Sophomore Ryan Olson (Sterling, Ill./Newman Central Catholic) pitched strong innings for the Huskies Wednesday for the NIU Huskies (7-22-1), surrendering zero earned runs and striking out four, but the effort wasn’t enough as UW-Milwaukee (10-12) scored two runs in the eighth inning to defeat NIU, 3-2.
His seven innings were and four strikeouts were both career-highs, as was his 99 pitches (61 strikes).
Huskies Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) and Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) racked up two hits each while Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) and Sisler each drove in a run.
“I really like Ryan’s pace and composure on the mound today and I liked the fact that if a guy got on base, he didn’t get rattled, even when they were trying to move things around and sacrifice a runner over,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“He was throwing effective strikes out there and gave us a great chance to win a baseball game today. Free passes and a defensive couple miscues really cost us late in the game and we shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Olson hit the first batter of the game. After forcing two straight pop flies to to put UWM against the wall, Mitch Ghelfi hit a one hop ball off the glove of third baseman Carl Russell (Grayslake, Ill./Grayslake North) which scored the lone run of Olson’s outing.
Northern Illinois would tie the game in the fifth inning on three-straight, one-out singles by Jason Gasser (Dyer, Ind./Mt. Carmel), Russell and Sisler. The DeKalb, Ill., native scored Gasser from second base as he poked the ball up the middle and past relief pitcher Cal Haley.
Milwaukee almost reclaimed the lead in the seventh, as Tell Taylor hit a two-out triple down the right field line to setup leadoff hitter Derek Peake. On a full count, Peake chopped the ball back to the mound but Olson stopped the ball with his chest from his knees on the front of the mound to record the last out of the inning and keep the game tied, 1-1.
The Panthers luck would change in the following inning as they scored two runs off of Dirk Ormsby (Ligonier, Ind./Kellogg Community College).
NIU mounted a comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning as Sisler drove a double to right centerfield and came home as Divarco drove a full-count, inside pitch down the left field line. The Huskies then had runners on the corners with two outs but were unable to tie or take the lead as UWM’s Gunnar Eastman stepped onto the mound and forced a groundout after one pitch to the shortstop to end the frame.
Both UW-Milwaukee and the Huskies were blanked in the ninth innings as the Panthers took the first of four midweek games this season, 3-2.
NIU will return to action Friday, April 11, for its fourth Mid-American Conference series at Eastern Michigan. The series will start with a 5 p.m. showdown at Oestrike Field.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.