DEKALB, Ill. – Northern Illinois (13-14, 4-2 MAC) senior left-hander Ben Neumann (4-1) is finishing his last season of NCAA D1 baseball with strength. Under the guidance of newly hired head coach Mike Kunigonis, Neumann has been a consistent force on the mound, and has given the Huskies significant leadership in the clubhouse.
“Coach has instilled winning, and the belief that we are going to go into every game knowing that we are going to win. Everything is mental.” Neumann pointed out.
Neumann, a 6 feet 1 inch 205 pound Verona, Wisconsin native, received the Mid-American Conference West Division Pitcher of the week award for his performance during the week of March 16. He struck out five batters in the series opener against Purdue, and pitched a career-high 7.0 innings of shutout ball. Allowing two walks in the first frame, Neumann did not give up another base-on-balls the rest of the contest.
“It felt good to get the honor,” Neumann said. “It’s great, but you have to continue to do well throughout the whole year and not just be satisfied with the one time achievement.”
In a 12-3 Huskie win over conference foe Bowling Green, Neumann tossed another 7.0 innings registering three strikeouts. He also saw his incredible consecutive scoreless innings streak come to an end at 18.1 innings, eclipsing Eli Anderson’s mark of 16.2 innings back in 2013.
The southpaw throws from a ¾ slot and in seven appearances this year has struck out 30 batters. His 2.88 ERA is 22nd in the MAC among pitchers with at least seven appearances, and in 40.2 innings pitched has held opponents to a .207 OBA.
NIU sits at third place in the MAC West behind Central Michigan (18-10, 5-1 MAC), and Ball State (19-8, 5-1 MAC). The Huskie pitching staff has been a rock however, with Nuemann and 6 foot 8 inch senior RHP Dirk Ormsby (Ligonier, Ind./Kellogg Community) leading the charge.
The first half of the college baseball season has seen the Huskie pitching staff post a 13-13 record, and the month of March was their flagship performance posting an 8-5 record as a staff. Neumann and Ormsby each registered three wins last month with Neumann nailing a flawless 3-0 record in March.
“I credit the defense for my success,” added Neumann. “I have been throwing strikes and hitting the zone, and not giving away any freebies, but the defense is playing really well. Every time I walk a guy the next hit up the middle is a double play it seems like. I don’t know how many double plays those guys have turned, but it’s a lot.”
As a matter-of-fact, the Huskies have turned an amazing 30 double plays this year, which certainly does help account for any pitchers success throughout a season.
First year pitching coach Andrew Maki has put his hurlers on the path to success. Having just arrived from Eastern Michigan, the former Eagle Associate Head Coach of six-year tenure spent two seasons as the Eagles pitching coach.
During that span, EMU pitching averaged 357 strikeouts a year and had three pitchers win MAC West Pitcher of the Week honors, and he has carried that recipe over to the Huskies.
“Coach Maki has helped the whole staff mechanically and mentally,” Neumann indicated. “He has helped me with throwing to both sides of the plate.”
NIU has a swagger this year, and with this being Neumann’s senior season, he has clear aspirations on what needs to be done.
“I came in knowing I had to do well, and anything I could do to help the team win was my goal,” Neumann stressed. “I have an approach with the righty’s that is more of a strategic plan, where as I am going to attack the lefties.”
NIU heads back between the lines this Friday when they welcome Kent State to Ralph McKenzie Field for a three game series.