Baseball loses two of three

By Eddie Garcia

Despite opening up the series in game one with a season-high of 18 runs scored, the baseball team fell short in the series against the Central Michigan University Chippewas (25-21, 13-5 Mid-American Conference).

The Huskies combined for 16 RBIs in the game, with six of them coming from senior outfielder Jason Gasser. Every Huskie in the starting lineup recorded a hit and six players had more than one hit in Friday’s game.

After an 18-6 victory in game one, NIU (15-31, 9-9 MAC) lost 12-9 in a close comeback in game two and lost 3-1 in game three.

NIU scored in 12 out of the 18 innings in the first two games of the series, but it was not enough as Central Michigan answered back to solidify their first place position in the MAC West Division.

Friday — NIU 18, CMU 6

The Huskies exploded for 19 hits in game one including a career day by Gasser, who went 4-for-5 at the plate along with six RBIs.

“This was a great win for Huskie [baseball],” said Head Coach Mike Kunigonis, according to NIU Media Services. “Great offensive day for the hitters, and they were backed up by a great spot start by George [Faue].”

NIU received contributions from every starting player in the lineup, as redshirt senior infielder Tommy Hook, junior infielder Samuel Vega and junior outfielder Roderick Bynum all had multiple RBIs on the day. The trio combined for 7-of-the-16 RBIs, as they helped fuel the offense with seven hits while posting a batting average of .500.

Junior designated hitter Jesus Tovar III was responsible for igniting the fire under the Huskies as he began scoring with a lead-off home run (2) in the top of the second.

Junior pitcher  received his first win of the season in his first weekend start for the Huskies. Faue went six strong innings, allowing three runs, two of them earned, on eight hits along with three strikeouts.

Saturday — CMU 12, NIU 9

NIU started off well in game two and out-hit Central Michigan, 16-14.

The Huskies had seven different players with at least one RBI as Bynum led NIU at the plate going 3-for-4, with two triples, two RBIs, and three runs scored.

Vega had a great day at the plate, as he went 3-for-6 with an RBI and a run scored.

NIU saw themselves down, 4-0, early on after freshman pitcher Nathan Thomas allowed two separate home runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Thomas pitched one inning in the game, as he allowed four runs on four hits with the three walks in his short outing.

11 of the 12 runs allowed in the game were earned by the Huskies’ pitching staff as they struggled to throw strikes, recording nine walks per nine innings of play.

As the Huskies slowly chipped away at the lead to make it a 5-4 ball game, Central Michigan retaliated with runs of their own with two runs in the bottom of the fourth and three runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend their lead to 10-5.

NIU scored a couple of more times in the seventh, eighth and nine innings but was unable to mount a full comeback.

Sunday – CMU 3, NIU 1

Unlike games one and two, the final game of the series came down to a dominant pitching performance by Central Michigan’s freshman pitcher Tyler Hawkins, who threw eight and two-thirds innings of one run baseball.

NIU was unable to create offense, as only four players recorded hits in the game. Tovar III went 3-for-3 at the plate, as he accounted for almost half of the team’s offense.

The Huskies received a quality performance from their pitching staff, as senior right-hander Ryne Blanton received the spot start for the injured junior pitcher Donovin Sims, who is on a week-to-week timeline for an oblique injury he suffered last week in his short outing against Ball State University.

Blanton allowed three runs, only one earned, with six hits in four full innings in Sims’s absence. Freshman pitcher Blake Walker was the only pitcher the Huskies pulled from the bullpen due to his success on the mound as he threw four shutout innings, allowing just three hits.

The Huskies tried to get something going late in the game, as a single by Hook, followed by a fielder’s choice and a double by freshman infielder Tommy Szczasny, led to their first and only run of the game.

NIU holds a record of 9-9 in the Mid-American Conference, as there are only six conference games remaining.

“We need to get through finals week and get prepared for EMU,” Kunigonis said. “It will be nice once we are done with school to focus on baseball in this critical two-week stretch.”

The Huskies will play their final home series of the season against the Eastern Michigan University Eagles this weekend. Saturday will be Senior Day for the Huskies, and Sunday’s game will feature an on-field ceremony for the graduating class.

The first game of the series will be at 3:05 p.m. Friday at Ralph McKinzie Field.