Baseball swept by Kent State

By Matt Hopkinson

In the first its first series against a MAC opponent, NIU men’s baseball was unable to overcome Kent State, getting swept in three games.

The first game of the series featured a 12-6 victory by Kent State (11-10, 3-0 MAC), in which NIU (5-19, 0-3 MAC) used six pitchers, five of them accounting for 12 earned runs.

NIU coach Ed Mathey said there was still a positive note from that game, in that the offense was able to tally five runs against the MAC preseason favorite for pitcher of the year in David Starn.

“I was very encouraged with that start,” Mathey said. “If you’d have told me coming into this that we would get five runs off of David Starn, I thought we’d have a good chance for success. It just didn’t turn out that way.”

The second and third game offered better showings from the pitching staff, but NIU was still edged 6-1 the second game and 5-3 in the third.

Junior pitcher Taylor Nawrocki pitched seven innings, striking out seven and surrendering four earned runs in the second game of the contest for NIU. Senior Tony Manville went seven innings, allowing four runs on 11 hits, fanning four for the Huskies.

“Taylor and Tony both showed tremendous mound presence and ability out there,” Mathey said. “They competed for us; they gave their team a chance to win. I was a little disappointed with the presence of players on the mound, who we’ve counted on in the past.”

The Huskies and the Golden Flashes both only connected with six hits apiece in the second game, but Kent State was able to tally six runs off of those six hits, including a two-run homer by David Lyon.

NIU attempted a ninth inning comeback, loading the bases, but it went for nothing as redshirt junior Jordan Rishavy fouled out to end it.

“We knew it was going to be a tremendous challenge coming in against the defending MAC champions,” Mathey said. “Kent State played better baseball than we did overall, and we have the results we have.”

The final game of the series came down to the latter innings, with NIU coming back to tie the game with two runs in the sixth, and another in the seventh. Kent State answered right away with a pair in the bottom of the seventh, which turned out to be the game-winning run as no runs were scored after that point.

“Obviously, we knew they’re a talented team,” Manville said. “It showed a lot of heart from our team to come back like that today. That’s what we try to do every game is fight till the very end. It was an unfortunate seventh inning, but the offense did all we could ask for.”