Baseball fans the flames in Chicago

By Andrew Singer

A night underneath the lights in Chicago ended well for the NIU baseball team, as the Huskies took down UIC 9-7 on Wednesday.

An early onslaught of offense gave NIU (22-21 overall, 11-8 MAC) an 8-1 lead through three innings.

UIC (22-19) loaded the bases in the ninth trailing 9-6, but the Flames couldn’t come up with the big hit against NIU pitcher Alex Klonowski.

The freshman got Nick Addison to ground out, scoring Jon Ryan from third base, before striking out Ryan Shober to end the game.

“Klonowski has done a heck of a job,” said NIU first baseman Joe Etcheverry. “He has really stepped up this season. He has good confidence and a good presence on the mound. Everybody has confidence in him when he steps on the mound.”

The middle of the order came up big for the Huskies on Wednesday. Alex Jones, Etcheverry, and Troy White went a combined 6-for-14.

After being swept last weekend by Central Michigan, Etcheverry is happy the NIU bats are getting warm for this weekend’s series with Eastern Michigan.

“When we play these middle-of-the-week, non-conference games, we go into them with the intention of winning them all, especially going into the weekend when the games are mattering most,” Etcheverry said.

Starting pitcher Jeremy Gonzales only went three innings for the Huskies before being lifted in favor of a combination of different bullpen pitchers. Gonzales, who had a 26-inning scoreless streak earlier in the season, has been taken out of the weekend rotation by NIU head coach Ed Mathey to work on his mechanics.

UIC drew first blood on Gonzales in the top of the first when Joe Betcher singled in Addison. The Huskies responded well to the early deficit, plating three runs in the top of the second. With the bases loaded, Brian Riegler walked, Marvin Sanchez was hit by a pitch, and Jamison Wells scored Jeff Zimmerman when he hit into a fielder’s choice.

NIU tacked two and three more runs on in the third and fourth innings, respectively.

“We were building momentum up, especially the first six innings of the game,” Mathey said. “I was hoping to get a few more players in today, but obviously getting a win is the big thing. Now we have to bring this into the weekend.”