Baseball struggles against Hilltoppers

Ryan Ostry

DeKALB — The baseball team decided to heat up the bats in Sunday’s series finale against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers to avoid the sweep after being outscored 20-7 in the first three matches.

The Huskies (3-4) lost the first game by a final of 9-5, then dropped game two after a pitching duel, resulting in a 1-0 loss.

NIU continued to struggle with a 10-2 outcome in the third game but rallied and got seven strong innings from freshman pitcher Michael Lasiewicz in Sunday’s finale.

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

Friday morning — Hilltoppers 9, Huskies 5

The Huskies and Hilltoppers both started hot early with runs in the first inning but then cooled off until the bottom of the fifth inning where Western Kentucky dropped four runs off of senior pitcher George Faue.

NIU added three runs to try and crawl back in hopes to tie up the ball game, but the efforts were not enough.

Sophomore catcher Jake Dunham led the way for NIU, going 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs.

Faue’s statline resulted in five innings pitched, 10 hits allowed and six runs with all of them earned.

Friday afternoon — Hilltoppers 1, Huskies 0

In the second game of a double header, there was a pitching dual that took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Hilltopper junior pitcher Colby Taylor threw 6.1 innings, giving up four walks and struck out three batters.

Sophomore pitcher Nate Thomas had a much better outing, pitching seven strong innings for NIU, allowing just two hits and no runs.

Western Kentucky got on the board with a home run by junior outfielder Dillon Nelson in the bottom of the eighth inning off of NIU senior pitcher Donovin Sims.

Saturday — Hilltoppers 10, Huskies 2

It was a short outing with the first start of the season for junior pitcher Tanner Foster Saturday as he went just 3.2 innings, giving up seven hits and five runs.

Junior infielder Chase Larsen led the way for Western Kentucky, going 3-for-4 and driving in a run.

The Hilltoppers put up six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning that NIU could not overcome.

NIU used a total of four pitchers on the afternoon.

Sunday — Huskies 5, Hilltoppers 0

The Huskies avoided the sweep on the Sunday matinee and got another strong outing by Lasiewicz, who went seven innings, striking out six batters with no runs allowed.

Senior infielder Samuel Vega helped out his young pitcher on the afternoon, going 3-for-5 with an RBI.

Nelson contributed for Western Kentucky as well, going a perfect 3-for-3 on the day but couldn’t muster any runs.

“We battled all weekend, and that’s a very good team we just played,” Kunigonis said. “They will be a top-60 team by the end of the year.”

NIU will be back in action, as it will take on the University of the Incarnate Word 6:30 p.m. Friday in San Antonio.