Walk-off victory highlights Huskies series win against Zips

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James Krause | Northern Star

Senior infielder Dylan Lonteen rounds third base after hitting a home run at Ralph McKinzie Field in a April 3 game against the Central Michigan Chippewas.

James Krause, Sports Editor

DeKALB  — The NIU baseball team claimed their second conference series win of the season, winning three of four home games against the University of Akron Zips this weekend.

The Huskies contended well against both the Zips and high-speed winds throughout the weekend, starting on the right foot with a walk-off win. Redshirt senior catcher Jake Dunham hit a double to bring home the winning run in a 7-6 victory.

NIU claimed both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, winning 3-1 and 11-2. The Huskies couldn’t complete the sweep, losing 7-4 Sunday.

Friday: Huskies 7, Zips 6

The Zips and Huskies were tied at 5-5 through six innings. In the top of the seventh, junior infielder Tate Wargo put the Zips ahead with an RBI single to make it 6-5.

The score held until the Huskies were down to their final out in the bottom of the ninth. With a runner on second, redshirt senior outfielder Kam Smith singled to center field to tie the game at 6-6.

Dunham came up to bat, previously in the game hitting a home run in the second and looking to deliver another blow to the Zips. On the second pitch he saw, Dunham ripped the ball into the outfield for a double to bring home Smith.

Head coach Mike Kunigonis said the victory Friday was one that showed the team’s commitment during a difficult season.

“This was a great character win,” Kunigonis said Friday in an NIU Athletics news release. “Our guys just never gave up. They kept battling. We have to play cleaner on defense, but Akron scrapped too and they made us pay for every mistake.”

Saturday Game 1: Huskies 3, Zips 1 (seven innings)

Junior pitcher Michael Lasiewicz followed the late-game heroics of Friday with his best start of the season, allowing only one run in a complete seven inning showing.

After allowing a sacrifice fly RBI in the first to Akron junior catcher Cameron Tally, Lasiewicz only allowed two more hits on the day. He also struck out three batters.

Dunham followed up his walk-off performance with two RBIs, first tying the game in the bottom of the first with a sacrifice fly RBI. In the third, Dunham gave NIU the lead with an RBI single to make it 2-1.

A hit parade in the fifth helped the Huskies ice the game with an RBI single by redshirt junior outfielder Brady Huebbe, making the final 3-1.

Saturday Game 2: Huskies 11, Zips 2 (seven innings)

Smith had the performance of the day for NIU batters, bringing in four RBIs in the second half of the Saturday doubleheader. 

After Akron scored two runs in the top of the first, Smith smashed a two-run homer to left to tie the game at 2-2. Another two-run shot by Huebbe made it 4-2 after the first inning.

In the fourth, senior outfielder Brendan Joyce bunted for an RBI before Smith brought home two more runs on an RBI double. NIU added four more runs in the fifth with RBIs for Joyce, senior infielder Dylan Lonteen and freshman infielder Eric Erato.

Huskies senior pitcher Ryan Anderson didn’t allow another Akron run, claiming the win in his six inning start. 

Sunday: Zips 7, Huskies 4

After ending the first inning even at 1-1, a groundout RBI by Wargo put Akron ahead in the second. The Zips never gave up the lead, scoring four unanswered runs over the next four innings. 

NIU responded with a homerun by Erato in the eighth and RBIs in the ninth by Lonteen and senior first baseman Jordan Larson, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost ground.

The Huskies record moves to 10-28 overall and 9-15 in Mid-American Conference play. NIU will stay in DeKalb for another four-game home series, this time against the Western Michigan University Broncos.

NIU’s first game of the WMU series comes at 2 p.m. Friday at Ralph McKinzie Field in DeKalb.