DeKALB – Two free passes to start the ninth inning wasn’t what Northern Illinois closer Kyle Glancy had in mind as he walked to the mound Tuesday.
With a three-run lead, neither was a bases-loaded situation.
But in a ninth inning that mirrored his season, the NIU senior struggled before getting the job done. Glancy allowed one run to Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday before closing an 8-6 win in the Huskies’ home opener when he was able to produce a slow grounder to third baseman Troy White.
“I was just trying to stay in the zone and let my defense make the plays out there,” Glancy said. “I tried to clear my mind, just find my stuff and stay confident, keep seeing the zone. If you throw strikes, good things are going to happen.
“Once he stepped on the bag, I knew the game was over. That’s when I could kind of let the stress off, smile and be happy.”
There has been plenty of stress for Glancy this season.
As a junior, Glancy was one of the Mid-American Conference’s dominant relief pitchers, posting a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings pitched. He also finished second in the MAC with 12 saves.
This spring has been more adventurous. Glancy walked off the mound Tuesday having given up 16 earned runs in 10 innings pitched, a 14.4 ERA. But he has saved four of NIU’s five wins, and leads the MAC in that category.
To NIU coach Ed Mathey, the bottom line matters most.
“He’s my closer, he’s my closer,” Mathey said. “He’ll be the guy to get the ball the next time we’re in that situation, for sure.”
Mathey said Glancy’s struggles on the mound have varied.
He thought the senior threw good pitches early in the season, but they came against good teams. After getting hit around a few times, Mathey said, Glancy has started steering the ball when he pitches, aiming instead of simply throwing.
“He started out really well against some good teams, but they hit some good pitches on him,” Mathey said. “That’s the thing that I’m trying to encourage him, one of the tricks about being a pitcher is recognizing good pitches that get hit from bad pitches that don’t get hit. He was making some good pitches early on that were getting hit, and that’s all you can do, is make a good pitch.
“When Kyle is right, it’s good. Kyle can be good. He needs to know that, and he needs to pitch like that.”
In Tuesday’s early innings, it looked like NIU wouldn’t need a closer. The Huskies (5-16) scored six runs in the second inning. With a fierce wind blowing in from right field, a six-run lead seemed insurmountable.
But UIC (5-12) scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings and entered the ninth within rally distance.
Even as the moment became more tense, with Glancy walking two batters and hitting another in the first four he faced, teammates still believed their closer would get the job done.
“If you don’t believe, you shouldn’t even be on the field,” said leadoff hitter and center fielder Jamison Wells, who finished 3 for 4. “I mean, [Glancy] is struggling. Everybody knows that. But if you don’t believe in Kyle, you shouldn’t be playing behind him.
“I know the guy is a good pitcher. I hate hitting against Kyle. When we’re in preseason, I hate hitting against him. So I know how good his stuff is. He’s going to be fine.”