Huskies split series with Broncos, Dunham earns conference nod


James Krause | Northern Star

Redshirt senior catcher Jake Dunham (right) recieves a high-five after scoring a run in the second half of an April 3 doubleheader against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Ralph McKinzie Field.

By James Krause

DeKALB — A dominant weekend by redshirt senior catcher Jake Dunham was the exclamation point on the Huskies splitting a four-game series with the Western Michigan University Broncos.

After losing the opener on Friday and splitting a Saturday doubleheader, the Huskies knotted the series with a 15-5 blowout win Sunday. Head coach Mike Kunigonis said his team made the adjustments needed to salvage a bad start into a series tie.

“Our guys were focused and made the right adjustments from the first two games to come away with wins in game two yesterday and today,” Kunigonis said in an NIU Athletics news release Sunday.

Dunham hit 9-for-15 hitting and five RBIs, including a perfect four-for-four performance on Sunday. Dunham, now on an 11-game hitting streak, earned the title of Mid-American Conference Player of the Week.

Friday: Broncos 10, Huskies 8

The opening game of the weekend was dominated by WMU junior first baseman Sean O’Keefe, who homered twice and scored five RBIs. In the first inning, an O’Keefe home run kick started a 5-0 run for the Broncos.

The Huskies came back to tie the game in the bottom of the second, including a two-run home run by freshman infielder Jack Blazevich. Additional RBIs by senior outfielder Matt Barnes, redshirt senior outfielder Kam Smith and Dunham made the game tied at 5-5.

O’Keefe homered in the top of the fourth to score two runs, but NIU tied in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run homer by redshirt junior outfielder Brady Huebbe.

WMU went ahead in the fifth off a two-run shot by junior infielder Justin McIntyre, taking the lead for good. NIU only managed one run in the final four frames of work.

Saturday Game 1: Broncos 5, Huskies 2 (seven innings)

O’Keefe opened Saturday’s first game with a solo homer in the first, his third of the weekend. Another WMU run off a throwing error in the second gave them an early 2-0 lead.

NIU tied with a pair of runs in the fourth inning, first with an RBI single by senior infielder Dylan Lonteen. The tying run was scored by senior first baseman Jordan Larson with his own RBI single.

The two runs were all NIU would be able to score off of WMU sophomore pitcher Easton Sikorski, who pitched a complete seven innings while striking out six batters. 

The Broncos went ahead off a two-RBI double by O’Keefe in the fifth, with another run brought in by senior first baseman Ethan Hajdukovic making the eventual 5-2 final.

Saturday Game 2: Huskies 5, Broncos 2 (seven innings)

Lonteen created headaches for the Broncos in the second game of the doubleheader, scoring three RBIs and successfully stealing home for another run.

In the second inning, Lonteen opened the scoring with a home run to right field. In the third, Lonteen singled to score Barnes and Smith and make it 3-0. Later in the inning, Lonteen and Larson successfully pulled off a double steal that made it 4-0 before WMU even got a hit.

Senior pitcher Ryan Anderson had a complete game that limited the Broncos to two runs off just three hits. Anderson was credited with the win, making his record 2-2 on the year.

After WMU walked senior outfielder Brendan Joyce with the bases loaded in the fifth, the Broncos picked up two in the sixth for the 5-2 final.

Sunday: Huskies 15, Broncos 5 (eight innings)

NIU rounded off the weekend with their best offensive showing of the season, scoring a season-high 15 runs. Dunham brought home three RBIs in his four-for-four performance with Lonteen bringing in three RBIs of his own.

Dunham and Lonteen both doubled in the first inning. Collectively, both brought home three runs to counter an equally hot start by the Broncos.

With the score 3-3 in the second, Larson broke the tie with a solo-home run. WMU tied the game again in the fourth, but sophomore infielder Malik Peters gave NIU the lead for good with an RBI double.

NIU exploded for six runs in the fifth inning, including Dunham’s second RBI of the night off a double. Dunham finished his day strong with a home run in the sixth. The game was stopped in the eighth inning via mercy rule after WMU gave up three bases-loaded runs.

The Huskies record improves to 12-30 and 11-17 in conference play. The team still sits outside the playoff picture with three series remaining on the schedule.

NIU can close the gap on a bid to the MAC Tournament in their four-game road series this coming weekend against the Eastern Michigan University Eagles.

First-pitch for the opening contest is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday in Ypsilanti, Michigan.