Baseball drops another series at home

Roland Hacker

DeKALB — The baseball team dropped two of three games this weekend in a series against the Western Michigan University Broncos.

NIU hosted a double-header Saturday at Ralph McKinzie Field and split the twin bill, losing the first game and winning the second. The Broncos opened up in the rubber match by dropping a 10-spot on the Huskies.

“It’s disappointing,” said Head Coach Mike Kunigonis. “We were hoping to come out here and win the series,” “We still have six weekends left to get ourselves back in a good position for postseason play.”

Saturday game one — Broncos 5, Huskies 3

NIU hit the ground running in the first game, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore catcher Jake Dunham drew first blood for the Huskies with an RBI sacrifice fly, knocking in senior infielder Samuel Vega.

Freshman outfielder Kam Smith added on with a two-RBI single, putting the Huskies up 3-0 in the first inning.

Junior starting pitcher Tanner Foster was on cruise control until the fifth inning where he allowed three runs. Of the runs given up by Foster, one was earned. Foster exited the game in the sixth inning, giving way to sophomore pitcher Nate Thomas.

Thomas carried the tied ball game to the top of the ninth inning, when Broncos’ outfielder Nate Grys hit a two-run home run to take a late lead.

NIU was unable to respond in the bottom half of the inning and lost the game 5-3.

Kunigonis said the bad weather forcing double headers is not ideal for his club.

“It’ll be nice when we can get some good weather and play three singles,” Kunigonis said. “It changes some of your pitching and some of your match-ups. You can run some guys back that threw on Friday. It’s difficult, but it’s the same for the team in the other dugout too though.”

Saturday game two — Huskies 3, Broncos 1

Freshman starting pitcher Michael Lasiewicz took the bump for the Huskies in game two of the double header.

Lasiewicz was sharp for NIU yet again, only allowing one unearned run on five hits while striking out six in 7.1 innings of work.

“The first couple innings were kind of long,” Lasiewicz said. “After that, I was able to buckle down and hit my spots.”

Freshman outfielder Connor Montgomery knocked in senior outfielder Scooter Bynum with an RBI double in the fifth inning. Junior outfielder Hunter Bross allowed Montgomery to score with an RBI sacrifice fly later that inning to give the Huskies the lead.

Dunham continued his day by hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning, extending the Huskies lead to 3-1.

The game ended without anymore scoring, preserving an NIU victory.

Kunigonis said what Lasiewicz has done is even more impressive as a freshman.

“His stuff is very good,” Kunigonis said. “He’s a young guy [and] it can be very tough as a freshman. There’s a lot going on, so it’s definitely been impressive what he’s been able to do.”

Sunday — Broncos 10, Huskies 4

The Broncos burst out of the gates by scoring four runs in the second inning.

Despite having an early lead, the Broncos did not ease the pressure, scoring six more times in five different innings.

The Huskies mounted a couple of two-run rallies, including a two-run home run from sophomore infielder Tommy Szczasny in the bottom of the eighth inning, but it was not nearly enough.

“We’ve been battling and grinding,” Kunigonis said. “Unfortunately, our hard work we’ve been putting in hasn’t paid off yet. We’ve hit the ball hard and it takes a big hop and goes right in the opposing team’s glove, but that’s baseball and you have to continue to work.”

Kunigonis was not the only one optimistic about the team’s direction.

“I think our pitchers are doing well and our hitters are doing well,” Lasiewicz said. “There’s something small that we’re missing, we just need to find it.”

The Huskies will be back in action 3 p.m. Tuesday at Ralph McKinzie Field to take on the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames.