest.
Salty and discontent, Northern Illinois bounced back with two runs in the top of the sixth to close the gap to two runs, 5-3. With one out on the Huskies, Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) singled to right field and scored five pitches later as Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) hit his fourth triple of the season to score Hook. Micah McCulloch (Rochelle, Ill./Rochelle Township) would drive in the Huskies second run of the frame as he hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring Fletcher home.
The Falcons added one run in the bottom half of the sixth inning on an infield single and another in the eighth inning on a double to the gap in right center field to take a 7-3 lead over the Huskies.
Eight of the Huskies nine hitters in the lineup recorded a hit in the contest with Sisler and Mallder each getting two hits in the contest. McCulloch, the only Huskie not to register a hit, did however drive in a run, one of only three NIU players to do so.
The Northern Illinois pitching staff only surrendered two walks in the game, both of which came from Anderson. The senior finished with six innings on the mound, surrendering three earned runs with four strikeouts in 109 pitches (68 strikes).
The Huskies will return to action next weekend when it hosts Toledo Friday, April 4. First pitch is currently slated for 3:05 p.m. at Ralph McKinzie Field.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.