NIU baseball: Huskies have 9-game losing streak after meeting with Zips

By Steve Shonder

Baseball (13-21, 4-8 MAC) extended its losing streak to nine games when it was swept by the Akron Zips (16-16, 8-4 MAC) over the weekend.

The Huskies continued to struggle at the plate during their losing streak. They hit .162 over the series, totaling just 16 hits, and were only able to draw five walks. They struck out 25 times, 13 of which came in game two on Saturday’s doubleheader. Akron starter J.T. Brubaker recorded 11 of the 13 strikeouts.

“Overall, we’re in a place where our confidence is shaken,” said head coach Mike Kunigonis. “The only way we can get that back is by grinding it out and having the will to win.”

Game One

Despite getting a complete game from senior Ben Neumann, the Huskies fell to the Zips, 4-1, on Saturday.

Neumann threw eight innings and only gave up five hits, but he issued five walks. Akron starter John Valek also threw eight innings, allowing just two hits and one run. The offenses opened up in the fourth inning after Neumann and Valek combined to keep both sides hitless through the opening three frames. It was the first complete game of Neumann’s career.

“Anytime you have a good start on the mound and you don’t take care of business, it’s disappointing,” Kunigonis said. “We had problems at the plate and in field. That always hurts. It’s not one individual thing, it’s a team thing, and as a team we need to get better.”

With two outs in the inning, junior Brian Sisler walked and moved up to second on a wild pitch. Freshman Brad Wood followed that up with a single to down the line in the left to score Sisler for the Huskies’ only run of the game.

The Zips countered by sending four runs home in the bottom of the fourth. With two runs already in and the bases loaded, Matt LaRocca singled home two runs to cap off the Zips’ rally.

Game Two

Akron took a 1-0 lead to open the game and kept adding on, winning the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, 6-2.

The Huskies started to show some life at the plate after the Zips took a four-run lead into the sixth inning. Malique Ziegler made his way to third on a wild pitch and an error after heopened up the inning with a single. Ziegler came in to score on a groundout to short by junior Johnny Zubek. In the seventh, Wood scored the Huskies’ second run on an error.

Game Three

The Zips completed the sweep Sunday with a 5-4 win.

In the second, freshman Joe Jumonville drove in the game’s first run with a single to left; redshirt junior Tony Brandner scored the run. Later in the inning, sophomore Jason Gasser drew a bases loaded walk to score Wood.

After the Zips tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the fifth — driving starter redshirt junior Seth Fuller from the game — the Huskies added on two runs in the sixth. Akron bounced back with a run in the bottom of the inning and another run in the eighth to tie the game at four apiece.

“We had our opportunities early on,” Kunigonis said. “We didn’t take advantage. We have nobody blame but ourselves for it. We didn’t play well on defense, and that stuff comes back and bites you.”

In the bottom of the ninth, sophomore Andrew Frankenreider walked Mason Mamarella with one out in the inning. After Mamarella stole second, Daulton Mosbarger was intentionally walked. Joey Havrilak followed that up by reaching on an error when the Huskies botched a double play attempt. With the bases loaded, Brian Lees hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Mamarella for the game-winning run.