With two outs and the winning run on first base for Northern Illinois (9-28-1, 5-9 MAC), following a two run top of the ninth for Central Michigan (25-14, 12-2 MAC), the Huskies were unable to clear the bases as they fell to the Chippewas, 5-3.
Senior Connor Schomig (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) went 3-for-5 at the plate with three runs, three stolen bases and an RBI on a solo home run that tied the game, 3-3, in the bottom of the seventh.
“Our performance today was very similar to yesterday’s game. I thought we out defended Central Michigan and we handled the bats well. It was the things we didn’t do on the defensive side of the ball probably came back to bite us in this one. They had two walks that scored and a couple more walks, pushed runners across the diamond on the bottom of their batting order and that really hurt,” said head coach Ed Mathey.
“Our one error cost us a run and I thought offensively we did a lot of good things just not enough of them.”
NIU attempted its comeback in the bottom of the ninth, following Central Michigan’s two-run, two out rally in the top half of the inning. The rally nearly wasn’t as Adam Collins grounded to second baseman Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) with a runners on first and second, who flipped the ball to shortstop Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Ill./Illinois Central) to get the runner at second out, however, Fletcher’s throw to first baseman Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence) was not in time and the inning continued.
A throwing error to first base on a ground ball would give CMU the lead, 5-3.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Smith (Mahomet, Ill./Parkland College) started the rally with a single through the right side and quickly advanced to third after Schomig reached on a fielding error. Tommy Hook (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) loaded the bases on a full count walk which brought Fletcher to the plate. On the first pitch of the bat, the right-handed Fletcher drove the ball off the tip of the bat to the opposite field, but the right fielder made the catch to end the ball game.
“Justin Fletcher is a guy we want to have up in that situation and he hit the ball off the nose and it just happened to be at the right fielder and that was the ball game,” Mathey said.
Northern Illinois took the early lead in the game as Schomig led the game with a single to left field and stole second to put the Huskies in scoring position. With two men out, Klonowski ripped a ball to right field to score Schomig, who a beat the throw home from shallow right.
The Chippewas tied the game in the top of the second on back-to-back singles, 1-1.
NIU responded to that in the bottom of the fifth on a Schomig single, who stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Fletcher drove in Schomig to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.
Central Michigan again took the lead as Nick Regnier hit a two-RBI single to score runners from second and third, giving the Chips a 3-2 lead after six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, NIU tied the game with one out in the frame as Schomig muscled a 1-1 pitch through the driving wind coming into left field, bouncing the ball off the top of the wall at Ralph McKinzie Field to tie the game, 3-3.
The top-four hitters in the NIU lineup finished 7-for-17 (.412) with all three runs and all three RBI.