NIU baseball: Huskies take 2 of 3 from Bowling Green in home opener

By Steve Shonder

Head coach Mike Kunigonis wants baseball to win every weekend, and it did in its home opener Friday and Saturday.

The Huskies (13-13, 4-2 MAC) took two out of three from the Bowling Green Falcons (6-16, 1-5 MAC) on Friday and Saturday at Ralph McKinzie Field.

The Huskies totaled 23 runs on 30 hits in the first two games of the series with the highlight of the weekend coming in the fourth inning of game one on Friday. NIU batted around the order as it scored nine runs on eight hits.

“Hitting’s contagious,” said junior Johnny Zubek. “It always is. You see somebody else getting a hit, you want to get a hit. It rolls down the line. It makes you a little confident seeing the guy in front of you get a hit. You want to keep it rolling. You see it can be done.”

Seniors Ben Neumann and Dirk Ormsby continued to be effective at the top of the rotation. The Falcons scored just five runs through the first two games before crossing the plate eight times in the series finale Sunday.

The Huskies finished the series with just one error, which is their lowest three-game total since a Feb. 27 series against Tennessee Tech.

“We’ve been playing pretty well defensively all year,” Kunigonis said. “We just take a million ground balls. Our guys are working at it, being aggressive to the baseball. Sometimes that bites you in the butt because you’re too aggressive. Overall, it’s a little bit of a different approach for our infielders, and they seem to be taking to it.”

Game one

The Huskies won the series opener Friday, 12-3, as they took a 3-0 lead to open the game and kept piling on.

Already up 3-2, NIU broke the game wide open in the fourth inning. With one run already in and the bases loaded, Zubek cleared the bases with a triple to left-center. After Zubek scooted home on a passed ball, junior Brian Sisler kept the rally going with a single that drove Falcons’ starter Andrew Lacinak from the game. After redshirt senior Nate Ruzich and redshirt junior Tony Brandner reached to load the bases, junior Stephen Letz got his second hit of the inning, doubling down the left field line to drive in two more runs. Junior Justin Fletcher doubled in Brandner and Letz for the Huskies’ eighth and ninth runs of the innings.

Letz finished the game with four hits and four runs batted in. Zubek went 4-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

“The last couple days, I’ve just been seeing real well,” Zubek said. “I’ve made a couple adjustments with my hands, mostly just sticking to my approach, and it’s finally starting to work out.”

Neumann scattered three runs and five hits across seven innings to pick up the win in his first career start at home. Despite not having his best stuff, he managed to get some timely double plays to get himself out of a few jams.

“Let them put it in play,” Neumann said. “Let the defense take care of it. They’ve done well all year. We didn’t have any errors today, either.”

Game two

The hitting parade continued for the Huskies on Saturday as they picked up an 11-2 win.

It was a pair of big innings that got NIU the win. In the fifth inning, the Huskies put up five spot on the scoreboard courtesy of a two-run double from Sisler, an RBI single from Brandner and a two-run single by freshman Brad Wood.

Sisler picked up two more RBIs in the Huskies’ four-run sixth inning. The Huskies were able to put another run on the scoreboard in the seventh. Sisler finished the game with five RBIs and two runs scored.

Ormsby threw seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs, and picked up the win.

Game three

The Falcons were finally able to get their offense going in the series finale Saturday, taking an 8-2 win.

Bowling Green’s Trey Keegan went 3-4 at the plate with a pair of RBIs and a solo home run. Sisler continued his strong weekend, going 2-3 with an RBI.

Falcons’ starter Zac Carey kept the Huskies off balance, allowing just one unearned run, which came in the first inning. The Huskies were held to six hits in the series finale after recording 17 and 13 hits in the first two games, respectively.