Baseball ends losing streak but drops series to Valpo

By James Krause

DeKALB — The baseball team ended their four-game losing streak this weekend, but still dropped two of three in a neutral location series with the Valparaiso Crusaders.

The Huskies split the Saturday doubleheader with Valparaiso before losing the series-deciding game 5-2 Sunday.

Head Coach Mike Kunigonis said mistakes were a deciding factor for the series and will be for NIU moving forward.

“We made the most mistakes [Sunday], and if you look at the whole weekend, whichever team made the most mistakes ended up losing the game,” Kunigonis told NIU athletics in a March 17 release. “We need to control what we can control and we need to get better.”

The Huskies record fell to 4-15 with one non-conference game remaining before NIU beings Mid-American Conference play.

Saturday Morning- Crusaders 7, Huskies 6

Junior catcher Jake Dunham put NIU on the board early with an RBI single in the first inning. Dunham was the first Huskies player to reach 10 RBIs this season and finished the game with 13 on the year.

The Crusaders tied the game in the third with an RBI single up the middle by senior infielder Chase Dawson. Soon after, Valparaiso took the lead with a 2-RBI double off the bat of junior catcher Christian Barczi.

Junior outfielder Brendan Joyce shrunk Valpo’s lead in the third with his first home run of the season.

Related: Baseball drops two to Kansas State; falls to 3-13

Valparaiso extended their lead to 6-2 by the middle of the fourth before junior outfielder Josh Mutter cut the deficit to three with an RBI double. Mutter matched Dunham with a game-high two hits.

In the sixth, junior infielder Tommy Szczasny drew a bases loaded walk from first-year pitcher Zach Frickle to bring a run home. Dunham singled in the following at-bat to score two more runs and tie the game 6-6.

The Huskies looked to send the game tied into the bottom of the eight, but Dawson homered on the first pitch he saw from first-year pitcher Drew Hasson to take the lead 7-6 for the eventual final.

Saturday Afternoon-Huskies 5, Crusaders 2

Valparaiso got the jump on the Huskies early with a 2-RBI single from Barczi in the first. The early runs didn’t slow sophomore pitcher Michael Lasiewicz, who would go on to strikeout eight batters in five innings.

Szczasny flied out to score a run in the first and junior first-baseman Jordan Larson did the same in the second to tie the game a two.

The Huskies took the lead in the fourth when a throwing error from Valparaiso senior infielder Brent Jones allowed Szczcasny to score from third.

Larson added another run with a single to bring home sophomore infielder Alex Rodriguez as the Huskies led 4-2 after four innings.

The Crusaders had a bases-loaded opportunity in the fifth inning, but a Lasiewicz strikeout of first-year outfielder Jeremy Drudge to end the inning stranding three. Valparaiso left 11 runners on base in the game.

Junior infielder Dylan Lonteen added an insurance run in the eighth inning to help junior pitcher Nate Thomas pick up his second save of the season in two innings of relief. The Huskies picked up the 5-2 victory. Thomas finished Saturday with a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched on the year.

Sunday-Crusaders 5, Huskies 2

The Crusaders got on the board first in the second inning, but the Huskies ended the inning on top 2-1. Lonteen hit a solo homer to tie the game before first-year infielder Paddy McKermitt grabbed his first collegiate RBI to take the lead.

The Huskies held the lead until the sixth inning, when a wild pitch by senior pitcher William Anderson scored a run for Valparaiso to tie it 2-2.

Barczi soon gave the Crusaders the lead with a 2-RBI single to center field to end the sixth ahead 4-2. Barczi would add one more RBI in the eight, ending the weekend with seven RBIs on 5-for-11 batting.

Valparaiso first-year pitcher Colin Fields was credited with the 5-2 win after a dominating eight-inning performance. Fields struckout nine while not allowing a walk.

The Huskies host their first official home series this upcoming weekend against the Eastern Michigan Eagles, but first have a one-off with the Chicago State Cougars 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Chicago.