The NIU Huskies (9-25-1) played two tight games Wednesday night in Peoria’s Dozer Park versus Bradley (20-13) as the Huskies dropped both games in its doubleheader, 3-0, 7-5.
Sophomore Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) finished the games 2-for-6 with an RBI and a double. Relief pitcher Andrew Frankenreider (Peoria, Ill./Dunlap) pitched one inning in game two, striking out two batters looking in the sixth inning.
“Hitting is one of those things it can help you out in a lot of areas and when you don’t, it amplifies all those little things you can get critical on,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“Bradley gave us opportunities in the second game on a couple of errors and we weren’t able to capitalize on that,” Mathey added. “All three runs that scored were on walks. Only giving up four hits and three runs to a team that hits the way Bradley does, if you swing the bats you have a chance.”
Both teams only combined for six hits in the seven inning affair as the Braves scored its three runs in the bottom of the second.
The Huskies nearly got on the board in the top of the first as Fletcher reached base with two outs, getting hit by a pitch on the hip. After finding himself on second base after a wild pitch, Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) towered a fly ball out of the stadium and over Jefferson Avenue in downtown Peoria, into the adjacent parking lot of the Caterpillar Headquarters parking lot. However, the ball was pushed foul before it could leave the confines of the park, leaving NIU scoreless through one.
Bradley struck first blood in the bottom of the second inning as it loaded the bases with one out. After starting pitcher Ryan Olson (Sterling, Ill./Newman Central Catholic) quickly popped the second out of the inning, Spencer Gaa hit a long double over center fielder Jason Gasser (Dyer, Ind./Mt. Carmel) to clear the bases and put the Braves on top, 3-0.
NIU would hit a second ball into the parking lot in the top of the fifth as Micah McCulloch (Rochelle, Ill./Rochelle Township) launched a 1-2 pitch over the street. The junior would then launch the next pitch over the center fielder’s head and straight off the wall to lead the frame with a standup double. He would end the inning at third base as he was NIU’s third man left on base in the game.
In the bottom half of the frame, McCulloch and Fletcher would combine defensively as they threw out Chris Godinez at home plate to record a 9-6-2 putout for the second out of the stanza on a Greg Partyka single.
The Huskies accounted for another double in the top of the sixth as Fletcher lazered the ball off the wall to put another Northern Illinois runner in scoring position, however, NIU was unable to bring Fletcher around as it ended the game, 3-0.
Northern Illinois relief pitchers Matt Williams (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) and Kevin Sweeney (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) combined for 2.1 shutout innings for the Huskies with Williams getting out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Bradley picked up where it left off in game one as it scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and accounted for three hits, including a leadoff double by Chris Godinez.
Tyler Leffler drove in the first run of the game on a fielder’s choice while Drew Carlie hit an RBI single with two outs to right field to put the Braves up, 2-0.
Northern Illinois responded in the top of the second inning with two runs of its own, scoring two runs with two outs in the frame. Sophomore Alex Smith (Mahomet, Ill./Parkland College) kept the inning going as he reached base on an error by the shortstop. The Huskies then loaded the bases as Johnny Zubek (Oak forest, Ill./Oak Forest) walked and Connor Schomig (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) singled, followed by a Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) bloop single to shallow centerfield to score Smith and Zubek, knotting the game, 2-2.
The Braves would regain their lead in the bottom of the third with Partyka walking to lead the inning and scoring from second base on two wild pitches to put Bradley on top, 3-2. BU added two more in the fourth to increase its lead, 5-2.
In the top of the fifth inning, Schomig reached base on an errant throw by the third baseman kept the Huskie right fielder on base to start the frame. After stealing second, Schomig came home on the very next at-bat as Hook reached on error as well. NIU was unable to bring anymore around as they ended the stanza down 5-3.
After BU scored two more on a Max Murphy home run over the left centerfield fence in the bottom of the sixth, Northern Illinois scored two more runs on an RBI single by Fletcher and a groundout RBI by Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence).
The Huskies return to action Friday, April 18 when it starts a three-game series with Mid-American Conference leader Central Michigan (10-1).