March 23, 2007
DEKALB, Ill. -
Behind a complete game from starting pitcher Trevor Feeney, and a five-run third inning, Northern Illinois dealt Ohio a 6-4 setback in the opening game of the Mid-American Conference season for both teams Friday afternoon in McKinzie Field.
"We just were not as aggressive as we want to be early in the game," Head Coach Joe Carbone said. "Like I told the team, (the conference schedule) is going to be like a marathon. We can't get too low with the losses and we can't get too high with the wins."
Down 6-0 after four innings, the Bobcats (9-8, 0-1 MAC) rallied for four runs in the last four innings of the game, but the effort was not enough as Northern Illinois' (9-7, 1-0 MAC) five-run outburst in the third frame proved to be the difference.
"We have to give (Northern Illinois) credit," Carbone said. "They were better than we were today. (Feeney) pitched a real good game. We got to him at the end but once again it was too little, too late."
Marc Krauss (Deshler, Ohio), with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate, and Willie Walker (Marysville, Ohio) with two RBIs, led the Bobcat offense on the day.
"Marc Krauss swung the bat real well today," Carbone said. "We were happy with where he was at."
Kevin Mementowski (Parma, Ohio) contributed to the Ohio effort as he threw six innings of effective relief. He was charged with one earned run on four hits.
Bobcat sophomore Brandon Besl (Cincinnati, Ohio) went 0-for-3 in the loss, ending his career-best 13 game hitting streak.
Feeney (2-2) scattered just five Ohio hits through the course of his nine innings of work and allowed three earned runs with five strikeouts and a walk to lead Northern Illinois to the victory. The Huskie bats shared in the offensive workload as no single player recorded more than one hit, or drove in more than one run.
Following a rain delay that pushed the start of the contest back nearly an hour and a half, the outcome of the game appeared to be determined early on in the series opener. While the visiting Bobcats went in order in the first, and had their only base runner of the second doubled off, the homestanding Huskies went to work against Ohio starter Matt Schlarb (Lexington, Ohio).
Northern Illinois loaded the bases with one out in the first inning on a hit batter and two walks, but Schlarb was able to escape with an infield pop-up and a strikeout. NIU then placed two runners on with two outs in the second, but the Bobcat hurler was once again able to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard.
After Ohio went in order in the top of the third, Schlarb was unable to escape trouble for the third inning in a row. The sophomore right-hander loaded the bases with no outs, then gave up a single to Matt Behren to plate the game's first run. Bobcat skipper Joe Carbone had seen enough, and pulled Schlarb in favor of the long reliever Mementowski.
Thrown in to a bases-loaded, no-out situation with one run already home, Mementowski struggled as well to start. The Bobcat reliever surrendered consecutive run-scoring singles, then walked in another run. Before getting the third out of the inning, NIU registered its fifth run of the frame as it took a 5-0 advantage into the middle innings.
The Bobcat lineup went in order for the third time in the game in the top of the fourth, and NIU then tacked on anther run in the home half of the frame thanks to two Ohio miscues. Danny Reed singled with one out, then advanced to third on a failed pick off attempt, and eventually came on a balk by Mementowski to go ahead 6-0.
With the Huskie offense taking care of its business, Feeney was cruising through the early innings in his first league start of the season. Ohio did not record its first base hit off Feeney until Krauss ripped a double off the wall with one out in the fifth.
Mementowski set the Huskies down in order for the first time in the game in the bottom half, then the Ohio offense finally got on the scoreboard against Feeney in the sixth.
Hayden Johnston (Strattanville, Pa.) doubled to start the sixth inning and moved over to third on a groundout. Jeremie Rehak (Pittsburgh, Pa.) then singled up the middle to bring home the first Bobcat tally of the day and Kirk Payne (Hilliard, Ohio) was awarded first base after being hit by a Feeney delivery. Both Rehak and Payne moved up a base on a wild pitch, and Rehak then came home on an RBI groundout from Matt Stiffler (Bellbrook, Ohio) to cut the NIU lead to 6-2.
Despite his earlier struggles, Mementowski picked up where he left off in the fifth and held the Huskies scoreless the rest of the game. He surrendered two base runners in the sixth, but retired the side in both the seventh and eighth frames to keep Ohio in the contest.
After surrendering two tallies to Ohio in the sixth, Feeney took back control of the contest and finished what he started. He allowed just one Bobcat base runner in the seventh and set the `Cats down in order in the eighth.
Feeney faced 29 batters in the game before he surrendered his first walk to lead off the ninth. After a fly-out, Ohio quickly took advantage of the mistake as Krauss ripped his second double of the day off the wall to give the Bobcats two runners in scoring position. Pinch hitter Dusty Hammond (Bellefontaine, Ohio) fanned to leave the runners on base, but Walker blooped a single to right-center to pick them up and bring the tying run to the plate. Johnston battled Feeney as he fouled off four-consecutive pitches, but the NIU hurler eventually recorded the strike out to close the book on the Ohio rally.
Schlarb (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season when he was charged with four earned runs on three hits in two innings.
The Bobcats and Huskies will contest the second game of the three-day set on Saturday. First pitch, weather permitting, is set for 2 p.m., ET. Zeke Isaacs (0-0) will take the hill for Ohio against NIU southpaw Brandon Copp (2-0).