CHICAGO, Ill. – A five-hit five run rally in the top of the eighth inning for Northern Illinois (19-24) overcame a 5-2 UIC (20-21) lead as the Huskies went on to extinguish the Flames, 7-5. Seven different NIU players drove in the runs with Joe Battaglia leading the way again for the Huskies on a 2-for-3, one home run, two run night at Les Miller Field. Jeff Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to nine games on a 2-for-5 night with a double, an RBI and a run.
“We gave up a lot of free passes on the mound early but our bullpen did a nice job later in the game. We needed to get some guys some work in and they did a nice job, especially Ryan Olson. He got his first collegiate win,” said Head Coach Ed Mathey. “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities this year but he took advantage of this one. I’m very proud of Ryan. As hitters, we hit a lot of balls tonight and drove them through the holes and to the gaps. We did a nice job in the eighth putting hits together to capitalize on our chances.”
UIC commanded the game in the first three innings as it led 1-0 heading into the third. NIU took advantage in the frame as Connor Duckhorn reached on an error and advanced to third on a single by Brandon Mallder. The senior would score on a single by Tommy Hook to tie the game 1-1.
The Flames then jumped out to a 4-1 lead after three innings as it broke the tie with three runs on three hits and an error. Northern Illinois cut the deficit to two runs on Battaglia’s second homer to left field in as many games to make it 4-2, but UIC added one more in the bottom of the frame to make it 5-2.
Relief pitching proved to be a key in the game as starting pitcher Bobby Kuntzendorf stepped off the mound after four innings of work. Over the next five innings, the NIU bullpen scattered four hits with three strikeouts and three walks. Kuntzendorf surrendered six hits, two earned runs, three walks but struck out two in the game.
With the bullpen standing strong, Hook started the eighth with a single, followed by back-to-back doubles from Alex Klonowski and Zimmerman to put the Huskies within one, 5-4. After Battaglia was hit by a pitch, Brian Sisler sacrificed the runners over which led Duckhorn’s game-tying groundout to shortstop, 5-5.
NIU gained the lead when pinch-hitter Connor Schomig doubled to left centerfield on a 0-2 pitch with two outs to put the Huskies up 6-5. Mallder singled to drive in Schomig from second to score the Huskies final run. Mallder completed his night 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Ryan Olsen pitched in both the seventh and eighth innings to combine for an inning of work and earn his first collegiate win. Anthony Andres closed the game for Northern Illinois on the mound, throwing 1.2 innings with only one hit allowed.
Northern Illinois will return to the diamond Friday May 3 when it heads to Toledo to take on the Rockets for a Mid-American Conference series.