Baseball salvages weekend series with win on Sunday

Huskies start season at 1-2

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James Krause, Sports Editor

DeKALB — The baseball team had mixed results in its first series of the season, dropping two games against the University of Evansville Purple Aces before picking up their first win of 2021 Sunday.

The Huskies blew a ninth inning lead on Friday on the way to a 5-4 loss, followed by an 8-5 loss Saturday. NIU finally secured a 7-4 win Sunday with a flurry of runs in the fourth inning.

The key to the Huskies’ success on Sunday came in high pressure situations, with Head Coach Mike Kunigonis saying execution down two outs made the difference.

“We did a great job offensively with two outs today and found ways to get it done,” Kunigonis said in a Sunday NIU Athletics news release. “It was a great team win today. We battled and grinded all game.”

 

Friday: Purple Aces 5, Huskies 4

Both teams scored their first runs in the third inning, starting with an RBI single by Huskies redshirt senior catcher Jake Dunham. The Purple Aces answered with an unearned run on a single by junior infielder Tanner Craig.

The run was the only one given up by over six innings by junior starting pitcher Michael Lasiewicz, who struck out four. In two innings of relief, junior pitcher Paul Turelli struckout the side twice to keep Evansville off the board.

The 1-1 tie stood until the top of the seventh when redshirt junior outfielder Brady Huebbe homered to score himself and senior outfielder Brendan Joyce. Huebbe added an RBI double in the ninth to make it 4-1.

When sophomore pitcher Brandon McPherson took the mound in the ninth to close out, the Huskies’ afternoon of work was quickly drowned out by Evansville runs. After a single and walk, the Purple Aces cut the lead down to 4-2 on a wild pitch.

Senior infielder Craig Shepard put the Aces within one with an RBI single before Tanner Craig doubled down the left-field line to score the tying and walk-off run, beating the Huskies 5-4.

 

Saturday: Purple Aces 8, Huskies 5

Evansville quickly put the Huskies behind, with a three-run homer by sophomore catcher Indiana Stanley in the first to make it 3-0. 

The Huskies struggled to hang with senior pitcher Nathan Croner. Croner fanned the first six NIU batters and kept the Huskies off the bases until the fifth.

The Aces looked to have busted the game open with a two-run homer in the fourth by redshirt senior infielder Troy Belismith. NIU hung around thanks to a fielding error in the to score two and a flyout RBI by sophomore infielder Paddy McKermitt, making it 5-3 midway through the fifth.

Evansville added three runs in the bottom half of the fifth, including two on an RBI double by first-year infielder Simon Scherry. The Huskies’ highlight of the day came in the top of the sixth when redshirt senior infielder Kam Smith homered to bring home two runs and make it 8-5

Sophomore pitcher Erik Hedmark would only allow one hit and one walk the rest of the game, but the Huskies offense failed to produce any runs in the final stretch.

 

Sunday: Huskies 7, Purple Aces 4

The Purple Aces may have drawn first blood in the second off a wild pitch, but the Huskies rang out Evansville with five runs, with two outs in the fourth.

First-year catcher Jacob Schroeder singled to center field, allowing Huebbe and senior outfielder Matt Barnes to score and put NIU ahead. Two batters later, first-year infielder Jack Blazevich hit a three-run homer to make it 5-1. It was the second at-bat of Blazevich’s career.

After the Purple Aces added a run in the bottom half of the fourth, Dunham scored an RBI single, and Blazevich scored his fourth RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly.

Evansville added a run in the fifth off a Scherry RBI double, followed by another in the sixth off a throwing error by the pitcher.

McPherson made his second appearance of the weekend and redeemed his blown save from two days prior. McPherson struckout three and kept Evansville off the board over the final three innings, earning him the save in the 7-4 win.

First-year pitcher Connor Langreder was credited with the win in his first collegiate start, striking out a half dozen batters over four and two-thirds.

NIU will take its 1-2 record south to Edinburg, Texas for a three-game series with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros. The first game starts Friday at noon.