NIU baseball: Huskies’ comeback attempt falls short against Milwaukee

By Steve Shonder

Baseball (13-14, 4-2 MAC) wasn’t able to finish March with a winning record, as its comeback fell short against the UW-Milwaukee Panthers (12-8), 13-11, Tuesday at Ralph McKenzie Field.

How it happened

The Panthers slugged their way to a 13-3 by the middle of the sixth inning. Tyler Hermann made the most of his at-bats for the Panthers, going 2-4 with five RBIs and a two-run homer off NIU freshman Donovin Sims.

Facing a 10-run deficit, the Huskies clawed their way back into the game with a four-run sixth inning before adding on another run in the seventh inning on a single by senior Micah McCulloch that drove in junior Tony Brandner.

“The one bright spot I think is us fighting,” said head coach Mike Kunigonis. “I think we’re close to being a really good team, and I think this shows we can play from behind. We didn’t get the walk-off in the end, but we showed that we can battle.”

In the bottom of the ninth, the Huskies put together a final rally. With one out and junior Stephen Letz on first, McCulloch homered to left to bring NIU to within three. After junior Justin Fletcher lined out to left, freshman Joe Jumonville hit his second home run of the game. Freshman Brad Wood followed up with a single up the middle, but the comeback fell short as junior Johnny Zubek grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.

At the plate

Jumonville hit his first career home run on a 3-1 fastball in the fifth inning. He later homered again in the ninth. Jumonville finished the game with three hits, two runs scored and three RBIs.

“I didn’t feel any different,” Jumonville said. “I just went up and stuck to my approach. I got ahead in the count, so I was looking for a fastball, and I got that.”

On the mound

Sophomore Andrew Frankenreider continued his strong work out of the bullpen, throwing two scoreless innings to close out the game. He struck out two batters and only allowed one base runner, who reached after being hit by a pitch.

Ruzich continues streak

Redshirt senior Nate Ruzich extended his on-base streak to 26 games with a single to lead off the second inning. Ruzich’s streak is the fourth-longest in NIU history.

“It’s just something you have to do everyday, stick with the approach,” Ruzich said. “It’s not that I’m seeing the ball well everyday. I’m sticking with what coach taught me.”

Ruzich is hitting .265 with an onbase percentage of .427, courtesy of a team-high 24 walks. His walk total is tied for second in the MAC and is the top 15 nationally.

“He’s another guy that comes to the ballpark ready every day and has a plan, has an approach,” Kunigonis said. “It’s a pretty special thing he’s doing right now. I don’t think many people understand how it difficult it is to reach safely in [26] games.”

Up next

The Huskies will wrap up their home stand with a weekend series as they play host to the Kent State Golden Flashes (13-11, 3-3 MAC). First pitch for game one is slated for 3:05 p.m. Friday at Ralph McKenzie Field with games two and three scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.