A squeeze bunt in the bottom of the eighth by senior Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Illinois/St. Joseph) broke a 2-2 deadlock for Northern Illinois (11-28-1) as it defeated UW-Milwaukee (14-17), 3-2. Battaglia recorded the bunt in his only plate appearance of the game.
Shortstop Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Illinois/DeKalb) finished 2-for-4 with a run.
On the mound, relief pitcher Ben Neumann (Verona, Wisconsin/Verona Area) improved to 4-0 with his 1.2 inning outing as he struck out three batters with zero walks and hits allowed in the affair. Neumann entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the seventh, striking out the first batter and popping out the second to hold the tie at 2-2.
“It’s always nice to win and that’s always the goal. UWM is a good team with a good coach and with a recent history in the NCAA Regionals. To win today is a good win for us,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “We’re trying to keep momentum going and do some things the right way and we did that in parts today. ”
The Panthers got on the board first in the top of the third inning as Michael Porcaro started the inning with a triple to left center that just escaped the reach of an outstretched Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wisconsin/Madison Area TC). Ryan McShane scored Porcaro on the next at-bat as he hit a fly ball to left field to sacrifice himself and put UWM on top, 1-0.
NIU scored its first and second runs in the bottom of the sixth after Sisler and Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) singled to put runners on first and second with one out. Carl Russell (Grayslake, Illinois/Grayslake North) loaded the bases when he earned a walk on a 3-1 pitch and Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) earned the first RBI when he reached base via catcher’s interference to knot the game with two outs, 1-1.
Junior Micah McCulloch (Rochelle, Illinois/Rochelle Township) pinch-hit for center fielder Jason Gasser (Dyer, Ind./Mt. Carmel) and walked to first on four-straight pitches to break the tie and put the Huskies on top, 2-1.
The UWM lineup responded in the next half inning as Porcaro and McShane struck again with Porcaro singling through the left side and stealing second base to setup McShane’s single to right field which tied the game, 2-2.
With pitcher Dirk Orsmbsy (Ligonier, Indiana/Kellogg Community College) getting into the jam in the seventh inning, Neummann entered for Orsmby as the fifth pitcher out of the NIU bullpen. Neumman would thwart the Panthers scoring threats through the seventh and eighth innings as he worked out of a bases loaded jam and struck out three batters in 1.2 innings.
The final NIU run was manufactured off of two walks by Russell and Tenhagen. A pair of wild pitches pushed the runners into scoring position to setup Battaglia’s second-squeeze bunt of the season, last doing so versus Illinois State on April 8. The senior cradled the ball with his bat, placing the ball 10 feet from the plate and easily scoring Russell from third to sacrifice himself and give the Huskies a 3-2 lead.
Freshman Matt Williams (Geneva, Illinois/Geneva) stepped onto the rubber for his second save attempt of the season, starting quickly with two-consecutive pop outs to the outfield. The Panthers went down swinging with their backs against the wall, putting runners on the corners before Williams forced a final pop out to secure the Northern Illinois victory over Milwaukee to even this year’s midweek series, 1-1. Williams picked up his second save of 2014.
The Huskies will return to action Friday, April 25 when it takes on Western Michigan at Kalamazoo’s Homer Stryker Field. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. Central.