NIU gets caught in catch-up game

By John Dietz

When the Huskie baseball team falls behind early, it’s time to play catch up, and that’s something the team does not enjoy.

Bradley University (15-10-1) jumped all over NIU (8-18) early in both games of their doubleheader Wednesday, only to see the Huskies make valiant comeback efforts that came up short.

In the opener in Peoria, Paul Schimbke (2-3) pitched two innings before head coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland sent him to the showers.

“He threw too many hittable pitches and he’s not an overpowering pitcher. When he’s on, he makes people swing at the bad pitches,” McFarland said.

NIU fell behind 5-1 after five innings of play and chalked up two runs in the top of the sixth to close the margin to 5-3. The comeback effort fizzled when the Braves answered with two runs of their own in their half of the sixth and won the game 7-3.

Jesse Richardson (1-2) started the nightcap and went to the showers even quicker than Schimbke. The Braves tore into Richardson for four in the first and chalked up two more in the second with Bernard Lee on in relief.

After two innings, it was Bradley 6, NIU 0. McFarland’s squad could have packed up their gear and come back to DeKalb quietly, but the Huskies smashed the Braves’ pitching staff with four doubles in the top of the sixth.

Zach Zavac lead off the inning with the first of the doubles. Mike Birsa, who also doubled in the first game, was next.

He sent a shot down the right field line that McFarland thought was fair— until the umpire cried foul.

“It was a foot fair to anyone in the area,” McFarland said.

Birsa ended up registering the first out, but three more doubles by John Johnson, Chip Paulsen, and Joel Schmitz followed the controversial call.

When the barrage ended the Huskies were down 6-4, but would come no closer. The Braves added one more run to secure a 7-4 victory.

NIU returns home Thursday to face the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for a 1 p.m. doubleheader.