DEKALB, Ill. – Northern Illinois University took down Akron 4-1 Saturday in MAC Conference play at Ralph McKinzie Field behind an amazing performance on the mound from senior RHP Eli Anderson( Glenview, Ill./New Trier) and timely hitting from senior DH Joe Battaglia (Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph).
Anderson chalked up seven strikeouts on his way to pitching a one hit complete game. Anderson also recorded his 200th career strikeout in the top of the eighth inning when he fanned Akron pinch hitter Danny Lawrence, making Anderson the fourth player in NIU history to reach 200 strikeouts and tied for third all-time with former Huskie Jesse Richardson.
Things got started for the Huskies in the bottom of the first inning when infielder Brandon Mallder smoked a nice shot for a base hit right through Akron third baseman James Meeker’s legs. Mallder was then thrown out trying to steal as two batters later short stop Brian Sisler roped a deep ground ball to short and hustled down the line to beat out the throw to first for an infield hit.
Battaglia then stepped to the plate and cranked a high line drive to left center for an RBI double that sent Sisler flying home and notching the first run of the game. The very next batter Justin Fletcher kept the offense going when he hit what was practically a mirror image of Battaglia’s shot sending a smoking fly to left center for a double that plated Battaglia bringing the Huskie lead to 2-0. However, Fletcher was thrown out 7-6-5 trying to stretch it to third base to end the inning.
“The past couple of weekends I’ve been seeing the ball well,” Battaglia stated. “I was happy to help out the team and get that RBI in the first inning. Going in to it I knew this kid liked to work ahead with his fastball and get his slider over when he could. But that was just good preparation on our part.”
Akron starting pitcher RHP JT Brubaker got roughed up by the Huskie bats giving up four earned runs while permitting four walks in 5.2 innings pitched.
The Zips put a run on the board in the top of the third inning when first baseman Matt Larocca doubled to left center bringing in James Meeker who had singled to start off the frame making the score 2-1.
In the bottom of the fourth frame the Huskies struck pay dirt again, this time off the barrel of right fielder Alex Smiths bat when he sent a shot for an RBI base hit that scored catcher Johnny Zubek from third after Zubek walked then stole second and was moved up to third on a wild pitch from Brubaker. The score now sat 3-1 in favor of NIU.
“I was just taking each inning one inning at a time,” Anderson said. “I did a good job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone and that made it easy for me. I keep my same routine before every game and that helps give me a good shot each game before I hit the mound. It’s a pretty big honor picking up my 200th strikeout, there’s been a lot of pitchers that have come through here and been drafted that didn’t achieve that so I am honored.”
In the bottom of the sixth NIU added some insurance after third baseman Tommy Hook smoked a triple to right center that wasn’t fielded very well by Akron right fielder Mosbarger, setting the table for Zubek who grounded out to second base, but did enough to bring Hook home from third and put the Huskie lead at 4-1 to stay.
Battaglia ended the day with a 2-for-4 outing tallying two hits, one double, one RBI, and a run scored.
“Our kids bounced back really well today after the extra innings lost yesterday,” head coach Ed Mathey pointed out. “ I thought our guys had good two strike approaches all day, and we tried to stay aggressive today because we felt like we were seeing the ball pretty well.”
The Huskies host the Zips for the rubber match Sunday at Ralph McKinzie Field first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m.