Baseball puts midweek win streak on the line

By Brian Earle

Baseball is set to host two midweek contests this week against in-state rival Illinois State on Tuesday and UW-Milwaukee on Wednesday, both starting at 3:05 p.m. at Ralph McKinzie Field.

The Huskies (6-21-1) won their last two midweek games in a row, defeating UIC and Valparaiso. Over the weekend, the Huskies avoided being swept by Toledo, winning the final game of a three-game series.

As of late, the Huskies have swung the bats better, averaging 5.4 runs and 7.5 hits over their last seven games.

“I think the biggest thing has been pitch selection,” said coach Ed Mathey. “We’re finding better pitches to hit and we’re hitting them when we get it. Our zone discipline has gotten a lot better of late, for the most part. We still have a tendency, when guys are out there in scoring position, to try to do too much and chase pitches out of the zone.”

The Huskies’ plan on the mound for Tuesday is to start Jordan Ruckman. Due to pitcher Alex Klonowski’s complete game shutout on Sunday, the entire Huskies bullpen is well rested and ready for action in the midweek games.

“That was absolutely great because all of our pitchers are going to be ready to go. Our bullpen guys are going to be ready to go,” Mathey said. “You obviously want to try to match up when you can, and the other thing is we don’t want to extend guys too long because that way we can have them on back-to-back days.”

With bragging rights on the line against the Redbirds (19-10), the Huskies will look to be on top of their game. Illinois State comes into the matchup with four batters with a batting average higher than .330 on the season.

Infielder Paul DeJong leads ISU with 42 hits, while outfielder Daniel Dwyer leads the team with 26 RBIs.

“They have some arms they need to throw here midweek, and they usually have some lively arms,” Mathey said. “I expect them to come in and pitch the ball pretty well. In general, they like to press action on offense; they’re going to look to run some bases, steal some bases, some hit and run type action, and that will be a good challenge for us. We need to be able to execute in those situations with some guys moving around us.”

The Panthers (9-12) have won their last four games in a row, taking down Oakland in a three-game series and Chicago State in a midweek matchup.

They are led at the plate by senior first baseman/outfielder Ryan Solberg, who has recorded 22 hits and 14 RBIs. Another dangerous bat for the Panthers this season has been second baseman Michael Porcaro, who leads the team with 15 RBIs.

“They’re a good club,” Mathey said. “They’re from the Horizon League, and they have some years of regional experience. These guys on their team have played in the regionals. They’re older guys, and they do know how to swing the bats.”