Baseball can’t find offensive groove in series loss to SIU

Senior+outfielder+Brendan+Joyce+slides+into+second+base+during+NIU%27s+Feb.+21-23+series+against+Southeast+Missouri+State+University+in+Cape+Girardeau%2C+MO.

Jan Salmon | Courtesy Southeast Arrow

Senior outfielder Brendan Joyce slides into second base during NIU's Feb. 21-23 series against Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO.

Matt Boecker, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB — Baseball’s offensive struggles put it on the wrong side of a series sweep by the Southern Illinois University–Carbondale Salukis over the weekend.

After showing consistency in hits this season, the Huskies could only muster up four runs in Carbondale.

“SIU did a good job of pounding the strike zone and keeping our hitters off balance all weekend,” Head Coach Mike Kunigonis said. “We need to make better adjustments in game from at-bat to at-bat.”

Game One

It was a pitching duel in the series opener Friday that saw the Huskies lose 2-1 in 10 innings.

Each starting pitcher turned out dominant performances that set the tone for the game. NIU junior starting pitcher Michael Lasiewicz tossed five innings, allowing only a run on six hits and three walks, while striking out six Salukis. SIU senior starting pitcher Mason Hiser lasted six innings, allowing a run on five hits and a walk while striking out six Huskies.

The lone NIU run came in the third inning when sophomore designated hitter Nick Drobushevich launched a home run to break the scoreless tie. SIU’s run came in the fifth inning when a sacrifice fly knotted the game at one apiece.

Each team’s bullpen picked up where its starters left off by continuing to keep its opposition off the board.

The game would require extra innings and ended in the 10th when SIU scored a run off fielder’s choice to give the Salukis game one.

Game Two

The bats were a bit more active for each team on Saturday afternoon.

NIU didn’t score until the ninth inning, but still had a chance to win until another walk-off fielder’s choice gave the Salukis the win, 4-3.

SIU broke the ice in the third inning, scoring a run off a fielder’s choice. Two innings later, another fielder’s choice put the Salukis up 2-0.

SIU pitching dominated the Huskies for the first eight innings. SIU senior starting pitcher Brad Harrison pitched well, throwing five innings and allowing only five baserunners and striking out three. Sophomore relief pitcher Matthew Steidl kept things rolling for the Salukis until the ninth inning hit.

A three-run bomb from senior shortstop Dylan Lonteen put the Huskies up 3-2 with only a half-inning left to play.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, their bullpen couldn’t get the job done. An SIU single tied the game at 3. Then, a fielder’s choice clinched the win and the series win for the Salukis.

“One of the best things about this group of guys is they never give up and keep fighting until the end,” Kunigonis said. “It was disappointing we couldn’t pull that one out. It had the makings to be a great win.”

Game Three

NIU couldn’t get things back on track Sunday in its third straight loss to the Salukis. The 6-0 loss clinched the sweep for SIU, handing NIU its first series loss since opening the season against Boston College University.

The Huskies once again struggled getting their offense into gear.

SIU first-year starting pitcher Mitchell Jackson tossed the first 4.1 innings for the Salukis, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out three. Senior pitcher Dylan Givens then stepped in and continued frustrating Huskie hitters. Givens pitched the final 4.2 innings of the game, allowing only three hits and two strikeouts.

NIU will hit the road for a pair of games Tuesday and Wednesday against the University of Missouri in Columbia. First pitch is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.