Baseball stays hot against Flames

Ryan Ostry

DeKalb — The baseball team tallied its second consecutive win on Tuesday against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames with a final score of 5-1.

“It was a real grind it out win today,” said Head Coach Mike Kunigonis. “We really stayed on the ball offensively and were clicking today.”

NIU got off to a blazing start, putting three runs on the board in the first inning.

Sophomore infielder Tommy Szczasny scored on a throwing error to kick things off for the Huskies.

Following the unearned run, NIU played a part in the long ball with two-run homer coming off the bat of senior outfielder Scooter Bynum against UIC junior starting pitcher Braeden Toikka.

“[Bynum] hit a 2-2 curveball that really hung up there, ”Kunigonis said. “It was the first time all season I’ve seen him hit a [lefty pitcher].”

The flames attempted a comeback in the second inning, scoring on a single by redshirt junior outfielder David Becker to cut the NIU lead down to two runs.

That was the only run given up by sophomore pitcher Blake Walker on the evening, going five innings, allowing just hits, one run with 81 total pitches thrown.

“It was definitely his best start of the year,” Kunigonis said. “[Walker] was a lot sharper this week than he was last week against Notre Dame, and he gave us a lot of confidence going forward as a team with him on the mound.”

NIU scored on an unusual play in the top of the fifth inning after Szczasny took off for second base. Toikka had a late reaction time and balked to score senior outfielder Joe Jumonville from third.

Sophomore left-hander Eric Hammer came in on relief for Walker in the bottom of the sixth inning and went 1-2-3.

Redshirt junior pitcher Alex Padilla took over the pitching duties in the seventh inning, getting out of the jam by striking out Bynum after loading the bases.

Redshirt freshman Parker Kirkpatrick picked up right as he left off against Notre Dame Tuesday. He finished the Flames in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings once again, not allowing a run.

Kirkpatrick hasn’t allowed an earned run all season long.

“[Kirkpatrick] just really slows the game down for us,” Kunigonis said. “He’s definitely been sharp, and he’s going to get a lot more opportunities again for us this year.”

The Huskies added one final run in the top of the ninth coming off the bat of senior infielder Samuel Vega, scoring senior infielder Brad Wood to cap off the game at 5-1.

NIU will try and make it three in a row when it takes on the Ohio University Bobcats 5 p.m. Friday in Athens, Ohio.