Baseball ends losing streak

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Senior pitcher Joe Hawks winds up during the first game of the series against the Kent State University Golden Flashes on Friday. The Huskies lost the game 7-4. 

By Eddie Garcia

DeKALB — The Huskies ended the series with an 8-7 walk-off win Sunday but were unable to secure victories in the first two games against the Kent State University Golden Flashes at Ralph McKinzie Field.

NIU (9-25, 5-6 Mid-American Conference) lost Friday’s game 7-4 and Saturday’s game 4-1 to the first place team in the MAC East.

“This team continues to battle and work to give itself a chance to win,” said Head Coach Mike Kunigonis. “We just haven’t learned to win yet.”

Friday — Kent State 7, NIU 4

The series opened up with defensive struggles on both sides as the teams combined for nine errors on the day, which led to two of the eleven runs scored being earned.

The Huskies committed four of the errors.

“When you make four errors in a game, it’s going to be very difficult to win,” Kunigonis said. “Pitching and defense wins baseball games, and today, we didn’t play defense.”

Junior pitcher George Faue came in relief and pitched two and 2/3 innings before allowing the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth inning. Faue was replaced by redshirt junior pitcher Andrew Frankenreider, who struggled to get out of the inning after three fielding errors allowed five runs, which gave Kent State a 7-2 lead.

NIU made one last attempt in the bottom half of the 10th inning as they scored two more runs to make it a 7-4 ball game.

With three men on base, it was up to freshman outfielder Alec Barger, who flew out to center field to end the Huskies’ late comeback attempt.

The Huskies capitalized on two of the five errors by the Golden Flashes (19-10, 7-1 MAC) in the first inning as NIU was able to put a run on the board after a single by freshman infielder Tommy Szczasny.

This led to a fielding error by the right fielder, which allowed junior infielder Samuel Vega to advance to third base.

Szczasny then advanced to second base on the second fielding error of the inning committed by Kent State’s junior first basemen Dylan Rosa, allowing Vega to score in from third inning.

The Golden Flashes got their offense going in the fourth inning with a two-run home run to left field by Rosa.

That home run ended up being the only two runs allowed by senior pitcher Joe Hawks, who went six and 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits, two walks and striking out three batters in the game.

The Huskies tied the game at two in the bottom of the eighth inning as they capitalized on another Kent State fielding error, which allowed freshman catcher Jacob Dunham to reach base safely and Szczasny to score.

Saturday — Kent State 4, NIU 1

NIU struggled on the mound in game two of the series, as three of the four runs scored by the Golden Flashes got on base via walk or were hit by a pitch.

Freshman pitcher Nathan Thomas had an off outing as he hit the first person to bat.

Thomas followed up with two walks to load the bases, which led to a fielder’s choice, a single and a sac fly to give the Golden Flashes a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Thomas got out of the inning with limited damage before returning in the top of the second inning to walk the first batter. Kunigonis immediately removed Thomas after an inning plus one batter, turning to sophomore pitcher William Anderson in the bullpen.

Anderson pitched six innings out of the bullpen, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. Those two walks came in the fifth inning to hurt the Huskies as Kent State’s Dylan Rosa hit his second home run, a two-run home run, to put the Golden Flashes up 4-1.

NIU scored one run in the fourth inning after Vega was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Vega scored on a double play ball hit by junior infielder Jesus Tovar III, which cleared the bases for the Huskies.

Kent State received a good pitching effort from junior starting pitcher Zach Willeman, who pitched seven innings and allowed one run and two walks, while striking out seven batters. Junior pitcher Jared Skolnicki finished the game with a two-inning save.

Sunday — NIU 8, Kent State 7

The Huskies won on a walk-off hit by Vega as freshman Alec Barger came in as a pinch runner to score the winning run from second base.

NIU was able to rally twice, once in the seventh inning and once in the eighth inning, in a back-and-forth game that began with the Huskies having a 4-1 lead after the third inning.

Kent State scored two runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning to take a 7-6 lead, but NIU answered back in the bottom of the seventh inning with two runs and added another run in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game at seven headed into the ninth inning.

NIU was able to hold Kent State scoreless in the top half of the ninth inning before Barger came around to score off of Vega’s RBI single to give the Huskies their lone victory of the series and their first win since April 9 against University at Buffalo when they won 2-1.

The Huskies’ next game will be 2 p.m. Tuesday against Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana.


Sports Editor Scott A. Nicol contributed to this article. For questions or comments, email editor@NorthernStar.info