Huskies strike gold against Fighting Irish

By Ryan Ostry

DeKALB — The baseball team snapped its eight-game losing streak on a brisk 38 degree Tuesday night, completing an upset against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana.

“When the weather is like this, you can either embrace it or not embrace it,” said Head Coach Mike Kunigonis. “It’s really a mindset out there; you want to think positive.”

NIU (5-14) survived a jam in the bottom of the second inning when the Fighting Irish had men on second and third base with just one out, but sophomore pitcher Blake Walker pitched out of it.

Notre Dame (8-11, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) was walked four times in just three innings by Walker and scored on a wild pitch, putting the game at 1-0 in favor of the Irish.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, redshirt freshman Parker Kirkpatrick came in on relief for the Huskies.

NIU sophomore shortstop Tommy Szczasny made his second error of the game, but sophomore catcher Jake Dunham, who is a Johnny Bench finalist nominee, threw out his second runner of the game, picking up the Huskie defense.

With the first hit resulting in a score by redshirt freshman outfielder Alex Rodriguez driving in Szczasny, the Huskies tied up the ballgame.

The Huskies scored again later in the inning with another sacrifice fly from redshirt sophomore outfielder Josh Mutter to extend the lead to 2-1.

With that sac fly the Huskies moved into first place in Mid-American Conference play with 10 sac flies on the season.

NIU didn’t waste any time after the Fighting Irish initiated a pitching change going to sophomore pitcher Andrew Belcik.

The Huskies had four out of five hitters get on base after the pitching change in the sixth inning, resulting in a RBI single by Szczasny and a two-out double by senior outfielder Scooter Bynum.

“We had some huge hits tonight,” Kunigonis said. “We’ve been waiting for those all season, and the guys really stepped up and came through.”

Kirkpatrick remained in the game and finished out the eighth inning, and throwing five innings on the day surpassing his previous amount of total innings on the season.

“This was the longest outing of his career,” Kunigonis said. “He did a really great job, especially pounding the strike zone and keeping hitters off balance.”

Szczasny completed the first out in the eighth inning with an dazzling over the shoulder sliding grab to narrow down the Irish chances to five outs.

Shortly after, NIU had its fourth error of the game when Mutter dropped a routine fly ball which led to a Fighting Irish run.

The Huskies didn’t let that dictate the final outcome however, as redshirt senior pitcher Andrew Frankenreider came down in the ninth inning to retire the side earning his second save on the season with a 5-3 Huskie victory.

NIU will look to keep the momentum going as it will face off against the Central Michigan Chippewas 3 p.m. Friday in DeKalb.