DEKALB, Ill. – It was an emotional day as the Northern Illinois University Huskie baseball team (16-33-1, 11-13 MAC) captured the win 2-0 over visiting Akron for a series victory on senior day, and of course Mother’s Day, at Ralph McKinzie Field as senior RHP Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Missouri/Kearney) pitched a complete game and rang up seven strikeouts on his way to an NIU single season record for shutouts (3).
Klonowski tied the Huskie career record for shut outs (3) as well, held by former Huskie hurler Pat Griffin in the 1980-81 season. This shutout is NIU’s seventh of the year as a team, which is also a school record, surpassing the 1964 Huskies ball club.
“Coming in to the game we knew this was a must win to keep our season going,” Klonowski stated. “As a senior you just want to keep playing as long as you can, so I just pitched like it was my last time. I had everything working today and that’s the first time I’ve done that all year. My mother said the only thing she wanted for Mother’s Day was a good pitched game, so I think she got what she wanted.”
For the second straight day the Huskies scored first and early. Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Illinois/St. Laurence) singled to left center with the second at bat in the bottom of the first inning. The next batter was shortstop Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Illinois/DeKalb) , who punched a deep ball to center field for an RBI double that scored Mallder from first base, to bring the score to 1-0 Huskies advantage.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, it looked like NIU was going to score again when second baseman Justin Fletcher smacked a shot to left field that looked like it was going to drop and send Sisler to the plate, until Akron right fielder Danny Lawrence made a spectacular diving catch to end the frame.
Other than an RBI single to shallow left, from birthday boy backstop Johnny Zubek (Oak Forest, Illinois/Oak Forest) in the bottom of the eighth inning, that scored infielder Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wisconsin/Madison Area TC) after he led off the frame with a walk and moved to second base on a fielder’s choice hit by center fielder Jason Gasser, the rest of the ball game belonged to Klonowski and his massacre on the mound.
The Zips just had no answer to the inning after inning barrage of strike outs and induced groundballs from Klonowski.
“The guys executed the pitches this weekend,” pitching coach Todd Coryell pointed out. “Everybody that pitched, including nine guys on Friday did their jobs.”
Moving toward the MAC tournament every win is a must win for the Huskies if they want to make the tourney. Head Coach Ed Mathey has done a remarkable job of turning an extremely slow start by the Huskies around, and has put his club in position to make a run here in the latter stage of the college baseball season.
“A lot of it started with Alex on the mound today,” Mathey explained. “He had a great pace going he controlled his three pitches and commanded the zone. Akron is a pretty good hitting ball club, so he did a nice job out there. To be a senior out there on senior day he rose to the occasion.”
Akron Zips head coach Rick Rembielak, a three-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year who has accumulated more than 500 career victories, did not make the trip to Dekalb. Rembielak rests on paid administrative leave while the university continues to examine charges made by an associate of the UA baseball team.
According to George M. Thomas of Ohio.com, freshman John C. Wastchak, 19, of McMurray, Pa., who is programmed as “Chris” on the club’s roster, claims in a campus police report that coach Rembielak grabbed him during a game against Wright State University on April 23 and challenged him to a fight. The UA police are investigating Rembielak for menacing. Assistant coach Fred Worth has been acting as head coach in Rembielak’s absence.