March 25, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio -
Despite frigid temperatures, the Ohio and Northern Illinois baseball squads were able to get in two nine-inning games Saturday at Bob Wren Stadium and managed to split the doubleheader as the Bobcats took the first game 8-6 and the Huskies earned a 14-10 decision in the second.
The two teams combined for 57 hits and 12 errors on the day as the temperatures, which hovered between the lower 40s and upper 30s, were neither kind to the pitchers, nor the fielders.
"I know the temperature had a lot to do with the defensive play today," Ohio Head Coach Joe Carbone said. "Guys are standing out there and they can't stay loose and they can't stay warm, then their arms get stiff. It was perseverance by both teams to get out here and play."
The start of the first game was delayed by half an hour because of rain in the area, but that didn't distract the Ohio hitters from being focused from the start as they scored in each of the first three innings. The Bobcats then weathered an NIU rally and tacked on a couple more runs late to earn the 8-6 victory.
The Bobcats were able to put up a three-spot in their first at-bat for the third-straight game. Matt Stiffler led off the inning with an infield single to short and moved on to second base after the NIU shortstop threw wide at first trying to make the play. After an infield pop-out, Anthony Gressick singled to center and scored Stiffler. Brandon Besl then singled to right and Dusty Hammond followed with a sharp liner to left to plate Gressick. Two batters later Willie Walker registered Ohio's fifth base-knock of the frame to send Besl home for a 3-0 Bobcat advantage.
The Bobcats were able to tack on another run in the bottom of the second inning to take a 4-0 lead. Stiffler registered a one-out single, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a single through the left side by Hayden Johnston.
After working relatively smooth first and second innings on the hill for Ohio, starter Derek Witt got in major trouble in the third, all after getting two outs. The Huskies sent 10 batters total to the plate in the frame and recorded five hits with the big knock being a three-run shot by Jesse Seykora to tie the game at 4-4. NIU took the lead for the first time in the game with its fifth tally as Matt Behren singled home a runner from third to make it 5-4 in the Huskies favor.
The Huskie lead was short-lived, however, as Ohio was able to draw even in the home half of the third. Hammond doubled to right center to lead off and scored one batter later as Kirk Payne singled up the middle to make it 5-5. That was all the Bobcats could muster in the inning though, as the next three were retired in order.
Both starters settled in for the middle innings as neither team was able to get back on the scoreboard until NIU broke through in the top of the seventh.
The Bobcats once again answered right back to tie things up after the seventh-inning stretch. Gressick took the second offering from NIU hurler Nick Hall over the wall down the left field line for a no-doubt-homer and a 6-6 game.
After Adam Goodpasture came on in relief of Witt in the seventh and got the Bobcats out of a jam, he got in one in himself in the eighth. The first two batters of the inning reached on the freshman southpaw and Carbone called on Yale Silverman from the bullpen. As sacrifice bunt moved the runners up and Silverman intentionally loaded the bases with a walk. He then struck out NIU's Brian Toner to end the threat and keep the game tied a 6-6.
Walker got things going for the Bobcats in the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff double to left center. Jason Selhorst then followed with a tricky single up the middle that hopped over both the NIU pitcher's and shortstop's gloves and into center to plate Walker for a 7-6 lead. That would be all the Bobcats would need, but they tacked on one more in the inning when a wild pitch scored Selhorst from third to close out the scoring, 8-6.
Silverman walked the NIU leadoff batter to start the ninth, then hit a batter with one out and got the hook. Chris Rigo came on for the Bobcats and was able to retire the next two Huskies for his second save of the year.
Silverman (1-0) earned the victory in relief for Ohio. He didn't allow a run or a hit in seven batters faced.
Witt surrendered six earned runs on 14 hits in 6 2-3 innings of work with three strikeouts and no walks.
Derek (Witt) is a quality college pitcher," Carbone said. "He goes out, he battles and he competes, so he gave us a chance to win, which we were fortunate to do."
Stiffler and Hammond each finished 3-for-4 at the dish for Ohio while Gressick registered two RBIs.
Brandon Copp (0-2) took the loss in relief for NIU while the starter Hall got a no-decision after giving up six earned runs on 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Scott Simon finished 4-for-4 at the plate for the Huskies.
The Huskies were able to overcome six errors in the field by pounding Ohio pitching for a season-high 19 hits and 14 runs to take the nightcap 14-10.
The runs came early and often for the visiting Huskies as they built a 10-2 lead after two innings. NIU battered Bobcat hurler Matt Schlarb in his first career start and didn't ease up on Andrew Shisila, Ohio's first reliever of the game. The Huskies plated four runs on Schlarb before he could record the second out of the game and the first batter Shisila faced, Justin Behm, jacked a three-run homer over the left field wall for an immediate 7-0 Ohio deficit.
Ohio was able to get two of those runs back in its first at-bat thanks to two NIU errors. Stiffler led off and reached on an error, then was out at second on a fielder's choice. With Johnston now on, Gressick doubled to give Ohio two runners in scoring position with just one out. Then, with Besl at the plate, the Huskie catcher attempted to pick off Gressick at second but no one covered the bag and both runners came home to cut the deficit to 7-2.
The Huskies picked up right where they left off in the first on Shisila with three-straight singles in their next at-bat, which spelled the end for his day. With Zeke Isaacs now on for Ohio, the junior reliever fielded a come-backer in his first batter faced and threw home for the force, but the throw sailed over the catcher's head and two runs came home. The Huskies plated their 10th run of the day two batters later on a sacrifice fly.
NIU added a pair in the fourth and a single tally in the fifth to storm ahead 13-2 before the Bobcats began to chip away at the lead as they scored three times in both the fifth and sixth frames.
Jon Vondrell got a pinch-hit two-run home run to get things going in the fifth. After J.T. Osburn recorded his first hit as a Bobcat on a pinch-hit, Johnston and Gressick reached on back-to-back errors by NIU third baseman Seykora, the second of which scored Osburn to make it 13-5.
Hammond and Payne started the sixth with singles then moved up on a groundout. Hammond then scored on a groundout and Payne came home on a Vondrell double. Osburn closed out the scoring in the inning with a single to center to plate Vondrell and make it 13-8.
NIU scored its 14th run of the game in the seventh and Ohio tacked on two more in the home half of the eighth, but it was too little, too late as the Bobcats dropped the nightcap 14-10.
The 14 runs and 19 hits were the most Ohio has surrendered in a game this year.
Schlarb (0-2) took the loss for Ohio after he allowed five earned runs in 1-3 of an inning.
Isaacs and Dan Weiss each pitched four innings and allowed four runs - two earned - on 11 hits.
Vondrell finished 2-for-3 off the bench and drove home four runs for the Bobcats.
NIU starter Brian Smith (2-4) earned the victory after he allowed eight runs - five earned - on eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Simon and Toner each finished 4-for-6 at the plate for the Huskies.
"We battled, but clearly Northern Illinois was the better team in the second game," Carbone said. "We've got to give their pitcher (Smith) credit. I thought he did an outstanding job of getting his breaking ball over for a strike and he had us off balance all night."
The Bobcats and Huskies will conclude the three-game series with the rubber game tomorrow afternoon in Bob Wren Stadium. John Angelicchi (0-2) will take the hill for Ohio against NIU's Trevor Feeney (1-0) and first pitch is set for 1 p.m.