Baseball handles weekday action


By James Krause

DeKALB — The baseball team picked up a pair of home wins this week, walking off against the Indiana State Sycamores Tuesday and clobbering the Robert Morris Eagles Wednesday.

Head Coach Mike Kunigonis said positive energy was a focus for the team this week following its first series win in the Mid-American Conference play Friday over the Miami of Ohio RedHawks.

“Our goal this week was to continue the positive vibes we had going from the weekend,” Kunigonis said. “Now that it’s behind us, now we can start looking forward to Friday.”

Tuesday — Huskies 5, Sycamores 4

Senior infielder Samuel Vega led off the Huskies with a single lined back to the pitcher. Vega finished the game with a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate, the first NIU player to do so since 2015.

Vega said simplification and leading off has helped his hitting, as he finished the game with an RBI double and four singles.

“I’ve been leading off lately, and we’ve been winning a lot of games,” Vega said. “I’m just trying to get on base and trying to find ways to score and win some ball games.”

The Sycamores put up the first runs of the game with a two-run home run in the third inning. The Huskies took the lead in the fourth inning with three RBIs from freshman infielder Alex Rodriguez, redshirt junior outfielder Hunter Bross and Vega.

The Sycamores quickly snatched the lead back from the Huskies with back-to-back solo home runs to go up 4-3 in the fifth inning.

After the home runs, the Huskies retired the next 13 straight batters, giving up no hits and only one walk for the remainder of the game.

The Huskies were able to tie it 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning thanks to a single from sophomore catcher Jake Dunham to bring in Vega.

In the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out, redshirt freshman outfielder Kam Smith hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to centerfield to bring home the winning run.

Smith, who made the sacrifice on a full count, said performing under pressure is something he prides himself on.

“It’s just something I take pride in,” Smith said. “I just kept battling until I found a pitch that I thought I could drive and get a hit with.”

Redshirt freshman pitcher Parker Kirkpatrick was credited with the win for his closing effort, while senior Matthew Hoffman pitched a perfect three innings of relief.

Wednesday — Huskies 20, Eagles 2

The Huskies tallied a season high in hits and runs with 19 and 20, respectively.

The Huskies scored in the second inning off an error from the Eagles, but it was the third inning where the Huskies caught fire.

A home run from senior infielder Brad Wood, an RBI double from Dunham, and two-run home runs from Smith and Rodriguez put the Huskies up 7-0. Rodriguez’s homer was the first of his career.

The Huskies put up three runs in the fifth and five in both the seventh and eighth innings, finishing with season-highs of 20 runs and 19 hits.

Dunham, Smith, Bross and Rodriguez each finished with three RBIs, while Wood and Vega each had two RBIs. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Vega took an awkward slide into third base and was pulled from the game with an apparent arm injury.

The Huskies also only gave up two runs on the day, as senior starting pitcher Donovan Sims was credited with the win as he struck out five batters in four innings.

Kunigonis said it was good to see the team carrying its success from the win Tuesday to the next game.

“It’s great to have that good feeling carrying over to today after a walk-off win,” Kunigonis said. “It’s nice to be on this side of that.”

The Huskies will look to continue their hot streak in a series against the Ball State Cardinals. The first game of the series will be 3 p.m. Friday in Muncie, Indiana.