Baseball concludes fall practices

By Tony Osborne

NIU men’s baseball finished its fall practices with a five-game series Friday with its annual red vs. black inter-squad scrimmage.

“It’s great to see the new guys against Division I players,” said Ed Mathey, NIU head baseball coach. “We’ve got a couple new guys that will help the club.”

One of the young players who shined throughout the series was Cowley County Community College transfer Connor Duckhorn.

In four games for the red team, Duckhorn batted .308 with a double and two runs batted in.

“Duckhorn did a nice job with the bat,” Mathey said. “He can also play anywhere on the field.”

Duckhorn, along with red teammates Troy White and Alex Klonowski, were down two games against the black team, yet came back to win the series 3-2.

“Last year, a team came back from 2-0, too,” said NIU senior pitcher Jake Hermsen, “[We] just [had] timely hitting and scored a lot of runs.”

Hermsen, who has played both pitcher and outfield in his career, will focus his efforts solely on the rubber during the 2012 season. Hermsen threw four innings without giving up a run.

To add to his totals, Hermsen also struck out four batters and had no walks.

“The black team played pretty well,” said Huskies’ senior shortstop Alex Jones. “There were a couple injuries. But in the end, the red team flat out got us.”

Jones had quite the series of his own, batting over .500 with a triple and run batted in to his name.

The red team, although starting out slow in the first two games, never let the black team pitchers rest, ballooning their team earned run average to 5.90.

The red team’s relentless offensive attack ended with a .268 team batting average in which they belted four total home runs.

For now, NIU will take the winter to focus on the physical aspects of baseball.

“[We have to] continue to get stronger; it’s a long season,” Mathey said. “We’ve got to work on overall strength and physical health.”

The Huskies will have their first official practice Jan. 27, leaving the red and black series as the last time most of the players will face live pitchers and hitters until their season starts.

“When the winter comes around, we don’t get to get outside,” Jones said. “Pitchers need to see live batters and hitters need to see live pitching.”