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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Huskie bats go cold in loss to UIC

Tim Dodge
NIU junior pitcher Conner Lutes (36) pitches during the second inning against UIC. Lutes pitched five innings, gave up one earned run and had one strikeout. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

After a three-run first inning, the Huskies’ offense went quiet as NIU baseball (13-27, 7-11 MAC) fell 5-4 to the University of Illinois Chicago Flames (25-12, 9-6 MVC) Wednesday. 

An early lead and a quality start from junior pitcher Conner Lutes was not enough for the Huskies’ to hold off a late rally from UIC. The Flames scored two runs in the sixth and seventh innings to seal a 5-4 victory.

“Conner (Lutes) was really good tonight,” said NIU baseball head coach Ryan Copeland via NIU Athletics. “For us to get 10-plus innings out of our two midweek starters this week who had not made starts this year is pretty impressive. Conner had been working to make sure he was in a position to be ready and he was really good tonight and gave us five really good innings.”


The Huskies jumped on redshirt junior pitcher Matt Zahora immediately, chasing him in the first inning. Senior infielder Mason Kelley provided an RBI walk and freshman catcher Cooper Cohn notched a two-RBI double to give the Huskies the early 3-0 advantage. Zahora failed to record an out before his departure.

UIC answered back with a run of its own in the bottom half of the first inning. Senior infielder Zane Zielinski stole third before a throwing error from Cohn allowed Zielinski to score, cutting the NIU lead to 3-1. 

After the first inning, both pitching staffs settled in as no runs came across the plate the next three innings. 

Lutes allowed just two hits over the next four innings and finished his day allowing just one earned run on three hits in five plus innings pitched. UIC redshirt senior pitcher Zak Gould and  redshirt freshman pitcher Vincent Gohlke combined to hold the Huskies’ scoreless for the next four innings after Zahora’s departure. 

A fifth-inning RBI groundout from junior outfielder CJ Cepicky allowed the Huskies to take a 4-1 lead.


Lutes took the mound for a sixth inning of work, but ran out of gas. Lutes walked the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth before junior pitcher Tucker Christensen came in relief. 

An RBI groundout from UIC senior infielder Ryan Nagelbach followed by a sacrifice fly from junior infielder AJ Taylor trimmed the NIU lead to 4-3 heading into the seventh inning. 

Senior pitcher Jacob Draeger pitched the seventh inning after Christensen’s one inning of work. A two-out, two-RBI double from redshirt junior outfielder AJ Henkle proved to be the game’s deciding factor, allowing the Flames to take their first lead of the night at 5-4.

After freshman pitcher Alex Day and redshirt senior pitcher Reagan Klawiter combined to throw a scoreless bottom of the eighth to keep NIU in striking distance, the Huskies came up empty in the top of the ninth inning.

A one-out single from senior infielder Andre Demetral followed by a walk from senior infielder Eric Erato gave the Huskies life. 

After Erato’s walk, senior infielder Jake Nelson hit into a double play, allowing UIC redshirt junior pitcher Reece Lawler to nail down the save and the Flames’ 5-4 win.


The Huskies’ next game will be against Central Michigan University at 2 p.m. CT Friday at Keilitz Field at Theunissen Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The game will be live streamed on Chippewas All-Access and live stats will be available via SIDEARM Stats.

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