Baseball still in race for first place

By Andrew Singer

A pair of one-run wins at Eastern Michigan over the weekend kept the NIU baseball team in the thick of a tight race for first place in the MAC West.

The Huskies (24-22 overall, 12-9 MAC) took two of three in Ypsilanti, Mich., against a team that had won 11 consecutive games coming into the weekend. The then-longest active winning streak in the nation came to an end on Friday when Zach Oates (4-5) got the best of the Eagles’ Rob Wendzicki in a 4-3 NIU win.

“Zach pitched a heck of a game on Friday,” said NIU’s Sunday starting pitcher Tony Manville. “It was huge to get a win to end their win streak at the start of the series.”

The only loss on the weekend came Saturday, when the NIU bats went silent in a 1-0 Eagles win. The loss wasted an 8.1-inning effort from starting pitcher Tom Barry.

NIU took the rubber match on Sunday, 2-1, behind 8.1 innings from Manville. Troy White and Joe Etcheverry knocked in the only runs of the day for the Huskies. Stopper of the Year watch list member Kyle Glancy took care of the last two outs in the ninth for his 10th save of the season. Alex Jones went 3-for-4 on the day in the three hole for NIU.

The two wins against the Eagles (31-17, 13-8) give the Huskies a tiebreaker in the case that both teams are tied on top of the MAC West at the end of the regular season.

Starting pitchers for NIU went a combined 24.2 innings over the weekend, leaving only 2.1 innings for the bullpen to labor over. This late in the season, NIU head coach Ed Mathey knows he has the luxury to extend his pitchers, and didn’t hesitate to let his guys work late into games against EMU.

“They are throwing well and it’s that time of the year when we can stretch them out a little,” Mathey said. “Coming into this thing, Eastern had won 11 in a row, and our pitchers held them to five runs in 27 innings with 14 hits. It gives you an idea of how well they are throwing.”

After getting swept last weekend by Central Michigan, the Huskies concentrated on getting some momentum on their side. On Tuesday, NIU walked off in the ninth with a 7-6 win over Valparaiso, and then took care of UIC 9-7 on Wednesday. The two wins set the stage for a potentially huge series with the Eagles.

“We talked about it during the week, that as disappointed as we were with last weekend, we could get some positive energy with the midweek games,” Mathey said. “[We] took both of those games, and to have a great chance to win all three games this weekend was really big for us.”