Visiting Valparaiso turned out to be the best thing to cure a three-game losing streak for the NIU baseball team, as the Huskies walked off in the ninth with a 7-6 victory.
Coming off a three-game sweep against Central Michigan, NIU (21-21 overall, 11-8 MAC) trailed for the majority of the game before coming back with a three-run ninth to beat the Crusaders.
With the bases loaded for NIU in the bottom of the ninth and nobody out, Alex Beckmann fouled out. Marvin Sanchez was then hit by a pitch, forcing in Connor Schomig. Jake Hermsen scored on a balk by pitcher Steve Godawa. Following a walk and a strikeout, Jeff Zimmerman singled in Jamison Wells, who represented the winning run.
Freshman reliever Alex Klonowski got the first start of his career against the Crusaders. Entering Tuesday, Klonowski had a 6.75 ERA in 22.2 innings, but impressed NIU head coach Ed Mathey enough in long relief appearances to earn the starting nod.
The Huskies got on the board early in support of Klonowski, who retired Valpo in order in the top of the first, when an Alex Jones triple to right center brought in Alex Beckmann from second base. The RBI gave Jones his team-leading 36 of the season, while at the same time giving NIU a 1-0 lead.
Klonowski let the early lead go in the second, as the freshman allowed three runs to score in the inning. After retiring the first two Crusaders in the second, Klonowski allowed Bobby Martin and Corey Thibault to reach base before surrendering a three-run homer to Michael Morman.
Anthony Andres relieved Klonowski for the top of the fourth inning with the Huskies down 3-2. Valparaiso responded well to the new pitcher, netting two runs in the inning on an NIU error and an Andrew Bain RBI single.
NIU closed the gap to 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a Joe Etcheverry double that scored Jones. Valpo hurt the comeback attempt in the seventh, as the Crusaders tacked on another run when a fielding error by Etcheverry allowed Chris Manning to score.
The Huskies scored a run in the eighth inning, setting up a two-run hole going into the ninth inning.