All around consistency key for Huskies

Ryan Ostry

With Mid-American Conference games not starting until the end of March, small ball and pitching will play an integral role in the Huskies’ success to avoid finishing at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference again.

The Huskies are off to a tough 4-7 start to begin the young season, but have the ability to turn things around if they play to their strengths, which mainly has been the pitching of their young arms.

Freshman pitcher Michael Lasiewicz, through three games, has a 1.65 ERA, along with 17 strikeouts and has held his opponents to just a .250 batting average.

“[Lasiewicz] is one of the best I’ve seen,” said Head Coach Mike Kunigonis, according to a Feb. 26 Northern Star article. “Hands down, he is up there with Jesse Hahn and a couple other guys at the big leagues who I’ve coached.”

As a team, the defensive-minded Huskies posted a 2.59 ERA, which ranks No. 39 in best team ERA in the country, according to the NCAA official website.

Unfortunately, one rough blowout loss bumped the NIU ERA to 4.20, however, it is still impressive.

NIU has given up only one home run through 11 games of play, while the 62 runs given up have resulted in only 42 of them earned.

Kunigonis’ club has had the mentality of ‘HuskieBall’ since he arrived in DeKalb four years ago from Virginia Tech, which means staying persistant and grinding out every game.

“We’re trying to build a foundation, which takes time,” Kunigonis said. “I think we have a group of guys that show up to work every day, battles, fights, never gives up and continues to grind whether we’re up or down.”

This mentality has shown through the first 11 games of the season, as pitching, driving in runners with making contact and small ball has been the blueprint.

Six pitchers from the Huskies still have not posted an ERA up to date, and just five out of 16 pitchers have an above 5.00 ERA.

The bullpen has been lights out in being the gatekeepers from opposing batters crossing home plate.

“The bullpen will be one of the strong points of the season for us this year,” Kunigonis said. “They are lockdown.”

With dominant pitching, NIU hitters know they will be required to do their part if they want to flip the switch on last year’s subpar record of 17-38.

“It’s very humbling going 17-38 like we did last year,” said senior outfielder Scooter Bynum. “We’re a scrappy team. We’re not the biggest team out there and not looking to hit the long ball, but we’re just looking to make hard solid contact every time we’re at the plate.”

Bynum led the Huskies in almost every statistical category last year including .300 batting average, 60 hits with seven triples.

NIU is hitting a combined .249 this season, but has four players above the .300 mark including freshman outfielder Tommy Washington who has posted an inconceivable .538 batting average thus far.

“We will hit in key situations,” said senior pitcher George Faue. “We’re going to get guys over and scrap a lot.”

NIU will look to bounce back as they will face in state rival Southern Illinois University Salukis 3 p.m. Friday in Carbondale, Illinois.