NIU baseball sweeps three games from Buffalo

By Andrew Singer

Led by a potent offense on Saturday and a dominant pitching performance on Sunday, the NIU baseball team swept three games from Buffalo over the weekend.

The Huskies took both games of a Saturday doubleheader, 9-4 and 12-4 respectively. Then, in the series finale on Sunday, NIU starter Jeremy Gonzales pitched eight shutout innings in a 7-0 win.

All three games were played at St. Bonaventure’s McGraw Jennings Field in southwestern New York. The Bulls (7-18 overall, 0-6 MAC) relocated the series to St. Bonaventure due to poor weather in Buffalo. Friday’s scheduled game was then moved to Saturday.

Zach Oates took the mound for the Huskies in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. The senior right-hander went six innings, giving up one earned run on eight hits to earn his second win of 2011. In support of Oates, the NIU offense scored four runs in the third inning, two in the sixth and four in the ninth. NIU cleanup hitter Joe Etcheverry went 4-for-4, with one RBI in game one.

“Our guys are swinging the bats well right now,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “The guys had a lot of good approaches, but what I’m really happy about is that we had a lot of two-out hits. When you are getting those type of hits, it’s a good thing for the players to see.”

NIU (10-14, 4-2) put even more stress on the Buffalo pitching staff in the second game of Saturday’s twin bill. The Huskies scored in four of the first five innings and would tack on six late runs to bring their total to 12.

Going seven innings and giving up only one earned run, NIU starter Tom Barry (2-1) struck out four Bulls in the 12-4 win.

Mathey handed the ball to Gonzales on Sunday with hopes of the Huskies capturing their first three-game sweep of 2011. The Sunday matinee was scoreless until NIU broke through in the top of the sixth inning with an RBI single from Troy White.

The one run proved to be all that Gonzales (3-4) would need, as the senior struck out five over eight scoreless innings. Adding some insurance late, the Huskies scored six runs over the final three innings.

“Coming back after losing two of three games to Bowling Green last weekend, it’s great to get this series,” Gonzales said. “Any time you win a series in the MAC, it’s big. But when you sweep a series in conference, it’s huge.”