NIU baseball comes away from Arizona winless


NIU infielder Troy White and the Huskies gave No. 10 Arizona State a close game over the weekend but ended up losing.

By Andrew Singer

SURPRISE, Ariz. | Four more losses were tacked on to the NIU baseball team’s early-season slide over the weekend at the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Arizona.

The Huskies (0-10) came within five outs of taking down No. 10 Arizona State, but the Sun Devils used an eighth-inning rally to win 10-9.

In last year’s three-game series in Tempe, Ariz., ASU out-scored NIU 44-6.

NIU freshman Jeff Zimmerman and sophomore Jamison Wells were named to the All-Coca Cola Classic team on Sunday evening for their work against Air Force, ASU, University of California-Riverside and California State-Bakersfield.

NIU came out with two runs in the top of the first inning on Friday evening against ASU, but the Sun Devils scored six runs in the first three innings and looked to be in control.

The Huskies were given hope to capture what would have arguably been the best win in program history in the fourth inning, when Jordan Rishavy knocked in two runs to tie the score at six. Following a scoreless fifth, the Huskies tacked on three runs in the sixth to put them in front 9-6.

“Ever since the opening weekend, we’ve been swinging the bats pretty well,” said NIU first baseman Joe Etcheverry. “We have some guys at the top of the lineup that are really performing.”

Right-handed reliever Alex Klonowski came on for a struggling Jake Hermsen in the third. Klonowski went on to give up three runs while striking out three in 3.2 innings against the 10th-best team in the nation.

“You have a guy like Alex that is a freshman and competed for us,” said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. “The fact that he did this well against a team of Arizona State’s level is a good sign for him and for us as a team.”

Leading 9-8 in the bottom of the eighth, the Huskies looked to reliever Kyle Glancy to get NIU out of a jam. With Sun Devils on second and third, ASU’s three-hole hitter produced a weak ground ball to Etcheverry. The senior threw home with hopes of getting the charging ASU runner. The throw bounced away from catcher Brian Riegler, though, allowing the tying and leading run to score.

“The thing about last year’s series against NIU is that it is from last year,” said ASU head coach Tim Esmay. “They got a lot of clutch hits, but we did a really good job of finishing off our at-bats late.”

ASU closer Trevor Williams put the Huskies down in the ninth with an overpowering fastball.

While the games against Air Force and Arizona State were tightly contested, the same can not be said for the Huskies’ last two games of the weekend.

NIU lost 14-6 to University of California-Riverside on Saturday. UCR (8-4) scored in all but one inning against the Huskies.

Sunday’s game against California State-Bakersfield didn’t go much better for NIU. The Runners (11-2) got to NIU starter and Bakersfield native Jeremy Gonzales in a 6-1 Cal-Bakersfield win.

Winless in the first 10 games of 2011, Mathey realizes the position his team is in.

“Everyone on this team knows what our record is,” Mathey said. “But this is a good learning experience for our guys and the bottom line is that I still like the team that we have. We just have to start getting some wins.”