DeKALB, Ill. – A two out, bases loaded walk-off single by Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) overshadowed a complete game pitching effort by Eli Anderson (Glenview/New Trier) as Northern Illinois (18-22, 13-4 MAC) defeated Miami (Ohio), 4-3, to clinch the series. The Redhawks (19-22, 9-8 MAC) took the lead in the top of ninth, 3-2, before NIU’s two out rally. The Huskies have driven in 46 runs with two outs in their 17 MAC contests.
“These guys believe. They believe in themselves and winning helps that. The guys grind it out and though it gets overlooked, but when you’re pitching and playing defense, you’ll always have a chance in this game,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey. “I think the guys take a lot of pride in playing at Ralph McKinzie Field, I love the leadership this team has and I love the energy and enthusiasm they bring for us.
“It’s good to get the series on a Saturday, now we have the opportunity to go out tomorrow and try to earn a sweep , which is a plus-plus in this league.”
Anderson tossed his fifth complete game of the season, all of which have occurred within Mid-American Conference play, as he scattered 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts to his credit. Of his 110 pitches, 76 went for strikes (.691).
The Huskies were ahead 2-0 after the third inning as they scratched one run across in both the second and third frames on a bases loaded fielder’s choice by Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College) and a Jeff Zimmerman sacrifice fly in the second and third innings, respectively.
While Anderson allowed sporadic hits as he worked through the middle innings of the game, the Redhawks hitters were stymied by the junior with men on base and were unable to put their mark on the scoreboard.
Miami’s bats came alive in the eighth as three straight hits, including a double down the right field line by Matt Honchel to put two runners in scoring position, allowed one run to score in the frame and cut the NIU lead in half, 2-1. MU took the lead in the top of the ninth as the Alex Johnson singled, and with two outs, aggressively stole second base to put a runner in scoring position.
Following a walk by pinch-hitter Chad Sedio, a two-run double by Max Andresen to right field put the Redhawks ahead, 3-2.
Sophomore Micah McCulloch led-off the bottom of the ninth for NIU as he poked closer Ryan Powers’ first pitch through the left side for a single. With Danny Seiton pinch-running for McCulloch and one out, Ruzich executed a hit-and-run to the right side to push Seiton to third and put the winning run on first.
After NIU’s second out, Mathey signaled for freshman Brandon Mallder to pinch-run for Ruzich. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Jamison Wells singled up the middle to tie the game, 3-3, and rallied the bench as he ran to first.
After Wells’ single, freshman Tommy Hook slapped a ball to the shortstop, who fumbled the ball and did not get the throw to second in time to putout Wells on the force play.
On the very next pitch, Klonowski lasered one through the gap in the left side of the infield to give Northern Illinois its second walk-off win of the season and improve the Huskies to 13-4 in the Mid-American Conference. The win improves NIU lead in the West division over Eastern Michigan to four games.
It was the first time since April 2-3, 2010 versus Buffalo that Northern Illinois had two-consecutive complete games from its pitchers. Hook, McCulloch and Wells each collected two hits in the game. Klonowski’s only hit of the game came at the right time as he finished 1-for-4 with the game-winning RBI.
NIU and Miami will close the series tomorrow at Ralph McKinzie Field as Klonowski (4-4) takes on Seth Varner (1-5) from the mound. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.