In search of of its first series sweep of the season, the Northern Illinois baseball team (9-23-1, 5-7 MAC) gained a 3-1 lead after the first inning at Eastern Michigan (12-21, 2-10 MAC).
However, three runs in the fourth and four in the sixth cost the Huskies their lead at Oestrike Field as they fell to the Eagles, 8-4.
“Getting a sweep in this conference is never an easy thing and with our approach to today’s game, it made it didn’t make it any easier,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “Errors and free bases really hurt us today. We got to Eastern Michigan’s bullpen in the first inning and gave ourselves a chance but when you start giving free bases defensively, it’s hard to win a ball game.”
Huskies Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) and Jason Gasser (Dyer, Ind./Mt. Carmel) each accumulated two hits and a run in the contest with Fletcher adding an RBI in the first inning. NIU turned two double plays to increase its weekend total to seven, however, it committed four errors after allowing zero in the previous two games of the series.
NIU scored three runs in the top of the first inning as it batted through the lineup and forced EMU starting pitcher Michael Marsinek off the mound after only 0.2 innings of work.
With the bases loaded and Ryan Lavoie stepping onto the mound in relief, the Huskies scored its second run as Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area TC) was plunked by a fastball on the hip to score Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence). Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) drove in the final run on a fielder’s choice to make it a 3-0 game at the middle of the first inning.
After scoring one run in the bottom of the first inning, the Eagles could not come up with any more runs until the fourth inning as they racked up four hits to scratch across three runs. A two-RBI double by Austin Wilson overtook the Northern Illinois lead, 4-3.
EMU added four more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on three hits and an error to take an 8-3 lead as the Huskies were unable to record a baserunner in the fifth and sixth innings.
With Eastern Michigan ahead by five entering the top of the seventh, Gasser led the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
After Carl Russell (Grayslake, Ill./Grayslake North) forced second baseman Johnny Rubino to make an error, NIU had runners on the corners with nobody out. Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township), who finished 1-for-3 with a run, an RBI and a walk, hit a sacrifice fly to left field to cut the Huskies deficit in half, 8-4.
Eastern Michigan then made a call to the bullpen as Tyler Russell came in for duty.
The change did not phase Fletcher as he singled to put runners on first and second, however, Northern Illinois would fly out and ground out to end the inning and its attempt to overthrow the lead. The Huskies made one more advance in the ninth inning as Gasser collected his second hit and Hook walked but the runners were again stranded to end the contest.
TJ Schrader (Mackinaw, Ill./Illinois Central) and Andrew Frankenreider (Peoria, Ill./Dunlap) were solid in relief for the Huskies as the two did not surrender a hit in the final 2.2 innings on the mound. Schrader threw the seventh and eighth innings while Frankenreider entered in relief for starting pitcher Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney), who tossed 5.1 innings for NIU and surrendered four earned runs.
NIU will return to action Tuesday, April 15, when it hosts UIC at Ralph McKinzie Field. First pitch is slated for 3:05 p.m.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.