MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Junior Alex Klonowski pitched a two-hit complete game versus Big-10 foe Minnesota as he struck out eight and led Northern Illinois over the Golden Gophers, 2-1. Klonowski also finished 2-for-4 at the plate and scored the winning run in the Huskies first ever win over Minnesota.
“That was a fantastic performance,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey, “Minnesota is a good ball club and Alex went out and made pitches and he was in the zone early. His fastball, his changeup and his breaking ball was good today and the one lone ding in the game was a homerun in the third inning. Alex responded after that and when he got into trouble, he made some very good pitches. It was only fitting that he finished the game with a chance to go the distance. I thought he had some great stuff going in the ninth too.”
Northern Illinois improved to 2-9 on the year, while Minnesota fell to 6-5 in 2013. The win by NIU is the first ever against the Gophers and the program’s first over a Big Ten team since March 18, 2012 against Illinois, 3-0. It was NIU’s first complete game since Jake Hermsen’s versus Central Michigan May 5, 2012, a 3-1 Huskie loss.
The Huskies left three on base path in the second inning but the assertive play continued in the third as Jameson Wells led the inning with a bunt and Tommy Hook singled through the right side to put Wells in scoring position. Wells would score on a fielder’s choice RBI by Jeff Zimmerman to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Minnesota tied it up in the bottom of the third as Ryan Abrahamson hit a first pitch solo home run to left centerfield to tie it up.
The Huskies scratched the winning run across home plate in the top of the sixth when Klonowski hit a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second by Brian Sisler. Klonowski advanced to third on a hit-and-run ground out by Landon Tenhagen and scored on a single by Connor Duckhorn to give Northern Illinois a 2-1 lead.
Klonowski continued to pitch with conviction through the tie and with the lead as he continued to keep his pitch count low in the later innings of the game. With the lead in his back pocket, Klonowski tallied his sixth strikeout of the game.
Minnesota threatened with a rally in the eighth inning following a leadoff walk and small ball attempts on sacrifice, the Kearney, Mo. native put the ball in play to let the defense end the inning and keep the Huskie lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, oozing with confidence with a 2-1 lead, Klonowski struck out the final two Golden Gopher batters of the ball game looking to give him a complete game, the juniors first-ever as a Huskie. He finished with a career-high eight strikeouts in 118 pitches. At the plate, he was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Klonowski and Wells would go on to be named to the Dairy Queen Classic All-Tournament team for their overall play. NIU finished the game with three sacrifice bunts, one by Ruzich and two by Sisler.
Northern Illinois will return to action Friday afternoon against Southern Illinois for a three-game series in the first stop of the NIU’s spring break trip.