Baseball squad splits against Leathernecks

By John Dietz

After the NIU men’s baseball team crushed Western Illinois University 8-1 in their opening game Saturday, the Leathernecks retaliated with a seven-run fifth inning en route to a 9-4 victory in the nightcap.

The doubleheader marked the opening of Mid-Continent Conference play for the Huskies.

Sunday’s doubleheader rematch against the Leathernecks was rained out.

Head coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland’s team (5-13, 1-1) finally had an easy time of things in the opener instead of the down-to-the-wire affairs they have become accustomed to.

Leading 1-0, compliments of a Tom O’Neill home run in the first inning, NIU brought out the big guns and fired up seven runs in the third and fourth innings for an 8-0 lead.

The fireworks began in the third after Joel Schmitz walked and Mark Mershon reached on an error. O’Neill stepped up to the plate and delivered a two-RBI double and Mike Birsa followed with a two-run home run.

O’Neill was one of the main reasons for the Huskies’ explosion in the game. O’Neill went 2-for-2 with his home run, three RBI’s and four stolen bases.

Mershon also stole four bases in the opener in which NIU ran rampant over the Leatherneck defense.

“We had 10 stolen bases in the first game, which is something we want to see more of,” McFarland said.

Paul Schimbke (3-1) allowed just six hits in his one-run performance for NIU.

The Huskies looked like they were on their way to a sweep in the second game when the scoreboard read 3-1 after four innings. The problem was WSU (2-17) found their hitting prowess and hit the Huskie pitching staff for a seven-run fifth.

Josh Reicher (0-1) took the loss in game two.

McFarland realized that the big inning has been trouble thus far this season for his team and knows something needs to be done about the problem.

“We’ve seen a lot this year where a team has one big inning against us, and that is something we’re going to try and stop,” McFarland said.

The Huskies return to action in their home opener Tuesday after opening the season with 18 games on the road. The University of Northern Iowa will be the opponent in a 1 p.m. doubleheader.