Baseball moves into first place in MAC West


NIU’s Alex Jones rounds third base last weekend against Toledo.

By Andrew Singer

DeKALB | Zero and 10 seemed like such a long time ago on Sunday.

The NIU baseball team won a weekend a series with Toledo at Ralph McKinzie Field, giving the Huskies first place in the MAC West.

Winless in its first 10 games of 2011, NIU (19-18 overall, 10-5 MAC) has now won 19 of its last 27 games.

Following a rained out game on Friday, the Huskies split a Saturday doubleheader, taking the first game 4-3 on the strength of a Troy White walk-off single in the ninth. NIU lost the second game 8-1, but came back on Sunday with a head of steam to take the series with an 8-7 win.

In the first game of Saturday’s twin bill, the Huskies had Friday’s scheduled starter Zach Oates on the mound, while Toledo sent Kyle Shaw to the bump. Both starting pitchers brought their best stuff, as neither offense was able to muster much.

With the score knotted at three in the bottom of the ninth, White came to the plate with Alex Beckmann on second base, representing the winning run. The junior third baseman took a 1-0 pitch into left field, bringing home Beckmann and giving the Huskies sole possession of first place in the MAC West, if just for a few hours.

“It’s just our attitude of not trying to do too much when at the plate,” White said. “Just to succeed as a team, I got up and was put in a good situation, and we’ve been talking about it all year, helping each other out, putting each other in good places.”

Left-hander Tom Barry looked to defend first place in the second game of the doubleheader, but the junior couldn’t control the Toledo offense. Barry departed in the fifth inning after giving up 11 hits and three runs. The Huskies had opportunities to get back in the game, but a 20-hit onslaught by Toledo (20-19, 9-6) was too much to handle in an 8-1 Rockets win.

With first-place once again on the line Sunday, NIU built a 5-1 lead through three innings. The Rockets came back, though, taking a 6-5 lead after the top of the fifth inning. NIU took the lead back in the bottom of the seventh with a White sacrifice fly. Following another Toledo rally in the top of the eighth that tied the score at seven, the Huskies scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning on a wild pitch that scored Jordan Rishavy from third base. NIU pitcher Ben Etcheverry laid down the Rockets in the top of the ninth to nail down the win.

“You got a chance to get first place, that’s exciting, that’s fun and Toledo understood that on the other side of the field,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “It’s a great thing, and there is no better place for us to be than to be fighting for first place.”