NIU baseball: Huskies on first 4-win streak since 2013

By Steve Shonder

Baseball (19-24, 7-11 MAC) won four games in a row with a 5-3 win over the Valparaiso Crusaders (17-22) Wednesday at Ralph McKinzie Field.

The win gives the Huskies their first four-game win streak since the 2013 season.

“We’ve just been playing well lately,” said head coach Mike Kunigonis. “We’re playing our style of baseball and we’re taking care of the baseball. We’re just doing a good job overall. Our pitchers are giving us a chance and we’re getting timely hits. That’s what supposed to happen when you do those things.”

The Huskies got on the board early when redshirt senior Micah McCulloch drove in junior Johnny Zubek to score in the first inning. The Huskies built on their lead in the sixth after another run in the third inning.

Redshirt sophomore Wes Sery scored on redshirt junior Alex Smith’s single to center field. Redshirt senior Nate Ruzich singled to left to drive in sophomore Carl Russell and Sery.

“It’s all about what our coaches talk about, which is sticking to a plan,” Smith said. “In that at-bat, I got down early, but I stuck to my plan and something good happened.”

After McCulloch and freshman Matt Hoffman held the Crusaders scoreless through the first six frames, they finally got on the board in the seventh. Chad Jacob scored on a wild pitch from junior Ryan Olson with the bases loaded. Nolan Lodden followed that up with a base hit down the line left to drive in another run.

Olson managed to get the last out to escape the jam. Redshirt senior Kevin Sweeney and sophomore Andrew Frankenreider combined to keep Valpo off the scoreboard in the final two innings and secure the win.

At the plate

McCulloch went 1-2 at the plate with a pair of RBIs, including a sacrifice fly. He drove home the first two runs of game, both of which were scored by Zubek.

Zubek went 1-3 at the plate with a double, two runs scored and a pair of stolen bases. He has now scored nine runs in the last four games.

On the mound

McCulloch kept it going on the mound as he continued the Huskies’ string of strong starts with four innings of shutout ball. Hoffman followed up McCulloch from the pen to deliver a pair of scoreless frames.

“Now I know that if I throw strikes and get ahead a lot it helps keep the pace up for the rest of the players,” McCulloch said. “It keeps everybody in the game, and I just know that I have to carry that on in the rest of the games that I have to throw.”

Up next

The Huskies will hit the road this weekend for a three-game series with the MAC-leading Central Michigan Chippewas (28-16, 13-5 MAC) in Kalamazoo, Mich. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday. Games two and three will begin at noon Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The Chippewas boast one of the conference’s best pitch staffs with a combined ERA of just 3.35, which is second in the MAC. While teams have been hitting .260 against them, CMU’s pitchers have been able to keep the damage light.

Central Michigan has a one-two punch at the top of their rotation with Nick Deeg and Adam Aldred. Deeg has the ace role locked down for the Chippewas with a 2.82 ERA and a record of 6-4, while Aldred has a record of 3-2 with an ERA of 3.25.