Senior Eli Anderson (Glenview, Illinois/New Trier) tossed his second-straight complete game and his third of the season as he struck out seven and walked only one to pick up his 200th career strikeout in a 4-1 victory over Akron (24-24, 11-12 MAC).
The win was Anderson’s fourth of the season as the NIU Huskies improved to 16-33-1 with a 10-13 mark in the Mid-American Conference.
“I thought our kids bounced back real well today, especially after the long game yesterday. Eli retired the side to start the game and we strung a few hits together to jump out on top, started by Brian Sisler hustling down the line on a ball to the shortstop to grind out a hit,” skipper Ed Mathey said.
Northern Illinois finished 11-for-31 (.355) at the plate with an on-base percentage of .459. Four Huskies recorded two hits with Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Illinois/St. Joseph) and Justin Fletcher (Pekin, Illinois/Illinois Central) finishing 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI . Tommy Hook (Lockport, Illinois/Lockport Township) went 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple and and run. Sisler (DeKalb, Illinois/DeKalb) extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his 1-for-3 performance.
The Huskies were the first to jump on the board as they scored two in the bottom of the first inning when Sisler hit a slow grounder to shortstop to hustle out a single with two men down. Battaglia and Fletcher hit back-to-back doubles off the left centerfield fence to put the Huskies on top, 2-0.
Akron scored its only run of the game in the top of the third as James Meeker singled to start the frame and scored on the very the next at-bat when Matt LaRocca doubled to cut the Huskie lead in half, 2-1.
In the fourth inning, Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Illinois/Oak Forest) earned a full count walk to give the Huskies their first runner of the inning with one out. After stealing second and advancing o third on a wild pitch, Alex Smith (Mahomet, Illinois/Parkland College) singled through the left side to score Zubek and put NIU up, 3-1.
Hook accounted for the final tally of the game in the sixth inning as he tripled to right centerfield on the first pitch of his at-bat, scoring four pitches later as Zubek grounded to second base to drive Hook home, 4-1.
The last three innings were all Anderson as he allowed the NIU defense to record eight of the final nine outs of the game. In the eighth inning, Anderson caught pinch-hitter Danny Lawrence looking at strike three to record his 200th career punch out. He’s now tied for third all-time with former Huskie Jesse Richardson (1992-95).
“Eli’s done a great job this year and what he did was symbolic of what he’s done his whole career here – it was effective,” said Mathey. “He does a good job of pitching ahead and when he does get into trouble, he limits the damage very well. He had enough in the tank today to finish and we’ve spoiled by those type of performances by Eli over the last two years.”
Anderson allowed only six hits in his nine innings of work.
The victory by NIU tied the series with Akron, 1-1, setting up Sunday’s series finale on Senior Day. Both teams need the victory in order to keep their MAC Tournament destiny within their control.
The Senior Day ceremonies will commence at 12:25 p.m. Central, followed by first pitch at 1:05 p.m. NIU will honor seven seniors: Anderson, Anthony Andres, Battaglia, Chris Divarco, Alex Klonowski, Connor Schomig and Landon Tenhagen.