Baseball is swept in season opener

By Steve Shonder

Baseball wasn’t able to get any momentum from its first series of the season.

The Huskies (0-3) were swept by the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a three-game set this weekend at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. NIU had 29 hits to the Gophers’ 25, but it was outscored 20-11.

The Huskies’ run production was something head coach Ed Mathey said the team needs to work on.

“Job one is to get them on base,” Mathey said. “Then we have to work to score those runs.”

In game one, the Huskies fell 3-2 in 10 innings on a walk-off fielder’s choice off senior reliever Anthony Andres. NIU outhit the Gophers 7-6 but was only able to push two runs across the plate. Starting pitcher senior Eli Anderson threw seven innings of one run ball before handing it over to the bullpen. Anderson only allowed three hits.

The Huskies struck first in the third inning, when sophomore Justin Fletcher tripled in senior Chris Divarco. Minnesota tied the game in the fifth when Bobby Juan drove in Dan Olinger. NIU would regain the lead in the eighth, but only temporarily as the Gophers would tie the game in the bottom half of the inning before going on to win in the tenth.

Mathey said Minnesota starter Alec Crawford kept the Huskies’ bats in check.

“We faced a pretty good pitcher,” Mathey said. “He was locating his spots. We just have to make those adjustments against him.”

Game two was a higher scoring affair, but the Huskies still lost 6-4. Once again, NIU outhit Minnesota, 9-8, but it left 10 men on base. Sophomore starter Jordan Ruckman gave up six runs, four of them earned, across 3.1 innings of work.

The bullpen was one of the brighter spots for the Huskies, scattering four hits across 4.2 innings of shutout ball.

The offense wasn’t able to get much going against Minnesota starter Jordan Jess or the bullpen despite nine hits.

Game three was the closest game of the series until Minnesota broke the game open with a six-run eighth inning. Andres continued his weekend struggles Sunday, giving up five runs in the inning.

Starting pitcher senior Alex Klonowski did well at the plate, going 4-5 with an RBI and a run scored, but gave five runs in his 4.1 innings of work.

While Mathey is disappointed with getting swept, he’s just glad the season is underway.

“It’s good to get the season started,” Mathey said. “It’s only three games out of a 53-game season.”