Pitching tosses up key series win for baseball

By Brian Earle

Behind back-to-back shutout victories in games two and three, baseball won a big conference series against Western Michigan over the weekend on the road.

The Huskies (13-29-1, 8-10 MAC) took down the Broncos (15-23, 6-12 MAC) in game two on Saturday, 2-0, behind the combined efforts of pitchers Eli Anderson and Ben Neumann. Anderson lasted eight innings and only surrendered four hits and five walks on his way to his second win of the season while Neumann shut the door in the ninth inning with two strikeouts, earning his first save of the season.

“Eli walked a few more guys than we would have liked to see, but he was up to the task of holding them scoreless,” said coach Ed Mathey. “He was standard on his hits, so that was good, and then of course Ben Neumann came in and did an outstanding job out of the bullpen, especially getting out some real tough left-handed hitters for us.”

The Huskies got on the board in the top of the sixth inning when outfielder Jason Gasser started the inning off with a walk. Later in the inning, infielder Justin Fletcher came to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered an RBI single through the right side of the field, driving in Gasser from third base.

NIU got a big insurance run in the top of the ninth inning when designated hitter Micah McCulloch led the inning off with a solo home run over the left field wall.

In game three on Sunday, pitcher Alex Klonowski led the Huskies to a 1-0 victory while he tossed another complete game. Klonowski scattered seven hits in the game while striking out eight batters.

The ninth inning got interesting when outfielder Steve Buglione led off with a double to right field. Buglione advanced to third base when pinch hitter Dan Shutes laid down a sacrifice bunt.

With Buglione on third base, the Broncos attempted a squeeze bunt, but outfielder Jordan Tillman was unable to get the job done and Klonowski struck him out. Klonowski proceeded to get outfielder Vinnie Booker to fly out to right field, leaving the tying run on third base.

“Alex was very dominating,” Mathey said. “He went the whole way and did a really nice job of limiting walks. He got some big strikeouts when he needed to, especially there in the ninth inning.”

The Huskies scored the game’s lone run in the top of the eighth inning. Infielder Brian Sisler led the inning off with a single to right field and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by outfielder Tommy Hook.

Fletcher was intentionally walked, and two batters later first baseman Brandon Mallder came up with an RBI double down the left field line, driving in Sisler from second base.

In the Huskies’ lone defeat of the weekend, the Broncos shut them out 7-0 in game one on Friday. The Huskies couldn’t figure out pitcher Steve Laudicina as he threw a complete game, surrendering just six hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts.

The Broncos got to starter Anthony Andres in the fourth inning as they exploded for six runs, five of them allowed by Andres.