DeKALB – It was the best pitch Dave Reynolds saw all game. In all actuality, it was the best pitch he saw all weekend.
Even though he couldn’t believe his eyes, Reynolds stayed poised and laced a center-cut, 1-0 fastball into the gap in right field to give the Northern Illinois baseball team a 5-4 last inning-warps win to complete a Mid American Conference season-opening sweep of Buffalo on Sunday at Ralph McKinzie Field.
“I was shocked because they were pitching me away all series,” Reynolds said. “I was looking away and just reacted in. I’m glad I took advantage of the best pitch I saw all series.”
The Huskies improved to 15-0 all time against the Bulls and rode the left arm of Reynolds, who has been pushed into the role of Sunday starter because of injuries, for 5 1⁄3 innings before using his clutch hitting in thebottom of the ninth.
Though most pitchers don’t expend energy hitting and running the bases, the multi-talented Reynolds (2-for-5, one RBI) said he’ll play whenever and wherever NIU coach Ed Mathey pencils him in the lineup.
“It’s tough because you do get mentally drained,” Reynolds said about his dual roles. “You’ve just got to stay focused through all nine innings.”
Reynolds’ heroics made a winner out of closer Tom Zelasko (2-1). Zach Anderson (2-3) picked up the loss for the Bulls (8-12, 0-3).
Because they were facing a sweep, Mathey said he knew the Bulls would come out with a sense of urgency on getaway day. The Bulls promptly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second.
“Teams come out to play on Sundays,” said Mathey who ran his personal record to 7-0 against the Bulls. “I asked our team to think about how they would play if we were down 0-2. We would be scratching and clawing. They jumped out early and it was good for us to stem the tide and get things going.”
The Huskies’ dugout got going when Bulls’ catcher Devin Greeno was called safe by home plate umpire Paul Cusack. Huskies’ catcher Matt Behren emphatically pointed to the plate to demonstrate how he blocked Greeno’s path and Mathey sauntered out for clarification.
The controversial call seemed to energize the Huskies (8-12, 3-0) dugout. When the NIU defense ended the third and fourth innings with 6-4-3 double plays, the momentum had started to shift.
“Plays like that jump start the bench and get the bats going,” NIU shortstop Alex Jones said. “Every time we roll a double play the excitement level goes up and everyone gets into the game.”
In the bottom of the fifth Jones (2-for-4, 1 run, 1 RBI) sliced an RBI double into left field to tie the score at 3-3, but an error on the relay throw by Buffalo shortstop Jacob Rosenbeck scored NIU first baseman Joe Etcheverry (2 runs). The Bulls committed all three of their errors in the sixth inning.
“The ball looks huge for me right now,” Jones said. “It was an outside pitch that I just went with. After the first two days we reallywanted to come out and get the sweep.”