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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Shutdown pitching powers NIU to first MAC-series win since 2021

Then-junior+infielder+Eric+Erato+swings+at+a+pitch+against+the+University+of+Illinois+Chicago+on+April+25%2C+2023.+Erato+went+3-for-5+in+NIU+baseballs+6-1+victory+over+Ohio+University+on+Sunday.+%28Mingda+Wu+%7C+Northern+Star%29
Mingda Wu
Then-junior infielder Eric Erato swings at a pitch against the University of Illinois Chicago on April 25, 2023. Erato went 3-for-5 in NIU baseball’s 6-1 victory over Ohio University on Sunday. (Mingda Wu | Northern Star)

Behind a dominant start from redshirt sophomore pitcher Adam Brouwer, NIU baseball (5-11, 2-1 MAC) cruised to a 6-1 rubber match victory over the Ohio University Bobcats (5-8, 1-2 MAC) in its first series of conference play Sunday.

After a doubleheader split on Friday and a rain out on Saturday, the Huskies trudged through a snowy Bob Wren Stadium to earn their first MAC-series victory since May 2021 against the University of Akron Zips.

Brouwer gave up just one earned run on four hits in 5 innings pitched en route to his first win of the season. The Tinley Park, Illinois, native pounded the strike zone early and often, striking out four Bobcat batters and walking none. 

Senior pitcher Jackson Stewart was the only arm needed out of the Huskie bullpen, pitching the final four innings of the game and converting a 12-out save. Stewart shut the Bobcats out, allowing just two hits to seal the win.

Senior infielder Eric Erato led the way for the Huskies offensively, going 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Erato notched the Huskies’ first two hits, both coming before the Bobcats recorded a hit.

Both Brouwer and Ohio junior pitcher Blake Gaskey mowed through the opposing offenses early, putting up zeros through the first three innings. It wasn’t until an RBI single from Ohio senior outfielder Gideon Antle in the bottom of the fourth inning that the scoreless tie was broken. 

Erato was quick to respond for NIU, hitting an RBI double in the top of the fifth inning to even the score at 1-1. Senior infielder Andre Demetral immediately followed with a sacrifice fly to score junior outfielder CJ Cepicky and give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

Brouwer worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth inning behind a superb defensive play from senior infielder Aaron Harper.

Harper made a diving stop on a ground ball off the bat of Antle, stood up and fired to senior infielder Mason Kelley to end the Bobcats’ threat and keep the Huskies’ 2-1 lead intact. 

“Adam (Brouwer) has been throwing the ball a lot better than his numbers indicate,” said NIU baseball head coach Ryan Copeland via NIU Athletics. “It was just a matter of time for him to have a little more luck on the mound. Getting out of that bases-loaded jam with one of the best hitters in our conference at the plate was huge. Harper made a great play to get us out of the inning, and then we turned the ball over to Stewart who gave us four shutout innings.”

Despite going just 1-for-5 on the day, Kelley recorded a two-out, bases-loaded single in the top of the seventh inning to give NIU some breathing room. Kelley’s single allowed Demetral and senior infielder Jake Nelson to score, putting the Huskies ahead 4-1. 

Cepicky provided the Huskies with insurance in the top of the eighth inning, launching his first NIU home run, a two-run blast to give the Huskies a 6-1 lead. 

“Once we got into Ohio’s bullpen we were able to add on some runs,” Copeland said via NIU Athletics. “Any time you’re playing a conference game, and when the conditions were what they were with the wind howling out to right field, it feels like there’s never enough runs. We found a way to keep tacking on runs and put the game out of reach.”

Stewart put the finishing touches on NIU’s road win, allowing no hits over the final two innings to seal the victory.

UP NEXT

The Huskies’ next game will be against Purdue University at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Alexander Field in West Lafayette, Indiana. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

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