The NIU Huskies (8-22-1, 4-6 MAC) were relentless Friday in the series opener at Eastern Michigan (11-20, 1-9 MAC) as it scored in five innings and amassed 12 hits to defeat the Eagles, 10-2.
The Huskies were error-free defensively and turned four double plays, a new season-high. Northern Illinois improved to 5-2 in the last seven games at Oestrike Field.
Four Huskies registered two hits in the contest with Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) leading the group with three RBI and a double, while Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) scored three runs with a triple and an RBI. Pitcher Anthony Andres (Western Springs, Ill./St. Rita) tossed seven innings with two strikeouts in his third win of the season.
“We were swinging the bat well and hitting them hard today. In that first inning we had a great situational approach and I think that big for us today,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “Equally important to that first inning was the fact that we turned two to end the first to keep momentum on our side. It got a little dicey in the fifth inning there but Anthony did a nice job of forcing a ground ball and the defense was again able to turn a double play.
“This was the best we’d played in awhile in all three phases of the game in awhile that really played to our advantage tonight in the opener,” Mathey added.
Northern Illinois opened strong and consistent in the first two innings of the contest, scoring two runs in the first and second innings, and one in the top of the fifth to take a 5-0 lead over the Eagles. The five run advantage ended in the bottom half of the inning as the Eagles broke the duck on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to right field and added one more to bring it back within three, 5-2. Four runs in the seventh gave Northern Illinois its greatest lead to that point, 9-2.
Back-to-back extra base hits by Carl Russell (Grayslake, Ill./Grayslake North) and Hook gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead as Hook tripled to score Russell from second base to start the game. Fletcher would score his classmate Hook on a sacrifice fly to left field to double the NIU lead, 2-0.
After a one-out walk by Wes Sery (Bloomington, Ill./Normal West), Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph) and Russell singled to load the bases with two outs. Hook would step to the plate and popped up to shortstop John Rubino on a full count swing, but the ball tailed off the palm of Rubino’s glove to score Russell and the hustling Battaglia from second to make it a 4-0 ball game.
The Eagles threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning as it had runners on first and second with two men down on two hits. With EMU power-hitter Mitch McGeein at the plate, the Huskie hurler Andres forced McGeein to fly out to left field on an 0-1 pitch to maintain the shutout.
Despite having four hits in the first four frames, the Huskies patience at the plate paid dividends as earned three walks in the fifth inning and scored when Sisler drove Hook home from third on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop.
Northern Illinois had its biggest inning of the day with four runs on five hits in the top of the seventh frame. A double by Fletcher scored the leadoff batter Hook, followed by an Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) RBI single which made it 7-2 Huskies. With runners on second and third base, Sisler hit his sixth double in the last seven games to put NIU on top, 9-2.
Freshman Matt Williams (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) recorded a pinch-hit single in the top of the ninth to round out the NIU scoring, driving Connor Schomig (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) home, who hit a leadoff double to start the inning. It was Williams’ first career RBI.
On the mound, TJ Schrader (Mackinaw, Ill./Illinois) and Kevin Sweeney (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) finished the game for Andres as they tossed the eighth and ninth innings respectively. Schrader retired the Eagles 1-2-3 in the eighth, while Sweeney worked out of a bases loaded jam to end the game.