NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A rounded team effort led Northern Illinois (4-15) to victory in its spring break finale at Belmont (13-6) as the Huskies combined for 11 hits, three for extra bases, to defeat the Bruins, 8-2. Jeff Zimmerman and Brandon Mallder each had two hits and drove in two runs in the game.
“That was a great win today against a very good Belmont team,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey, “we barreled a lot of balls today which is a very good sign for us hitting wise. I’d say the biggest thing for us today was scoring those three runs in the sixth and now allowing Belmont to score any runs in the bottom half of the inning. We weren’t able to do that yesterday and that was the difference in the ball game today.”
Pitcher Alex Klonowski continued his streak of quality starts to four-straight games as he finished with 8.0 innings pitched and only allowed seven hits, two runs, four walks and struck out two for his second win of the season. All of the Bruins hit were singles in the game.
“Klono was competitive on the mound and he found himself in a little trouble early in the game, but he did a good job of limiting the damage in the second inning. That could have been a turning point in the game if we let them run away with it.”
Northern Illinois cut its two-run deficit in half in the top of the fourth inning after Klonowski was hit by pitch to lead the frame. Following singles by Landon Tenhagen and Brian Sisler, Klonowski crossed home plate on Sisler’s hit to cut Belmont’s lead in half, 2-1.
The Huskies ran amuck in the sixth inning as Belmont allowed three walks to put NIU in prime scoring position. Mallder entered the game as pinch-hitter for Connor Schomig and doubled down the left field line to score Sisler and Klonowski and give Northern Illinois a 3-2 lead. Connor Duckhorn singled to tack on more run as Nate Ruzich crossed home plate to increase the lead, 4-2.
In the following stanza, Jamison Wells doubled to lead the seventh and scored all the way from second on a Jeff Zimmerman single to increase the NIU lead, 5-2.
Northern Illinois went for the jugular in the ninth inning when it scored three more runs to jump out to an 8-2 lead. Duckhorn led the inning with a single and advanced to third on a successful hit-and-run executed by Tommy Hook. An error by the catcher brought Duckhorn home for NIU’s sixth run of the game. On his first career triple, Zimmerman scored Hook and eventually scored on a wild pitch for the final run of the game.
Anthony Andres finished for Northern Illinois and Klonowski, forcing three groundouts to end the game in his 16 pitch, 10 strike performance.
Mallder batted 2-for-2 with a double and two RBI as pinch-hitter and left fielder in the game. As a hitter, Klonowski scored two runs to aid his effort on the mound.
The Huskies will return to action Friday afternoon in their Mid-American Conference opener versus defending College World Series participant Kent State, marking the first time since 1976 NIU’s hosted World Series participant from the year before. The series scheduled to begin Friday afternoon at 3:05 p.m.