Two NIU baseball players garner MAC West Player of the Week honors


NIU shortstop Alex Jones (pictured) and pitcher Zach Oates swept this week’s MAC Player of the Week awards.

Sweat equity.

That’s the term NIU baseball head coach Ed Mathey uses to associate the work his players put in, with the ultimate payoff being success on the diamond.

Huskie pitcher Zach Oates and shortstop Alex Jones sweated it out enough to garner MAC West Player of the Week honors.

“It’s a great honor to be MAC Player of the Week,” Oates said. “And for two members of the team to get it is pretty special.”

Mathey noted that with both Oates and Jones earning Player of the Week honors coming off a 5-1 spring break stretch, things are starting to look up for NIU.

“Having won five of six, I think the guys are starting to feel a lot better,” Mathey said. “I think it’s a good time to be feeling that way because obviously the Mid-American Conference play is scheduled to open up this weekend. So it’s a good time to feel good about ourselves.”

Oates was dominant on the mound, throwing a complete-game shutout against Illinois in a 3-0 victory. The senior allowed three singles, one walk and struck out five Fighting Illini hitters.

Oates didn’t fall short of crediting his teammates with helping him pull through with his stout performance.

“Our defense played really well,” Oates said. “They were in position on almost every hit [Illinois] had.”

Oates’ ERA is currently a slim 2.93, while holding opposing batters to a .233 batting average in 27.2 innings in four starts this season.

“Not only from a coach’s perspective, but from a player’s perspective, he’s a leader,” Mathey said. “And that’s what Zach Oates is. He is a leader on this team.”

Jones has asserted himself once again being a threat at the top of NIU’s lineup. The junior shortstop hit .462 (12-26) with a .615 slugging percentage, while extending his hitting streak to seven games. During the Huskies’ season-high five-game winning streak, Jones had six RBIs, four runs, two doubles, a triple and a stolen base. Jones has statistically performed as the Huskies’ top hitter, leading the team with a .364 batting average, 24 hits, 12 RBI and .485 slugging percentage on the year.

“I think Alex in the two-hole for us gives us a pretty good lineup,” Mathey said. “It gives us some combinations to do some stuff. Alex can handle the bat, lay a bunt down and has gap power.”

The last time a pair of NIU baseball players earned Player of the Week Honors was on March 6, 2006, when first baseman Scott Simon and pitcher Nick Hall were given the accolades.