Baseball hangs on for first MAC win

By Steve Brown

NIU shortstop Greg Larsen’s throw seemed to hang but finally popped into first-baseman Mike Santoro’s glove. The catch was followed by the first-base umpire’s fist pump, signifying the last out of the ninth inning.

It was as if the entire NIU bench could breathe a collective sigh of relief – the Huskies had won, 6-5, barely escaping a late-inning comeback by Bowling Green Sunday.

“It was white knuckle time,” said NIU coach Ed Mathey of the top of the ninth, “but Greg made a good play. He kept his wits about him and made a good throw.”

NIU freshman pitcher Brian Smith came into the ninth inning hoping to finish with a complete game win. After a quick strikeout to begin the ninth, Smith looked like he would carry the Huskies (9-22 overall, 1-8 MAC) to a 6-3 win.

But the next two batters drew him late into the count before hitting line-drive singles, putting the tying run at home plate.

“I still felt strong,” Smith said. “I couldn’t really do anything about those hits.”

But Mathey wanted to keep Smith’s chance at a win, and brought in Matt German for the final two outs.

German struck out the first batter he faced, but the final out proved to be more elusive. After walking BG’s No. 3 hitter Nolan Reimold, Andy Hudak hit a slow grounder to the right side.

Third baseman Tim Kamin charged the ball, but his throw was wide, allowing the Falcons (22-10, 7-5) to score two runs.

Any Huskie jitters were silenced on the next play – a ground ball Larsen scooped up to end the game.

“There was a little pressure,” Larsen said. “I just didn’t want to run through it and make a bad throw.”

The win Sunday was the Huskies first in the MAC, after losing 5-1 and 4-3 in Friday and Saturday’s games.

“Had we done a few things, we would’ve won two out of three this weekend,” Mathey said.