Win at McKinzie over NIU baseball big for Aurora

Aurora had nothing to lose going into Wednesday evening’s game against the NIU baseball team.

The Division III Spartans’ head coach Shaun Neitzel thought the game would be a learning experience at best. After all, the last time NIU and Aurora met in 1994, the Huskies won 11-5.

Much to Neitzel’s surprise, though, Aurora bested NIU 7-6 in 11 innings on Wednesday at Ralph McKinzie Field. After tying the game in the eighth inning with a four-run rally, the Spartans scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch by NIU pitcher Zach Badgley in the top of the eleventh.

“If we played them 10 times, they are probably going to beat us seven or eight times,” Neitzel said. “But at the same time, we’ll take the win today.”

Two pitchers were used by the Spartans, but only one can be credited with locking down the NIU bats. Jose Munoz Jr. came into the game in the sixth inning after starting pitcher Nick Pagano had given up five runs in 5.2 innings. Munoz Jr. went the rest of the way for the Spartans, giving up only one run on three hits in 5.1 innings.

After watching his team win a game on the road against a Division I team, Neitzel’s first reaction was to thank NIU head coach Ed Mathey.

“NIU is gracious enough to bring us up here,” Neitzel said. “I’ve known their coaching staff for years, and it’s just a fun game to us. We were probably a lot looser than they were coming into this game because we have nothing to lose. A loss here doesn’t hurt us at all.”

Mathey was more than happy to bring a Division III team to DeKalb. Before coming to NIU in 2003, Mathey coached at D-III North Central College from 1989 to 2002.

“I’ve been in the [opposing] dugout on this very field,” said Mathey of his D-III past. “And I talked to our guys last week, and I told them that these guys are looking for something to prove. And they did just that today. They played with energy, and there was excitement in that dugout, and they felt like they had a chance to win.”