NIU baseball: Huskies earn series win over Buffalo Bulls

By Steve Shonder

Baseball opened conference play this past weekend by winning two out of three games against the Buffalo Bulls.

The Huskies (11-11, 2-1 MAC) swept the Bulls (4-12, 1-2 MAC) in a doubleheader, 3-1 and 3-2, Saturday at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. With the series victory in hand, the Huskies dropped the Sunday finale, 5-1.

“We took two out of three, and I was extremely happy with our overall performance,” said first-year head coach Mike Kunigonis. “Like I said, you have to continue to win weekends, so I’m pretty happy overall.”

Pitching led the way for the Huskies in Saturday’s doubleheader. NIU’s four pitchers combined to give up just eight hits and three runs to the Bulls.

Buffalo’s hitters came alive Sunday and drove starter junior Ryan Olson from the game in the third inning after Olson was tagged for six hits and four runs, three of which were earned.

“We were in a good position with our bullpen, having our starters going deep in the two previous games,” Kunigonis said. “It was more of an early hook [for Olson] because of our position of strength. We could have gone to [Kevin] Sweeney or [Andrew] Frankenreider if needed.”

At the plate, NIU is still trying to find some consistency as it stranded 31 base runners over the three-game set. On the whole, the Huskies combined to get just 18 hits in 96 at-bats, which is below their season average.

Game one

The Huskies got the win, 3-1, as senior Ben Neumann threw seven shutout innings, only giving up one hit and striking out eight. The bullpen only allowed one more hit over the final two frames: a triple by Justin Gonzalez in the eighth inning, which led to the Bulls’ only run.

The Huskies got on the board in the first inning when junior Brian Sisler scored off a double hit by redshirt senior Nate Ruzich. NIU scored again in the second and third innings, driving Buffalo pitcher Brent Cleland from the game.

Game two

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Huskies pulled off a 3-2 win. Senior Dirk Ormsby kept NIU in a groove on the mound. Ormsby scattered six hits across eight innings, only allowing two runs — just one of which was earned. Sophomore Andrew Frankenreider picked up his second save of the day to close out the game.

At the plate, sophomore Jason Gasser and freshman Brad Wood combined for four of the Huskies’ seven hits. Gasser scored two of the Huskies’ runs, both on sacrifice flies.

Game three

The Bulls finally got their offense going, scoring three runs in the first inning on their way to a 5-1 victory.

After Nick Sinay singled to open the game, Tanner Robinson tripled him home. Robinson came around to score on a single by Bobby Sheppard. Sheppard later scored on a throwing error.

Huskies’ starter Ryan Olson left the game in the third inning after giving up back-to-back hits to open the frame.

“Command wasn’t great for him today,” Kunigonis said. “He’s been working on a couple things, mostly secondary things.”

The Huskies tried to mount a comeback in the second inning, but they only got one run across when junior Stephen Letz scored on an error. NIU was kept off the board for the rest of the game, as Buffalo’s pitchers Mike McGee and Ben Hartz combined to allow only four hits and strike out 14 batters.