Sophomore Jordan Ruckman (Kankakee, Illinois/Herscher) tossed the first complete game shutout of his career Wednesday night versus Northwestern (12-29) as Northern Illinois (14-30-1) defeated the Wildcats, 4-0.
Ruckman fanned eight batters and only allowed three hits while walking four.
“Jordan was outstanding and a lot of credit goes to him. He was throwing strikes and working ahead against the hitters and that’s where Jordan needs to be. He had great command and his defense was up to the task, they made some great plays behind him,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “Offensively we took advantage of some things and hit the ball pretty well. This is a good win for us after last night’s game at UIC and gives us some momentum heading into our series with Kent State.”
The complete game shutout was NIU’s third this season and the second in the last four days for the Huskies as Alex Klonowski tossed one Sunday at Western Michigan. The shutout tied the program record set in 1964.
Tommy Hook (Lockport, Illinois/Lockport Township) finished 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBI and spectacular glove work at third base. Alex Smith (Mahomet, Illinois/Parkland College) went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored.
The Huskies recorded hits in each of the first three innings but made a push in the third inning putting runners on second and third after Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Illinois/St. Laurence) reached on error and Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Illinois/DeKalb) singled and stole second. However NIU was shutout after a flyout to end the frame scoreless.
After coming close in the third inning, Northern Illinois came through in the fourth as Fletcher led the frame with a double down the left field line. After stealing third base with Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Illinois/Carmel Catholic) at the plate, Fletcher scored on an RBI grounder by Micah McCulloch (Rochelle, Illinois/Rochelle Township) who would reach base on a fielding error by the shortstop to make it make it a 1-0 Huskie game.
While NIU continued to threaten offensively, Ruckman was steady on the mound for the Huskies as he only allowed three hits through seven innings of work. Having tossed 92 pitches, 58 of them for strike, Ruckman fanned six batters and only allowed one walk.
After the seventh inning stretch, the Huskies accounted for two more runs as the first four batters of the inning reached base, including singles by Smith and the two-RBI single by Hook to increase the Huskies lead, 3-0. Northern Illinois scored its final run of the game in the bottom of the eighth as Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Illinois/Oak Forest) darted for second base with a runner on third, after an NIU strikeout.
With the Northwestern defender preoccupied with Zubek, Mallder rushed for home plate and reached safely to give the Huskies their 4-0 lead.
Though he allowed a walk with one out in the top of the ninth, Ruckman finished the game strong as he forced a grounder to Sisler, who turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the game and preserve the NIU shutout, 4-0.
NIU will return to action Friday, May 2, as it takes on MAC East leader Kent State at Schoonover Stadium.