Baseball sweeps Eastern Michigan in first home series

James Krause

DeKALB — The baseball team started their Mid-American Conference season with a home sweep of the Eastern Michigan Eagles in a three-game weekend series.

Head Coach Mike Kunigonis said the team showed its true colors with the three victories and first series win of the season.

“This is the group we’ve been seeing since August,” Kunigonis said. “We’ve been waiting for this  group to show up and we’ve been really close up to this point.”

The Huskies opened the weekend Friday with a 6-3 win, a nail biting 4-3 win Saturday, and a decisive 9-4 win on a rainy Sunday.

Kunigonis said a key to the weekend was keeping mistakes to a minimum, as the team committed only four errors throughout the series.

“This weekend I thought we did a great job of limiting mistakes,” Kunigonis said. “It was fun to finally see us put some of that together. We still made mistakes and we still need to clean up some stuff, but we limited those mistakes which is always big.”

Junior pitcher Nate Thomas picked up a pair of saves in three appearances over the weekend, bringing his season count to four. Thomas said the pitching staff and defense made a difference each game.

“The pitching staff really showed up this week,” Thomas said. “We made all the pitches we needed to, executed what we needed to, and our defense [was] right there behind us to make a big play.”

 

Friday – Huskies 6, Eagles 3

The Huskies first got on the board in the second inning with a pair of RBI singles.

Junior infielder Jordan Larson brought home junior infielder Tommy Szczasny to open the scoring. Szczasny went on to score four of the Huskies six runs. First-year outfielder Nick Drobushevich brought home Larson to make it 2-0 at the end of the second.

Junior infielder Dylan Lonteen extended the lead in the third with a groundout RBI to score junior catcher Jake Dunham from third.

Redshirt-junior outfielder Josh Mutter bunted to the pitcher to bring home another run to make it 4-0 after three. Mutter ended the day 1-for-2 at the plate with a walk and a pair of RBIs.

Mutter’s second RBI came in the fifth on a flyout to center that allowed Szczasny to tag up from third.

Sophomore pitcher Michael Lasiewicz was credited with the win after allowing only two hits and a single run over six innings worked.

The Huskies were in a bases loaded jam in the top of the eighth when sophomore pitcher Kyle Seeback entered the game.

After giving up two runs on a fielder’s choice and a flyout, Seeback ended the inning with a strikeout of redshirt-junior pinch-hitter Jacob Bolton. The strikeout held the final score to 6-3 Huskies.

 

Saturday – Huskies 4, Eagles 3

After leaving the bases loaded at the end of the second, NIU put a pair of runs on the board with a 2-RBI single from Lonteen.

The Eagles scored a run off an error in the third but NIU answered with an RBI-single by junior outfielder Brendan Joyce to put the Huskies up 3-1 after the fourth.

EMU had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the fifth when junior infielder Zachary Owings singled to center for 2 RBI’s, tying the game at 3.

The Huskies responded in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases thanks to singles from Lonteen, Dunham and junior outfielder Kam Smith.

With the bases loaded, Mutter was hit by a pitch from Eagles’ senior pitcher Mitchell Sparks to reach the final score of 4-3.

First-year pitcher Erik Hedmark was credited with his first collegiate win after pitching 7.1 innings and giving up five hits.

 

Sunday – Huskies 9, Eagles 4

After two sunny afternoons, rain made the field conditions a challenge for the series finale. Kunigonis said the teams stayed strong through the rough weather.

“Both teams are out their battling and competing on the same field,” Kunigonis said. “I don’t think either team allowed it to really get into their heads and still made great plays in tough conditions.”

The teams traded the lead early with the score tied at 2 after four and a half innings.

In the bottom of the fifth, Dunham homered to left field to give NIU the lead 4-2. The home run was Dunham’s second of the season.

After a four-game stretch without an RBI, Smith ended the drought in the seventh with a single to give NIU a 5-3 lead.

As the drizzle turned into pouring rain, the Huskies poured it on themselves with four runs in the bottom of the eighth. The scoring output included a Larson solo homer and another Dunham RBI single.

Thomas looked to pick up his third save in as many days in the ninth, but was pulled after loading the bases with two outs. Redshirt-senior pitcher Ty Jandrowski took over and got out of the jam to end the game 9-4.

Entering the weekend having struggled in non-conference play with a 4-16 record, the Huskies exit the weekend tied atop the MAC standings with Ball State and Miami of Ohio.

The team will get set for a one-off game against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames 3 p.m. Tuesday in Chicago.

NIU will then resume MAC play this upcoming weekend with a three-game series against the Central Michigan Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.