Klonowski throws shutout in series capper


Senior outfielder Landon Tenhagen is disappointed by an umpire’s call during the Huskies’ 3-2 loss to the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Wednesday at Ralph McKinzie Field. Tenhagen went 1-for-4 at the plate against the Panthers.

By Brian Earle

Pitcher Alex Klonowski put together the best outing of his career on the mound, tossing a complete game shutout in a 7-0 victory against Toledo at Ralph McKinzie Field in the series finale Sunday.

Klonowski allowed just one walk and one hit against the Rockets, which came in the top of the first inning against the No. 2 batter, center fielder Tyler Grogg, who singled to left center. This is the first time a Huskies pitcher threw a one-hitter since April 1, 1997, against Valparaiso.

“Alex was outstanding today. I think he had the full monty of things working for him,” said coach Ed Mathey. “He had his fastball, he had his changeup, both of his breaking balls, and he had his command. It was great to see because he is capable of this type of stuff. It came at a great time for us; we absolutely needed to have a big performance from him on the mound.”

Klonowski also set a career high in strikeouts by fanning nine batters. In the eighth inning, Klonowski struck out four batters due to one batter reaching base on a passed ball in the dirt.

“I was able to throw everything across the plate except for my changeup, which was different,” Klonowski said. “I’m usually able to locate my changeup, but that wasn’t the case today, so I just worked with what I had.”

Klonowski was efficient all game long, setting the Rockets down in order in five innings. He only allowed the leadoff batter to reach base once, when he walked third baseman Dan Zuchowski in the top of the fourth inning.

“That’s something I always try to do, is get ahead of batters,” Klonowski said. “From a hitters’ standpoint I know when I get behind I start pressing a little bit. So I use that to my advantage on the mound: [I] try to get ahead of hitters and make them feel uncomfortable.”

The Huskies (6-21-1, 3-6 MAC) got the bats going early, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning. With the bases loaded, shortstop Brian Sisler hit a slow roller to third base and Zuchowski made a throwing error to the plate, allowing center fielder Alex Smith to score from third base and second baseman Justin Fletcher to score from second base.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Klonowski helped himself out, singling to center field. First baseman Chris Divarco followed that up with his first career triple, driving in Klonowski from first base.

The next batter, catcher Joe Battaglia, executed a perfect suicide squeeze, bunting the ball down the third base line as Divarco broke for home on the pitch and scored.

“You just have to look for the right opportunities,” Mathey said. “We thought there was a good chance on the second pitch to do that. Chris and I talked about it at third, and Joe Battaglia, the way he handles the bat and the way he’s able to bunt, made that an easy call … . There’s a timing mechanism that goes into that, and the trick is to not give it away too soon either as the runner or as the bunter, and if you do that right you won’t hear the squeeze call until after it’s being bunted.”

Third baseman Carl Russell led off the bottom of the seventh inning in grand fashion with his first career home run over the left field fence. The Rockets committed two more costly errors in the inning which led to two more runs for the Huskies.

In the first two games of the series, the Huskies found themselves on the short end of the stick, losing game one, 10-4, and game two, 6-4.

“You’re out to win series, but you have to avoid the sweeps,” Mathey said. “You have to keep fighting. We’re still in week three in this conference and this nine-week season, and to keep fighting to stay alive is huge.”