Baseball swept in weekend series with Vaqueros


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The Huskies lost 11-7 to the Sacramento State Hornets Friday.

By James Krause

DeKALB — At the southernmost tip of the continental U.S., just about everything went south for the NIU baseball team that dropped four games to the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Huskies gave up a total of 35 runs over four games, including 26 in the first two. Two starting pitchers, senior Nate Thomas and junior Michael Lasiewicz, gave up 10 runs in their respective starts. Head Coach Mike Kunigonis said after Saturday’s loss it’s too early in the season to let the losses crush NIU.

“These last two games won’t define who we are as a team,” Kunigonis said in a Saturday NIU Athletics news release. “What will define us is how we’ll bounce back tomorrow, next week and the week after that. Baseball is a marathon and not a sprint.”

NIU was able to hang with the Vaqueros in both ends of a Sunday doubleheader, but didn’t pull out a victory in either game.


Friday: Vaqueros 11, Huskies 1 (seven innings)

The Huskies only run came in the second inning, when a fielding error scored first-year infielder Jack Blazevich from third. 

In the third, UTRGV took the lead with a three-run homer by redshirt senior Christian Sepulveda. Sepulveda dominated the weekend, going three-for-three on Friday and 6-for-11 for the series.

The fourth is where the Vaqueros exploded, scoring eight runs off of Lasiewicz. Graduate catcher Conrado Diaz had the highlight of the inning for UTRGV, scoring a two-RBI single. The inning ended at 11-1, the eventual final.

Redshirt senior Vaqueros pitcher Kevin Stevens was credited with the win, striking out 10 Huskies in six innings. 


Saturday: Vaqueros 15, Huskies 2 (seven innings)

NIU once again took the lead early, scoring two runs in the first off a passed ball and a single by redshirt senior infielder Kam Smith.

Just as they had the day prior, the Vaqueros took back the lead in the second. After scoring one in the first, junior infielder DeAndre Shelton tied the game with an RBI double and UTRGV took the lead with a groundout RBI by redshirt first-year outfielder Spencer Serven.

Thomas’ game fell apart in the third, walking four and allowing five runs without recording an out. After the Huskies put sophomore pitcher Erik Hedmark on the mound, Hedmark gave up two more in the third. 

In the fourth, redshirt senior outfielder Coleman Grubbs recorded his third and fourth RBI of the day on a two-RBI double to make the lead 14-2. Redshirt first baseman Angel De La Cruz scored their 15th and last run on a fly out to center.

NIU only managed two hits in the last four innings on their way to the 15-2 loss.


Sunday Early Game: Vaqueros 4, Huskies 3 (eight innings)

In the first of two designated-hitter seven inning contests, NIU’s pitching rebounded strongly as sophomore pitcher Brandon McPherson pitched a scoreless first five innings. The Huskies also had a consistent bat in Smith, who gave NIU the lead in the first with a two-RBI single to center field for the 2-0 lead.

The lead stood until the sixth when, after an error gave UTRGV a run, redshirt junior utility player Freddey Rojas Jr. doubled to left field for the tying and go-ahead RBIs.

With one out in the top of the seventh, Smith hit a solo home run to tie it up at 3-3. It was Smith’s second home run of the young season.

Junior pitcher Paul Turelli was able to force extra innings with a scoreless seventh, but struggled in the eighth. With the Vaqueros starting the inning with a runner on second, Turelli loaded the bases on walks. With two outs, Vaqueros infielder Shelton singled to centerfield for the walk-off RBI.


Sunday Late Game: Vaqueros 5, Huskies 4 (seven innings)

Unlike their previous three matchups, the Vaqueros were the ones off to a strong start by scoring four runs in the first inning. Grubbs highlighted the inning with a two-RBI double.

After another run added in the fifth, UTRGV led 5-0 into the sixth. Senior first baseman finally got the Huskies on the board with a double to left center to score senior infielder Dylan Lonteen and sophomore outfielder Nick Drobushevich. The Huskies cut the deficit to 5-2.

In the top of the seventh, sophomore infielder Paddy McKermitt chose a great time to get his first collegiate triple to score a run. McKermitt scored on a groundout by Drobushevich to make it 5-4. Lonteen struckout to end the weekend for NIU, taking their fourth loss of the weekend.

NIU’s record fell to 1-6 through two series. The Huskies have a round robin series this weekend with the Kansas State University Wildcats and the Rice University Owls in Houston, Texas. NIU will play both teams on Friday as part of a doubleheader before meeting KSU on Saturday and Rice on Sunday.