DeKALB – Northern Illinois and Ball State went into extra innings Thursday afternoon with Mid-American Conference Tournament implications on the line. BSU scored one run in the top of the 10th to defeat the Huskies, 11-10. Freshman Ben Neumann pitched 5 1/3 relief innings on the mound, surrendering three hits, zero walks and striking out a career-high nine batters.
“Ben had a great outing for us today, they got to Rock (Taylor Nawrocki) early and we had to make a change,” NIU coach Ed Mathey said. “I was hoping to get an inning or two out of Ben, because we haven’t really stretched him much and he just kept getting outs. We had a chance to close it out today in the ninth but we got a couple of bad bounces. We did a good job of battling back but we have to give credit to Ball State, they played a heck of a game.”
Ball State scored four runs in the top of the first on a grand slam by pitch T.J. Weir and scored another three runs in the top of the second to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead early in the game. The Huskies bounced back with one in the bottom of the second and added two in the bottom of the third on a bases loaded fielder’s choice by Brett Frantini and a single by Connor Schomig to bring NIU to within four, 7-3.
With Neumann dealing strikes and delivering outs from the mound, the Huskies were able to go on the offensive in the bottom of the sixth to tie it up, 7-7. Alex Jones doubled to score Schomig from third and advance Alex Beckmann into scoring position. Troy White tripled to drive in both runners and scored on the next at-bat when Alex Klonowski hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
The Huskies took an 8-7 lead in the seventh on Chris Divarco’s solo homerun, the first of his career, over the left center field fence. NIU held the Cardinals at bay until the top of the ninth, when they rattled off five hits and scored three runs to recapture the lead, 10-8.
Jordan Huffman leadoff the ninth with a single and Divarco delivered again, this time with a single to advance Huffman to second. Kevin Sweeney pinch ran for Divarco and advanced 90 feet twice with Huffman on a pair of passed balls to bring the score to 10-9. With the bases loaded after Frantini was hit by a pitch, Jamison Wells drove in Sweeney on a fielder’s choice to tie the game, 10-10.
BSU captured the final lead of the game when Sean Godfrey singled to left field to score Kevin Franchetti. The Huskies went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th and fell, 11-10. Neumann hurled career-highs in innings pitched (5.1) and strikeouts (nine). White finished 3 for 6 with a triple, two RBIs and two runs.
The Huskies (15-38, 7-18 MAC) and the Cardinals (12-36, 7-18 MAC) will continue the series tomorrow afternoon at Ralph McKinzie Field, with first pitch taking place at 3:05 p.m. With the loss, NIU was eliminated from MAC Tournament contention.