Redbirds sweep Huskies NIU ends homestand at 3-9

By Matt Kerlin

The Redbirds of Illinois State migrated back north early and were ready for the cold as they swept the Huskies in a doubleheader at Ralph McKinzie Field yesterday, 7-2 and 2-0.

Game one was a classic pitchers’ dual with ISU’s Casey Fisk and NIU’s Paul Schimbke going the distance, giving up just four hits each.

Schimbke had a no-hitter going until the fifth inning when Redbird designated hitter Maurice Austin smashed a double into left field. A sacrifice fly by right fielder Tom Forman scored Austin and gave the Redbirds their first lead of the game.

In the seventh, Forman batted in the Redbird’s only other run, as they went on to win 2-0.

“This was Schimbke’s first start and I really couldn’t have asked for anything better from him,” Huskie head coach Spanky McFarland said. “Our pitchers are doing a good job of keeping us in the game. When you throw like that you should win the game. We just didn’t take advantage at the plate.”

In the second game of the twinbill, the Huskies had an even harder time putting the ball into play. Redbird pitchers held the Huskies to two his as they went on to win 7-2. Both of the Huskie runs came in their half of the seventh on one hit and an error.

ISU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after only the first inning. After a Huskie error allowed Shorman to reach first base, Redbird right fielder Andy Schofield connected for a stand-up triple that drove in two runs, and put ISU ahead 3-0.

After knocking the Huskies down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first, the Redbirds didn’t waste any time adding to their lead. Despite a diving attempt, Redbird DH Gallager shot a stand-up double, but did not manage to score the run.

Even though the next Redbird batter was called out on strikes, a pair of wild pitches scored two runs, to put ISU up 6-0.

In the sixth, ISU second baseman, Mark Aguilar reached third base on another wild pitch, this one by Josh Brown, and scored after catcher Brian Cygan’s overthrow to third sailed into left field.

In the seventh, the Huskies threatened a comeback when senior left fielder Mike Birsa (.411) led off with a walk, and was moved to third on a Zach Zavac single. Both runners advanced on the play when Forman misplayed the ball in right field. Zavac reached home on a Chip Paulsen fly ball. NIU couldn’t manage to put any more runs on the board as their season ledger dropped to 8-18-1.

“We haven’t hit well for the past couple of weeks,” McFarland said. “It’s becoming a mental problem more than a physical problem now.”

We need a game where everything clicks,” McFarland said.

The Huskies were expected to be a .500 team this year, and there is still a good chance they will in the conference. NIU’s Mid-Con record is 2-4 with fifteen conference games left.

“We have to really concentrate on the conference know,” McFarland said. “We still have a lot of games left, and our conference season is still young.”

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have 12 or 13 wins right now. We just haven’t taken advantage of certain situations,” McFarland said.

The Huskies longest homestand of the year is over and they will return to McKinzie Field on April 27 to host Northeastern Illinois.