NIU increased its winning streak to four on Wednesday when it defeated Milwaukee 10-6 in its first home game of the season.
The Panthers (11-12, 7-2 Horizon) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first on a fielding error by NIU freshman second baseman Danny Seiton that allowed sophomore Derek Peake to score from third.
The Huskies (9-17, 4-2 MAC) responded in the bottom half of the first inning with two runs on an RBI single from junior Jeff Zimmerman and an RBI single from junior Landon Tenhagen later in the inning.
NIU freshman starting pitcher Bobby Kuntzendorf settled in over the next three innings, as he only allowed one batter to reach base on a walk. Kuntzendorf pitched four innings, struck out three batters and gave up one unearned run on one hit and two walks.
“I thought the first inning he was a little tentative out there, just trying to feel for it,” said NIU coach Ed Mathey. “But I thought in the third and fourth inning his breaking stuff was really starting to snap and it was becoming a very effective pitch for him... But I thought Bobby did a fine job today.”
The Huskies broke the game open in the fourth inning when they scored five runs. With the bases, loaded senior Jamison Wells singled to left center field, driving in two runs. Later in the inning, Zimmerman came up with an RBI double, scoring junior Alex Klonowski from second base, making the score 7-1.
Milwaukee answered back in the fifth with one run of their own, but the Huskies came back in the bottom half of the fifth with three more runs. Wells came up big again in the inning, driving in two more runs on another single to left center, increasing the Huskies lead, 10-2.
Wells finished the day 3-5 from the plate with four RBIs, three runs scored and a career-high three stolen bases.
“Today I took the approach of what coach [Tom] Carcione has told us: Just pretend like no one is on base and you’re just trying to get a base hit,” Wells said. “That’s what I kind of did, I got some good pitches to hit down in the strikezone, and I just kind of took advantage of that.”
The Panthers got four runs back in the seventh to make the score 10-6, but that was all they could muster as the Huskies’ bullpen shut them down in the final two innings.
Overall, Milwaukee coach Scott Doffek was disappointed with his team’s effort and mentality throughout the game.
“To me, I think we were noncompetitive in virtually every facet of the game,” Doffek said. “We didn’t compete, we didn’t compete in the batters box, the mental energy was not good, the infield we took before the game was about what you saw in the game. It was really unacceptable.”