Baseball meets Kent State at UIC


Sophomore Ben Neumann pitches at a baseball game last season.

By Brian Earle

NIU baseball will face a strong test this weekend as it will do battle against Kent State in a three-game series at UIC.

The Huskies (4-15) are coming off an 8-2 win over Belmont and will look to continue their strong play against Kent State.

The Golden Flashes (6-11) have struggled so far this season but are coming off a historic season in which they went to the NCAA College World Series.

“You’re gonna see a team that’s battle tested,” said coach Ed Mathey. “They’ve been in some big games and a lot of those guys are returning from last year’s team, it’s not like it’s an entirely new team.”

This series marks the start of conference play for both teams, and Mathey knows how important it is to get off on the right foot.

“If you win every series, you’re going to find yourself at the MAC tournament, no doubt,” Mathey said. “Getting off to a good start would be a huge thing for us. We play nine weekends in the MAC and it’s a lot like a baseball game. If you go out and win the first inning or you lose the first inning, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win the game or lose the game. It’s how you play over those nine innings. That’s the thing we stress to our guys.”

While the Golden Flashes are a strong hitting team, Mathey is more worried about the strength of their pitching.

“I’m discounting their hitting because they have some very good hitters, but their pitching is very good,” Mathey said. “We’re going to have to execute a lot of the fundamentals on the offensive side, that means trying to work the pitch count, get into their bullpen, and when we are on base we need to move runners along, and of course when we have run scoring opportunities we want to be efficient.”

Starting pitching has been the key of late for the Huskies, and they will start the top three players in their rotation: freshman Jordan Ruckman, junior Eli Anderson and junior Alex Klonowski, in that order.

Klonowski has been strong for the Huskies on the mound this season as he leads NIU in wins with two. He’s pitched a season high 36 innings and leads the team in strikeouts with 21 while giving up 3.50 runs per game.