Daring Flames manage sweep

By David Lance

University of Illinois-Chicago was daring on the basepaths in the first game of its conference doubleheader at NIU Sunday afternoon. Consequently, the Flames almost burned themselves.

UIC overcame its base-running errors with a two-run fourth inning and won game one 5-4. UIC used the long ball to win the second game, 5-2, and dropped the NIU baseball team’s record to 9-23, 3-5 in the Mid-Continent Conference.

With one out in the fourth, the score tied at two and men on first and second, the Flames’ Mark Linkletter hit a hopper between first and second. NIU second baseman Tom O’Neill dove, grabbed the ball, wheeled and threw perfectly to first. But no one was covering. The throw scored Jim Nesci. The next batter, John Pyle, singled home Mike Petek.

Starter Paul Schimbke took the loss, while Flames starter John Wesley recorded the win. Wesley allowed two earned runs in seven innings.

“(Wesley) did a nice job for them, but let’s face it, he couldn’t break glass,” NIU head coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland said. “He kept us off balance, but we didn’t make any adjustments.”

NIU catcher Mark Fiore was busy in game one as he threw out a man trying to steal second, picked a man off third, picked two off second and threw out another trying to advance to third on a wild pitch. Not one Flame stole a base on Fiore.

“The two guys I picked off at second,” Fiore said, “those were just plays where the batter was bunting and we got a play where, if he bunts through the ball, then I just go ahead and throw it down there and see what happens.”

In game two, the Flames did all their damage in the first. With two runs already in and runners on second and third, Linkletter hit a home run off starter Jesse Richardson.

“I just didn’t bring my stuff out of the bullpen,” Richardson said. “I was kind of lazy, kind of weak. I wasn’t getting over the pitches I needed to be effective. So, they were just sitting on my fastball.”

“I thought Jesse pitched a heck of a game,” McFarland said. “In that first inning, he had a couple of cheap hits, an error and the home run. Really, the only ball hit hard that whole first inning was the home run. I thought he grew up today.”

Tadd Gibson went the distance for the win.

On Saturday, the Huskies split with Akron at McKinzie Field, winning the first game 10-9, losing the second 8-7. NIU third baseman Greg Gargani went 3-for-3, with four RBI in game one. Josh Reicher pitched 2/3 inning for his first win of the season.

Reicher went 1 1/3 and picked up the loss in the second game after Al McConihe hit a game-ending, solo homer in the eighth.