Northern Illinois Wins First MAC Series in Ypsilanti

Pitching coach Eric Peterson visits Sterling Sharp and Adam Sonabend on the mound. - Andrew Mascharka

Northern Illinois wins their first in-conference series on the road against Eastern Michigan

The Northern Illinois Huskies (9-22, 5-17 Mid-American Conference) came into Ypsilanti and won their first MAC series, taking two of three from the Eastern Michigan Eagles (12-21, 2-10 MAC).

Game 1: Northern Illinois wins 10-2

Game 2: Northern Illinois wins 5-3 (10 innings)

Game 3: Eastern Michigan wins 8-4

Northern Illinois totaled 12 hits in the first game of the weekend series, including a pair from Carl Russell, Tommy Hook, Brian Sisler and Joe Battaglia. The Huskies got off to a good start, getting to a 5-0 lead through the fifth inning before the Eagles started to show a little bit of life scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. However, it just would never be quite enough as NIU kept beating up on a weak Eagles pitching staff, scoring four more runs in the seventh inning off of sophomore reliever Devon Bronson, who allowed four hits and issued a pair of walks.

Anthony Andres (3-4) earned the win with his 109-pitch outing for NIU. Going seven innings, Andres only allowed a pair of runs to score off of seven hits with four walks and only two strikeouts. Sterling Sharp (1-2) started on the hill for EMU, his first start since February 23 at Tennessee Martin. The 2013 MLB Draftee went 4.1 innings, allowed five runs (three earned) off of five hits and four walks with a trio of strikeouts.

"[Sharp] was very good at relief and we needed a Friday guy to step up," EMU head coach Jay Alexander said in a post game interview. "Unfortunately, he didn't do well. He's got good stuff he just has to figure it out, we just need him to figure it out faster."

The second game was a lot closer with Jake Andrews and Eli Anderson pitching well for their respective teams.

Anderson went into the ninth inning before Ben Neumann came in for relief. Anderson held the Eagles to just a pair of runs before allowing the game-tying run in the eight inning via single up the middle by Adam Sonabend to bring Sam Ott around to score.

The 3-3 tie carried over to the tenth inning, but the Eagles pitching couldn't get the job done as Charlie Land (0-6) let up a pair of runs by walking Jason Gasser with the bases loaded, followed by a wild pitch to bring in Sisler from third base for the insurance run.

Anderson went 8.1 innings with nine hits against him, but ended up with 10 strikeouts for the day. Andrews let up seven this through 6.1 innings of work on the mound, with two runs (both earned) scored against him with three strikeouts and a walk.

Eastern Michigan's batting lineup shuffled around more than usual in the series finale, including major jumps like Sam Ott (who had three hits in Game 2) moving from third to leadoff, Lee Longo from cleanup to third and Austin Wilson from leadoff to ninth.

"Sam Ott and Lee Longo are our best hitters, and we need them up as much as possible together," Alexander said. "Wilson is a just little bit reckless at the leadoff spot, so he needs to be down at the bottom of the lineup so he can do whatever he wants."

Even with the rocky start that EMU got off to in the first inning, the lineup shuffle ended up being a success as the Eagles prevented the sweep by collecting eight runs off of 10 hits and four walks.

Errors plagued the Huskies in this finale, with four tallied against them for the game. Two-way player Alex Klonowski started on the hill for NIU, going 5.1 innings with 10 hits knocked against him, walking two. Eight runs were scored against him, but only four of them were counted as earned runs.

Michael Marsinek started on the hill for the Green and White, but didn't make it out of the first inning, allowing three runs to score off of two hits and two walks, only facing six batters. Ryan Lavoie immediately came in for long relief, keeping the Huskies off of the bases much more with only one hit and one walk against him in his 5.2 innings of work.

EMU still has some work to do, still sitting at the bottom of the MAC West. They'll have another opportunity next weekend to face the Miami RedHawks in a 3-game home series. As for NIU, they'll be playing in a 3-game series of their own next weekend in DeKalb, Ill. against the Central Michigan Chippewas.

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