LOVES PARK – For the Northern Illinois baseball team, this has become a familiar scenario throughout the season.
The Huskies get some hits and scratch off a few runs, usually led by Jordin Hood. But the pitching and defense are two steps behind the hitting and the Huskies lose.
Such was the case at Road Ranger Stadium, home of the Rockford RiverHawks of the Frontier League, on Tuesday when NIU lost, 7-6, to Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Hood popped two home runs, almost to the same spot over the fence in left field. Hood's first homer came in the sixth and scored three runs to cut the Panthers lead to 4-3 and his second was a two-run shot that gave the Huskies (17-33) a 6-5 lead in the seventh.
"Personally it's definitely a confidence booster," said Hood, who had five RBIs. "Lately, I've been struggling but I saw the ball a little bit better tonight."
The Panthers (23-25) came right back in the top of the eighth to take the lead for good.
After a leadoff double by Tim Patzman, who went 5-for-5, and a walk of Shawn Wozniak by Zach Oates (0-4), pinch-hitter Paul Hoenecke hit an RBI double to tie the game at six.
NIU gave up the eventual winning run on a passed ball by catcher Justin Behm.
"Those are just things that have haunted our club for the whole year," Mathey said. "Tonight was pretty symptomatic of that."
NIU starter Jake Hermsen didn't get off to a good beginning, walking the first two hitters and allowing a run in the first. The Panthers added another run on an RBI single by Josh Groves in the third.
UW-Milwaukee took a 3-0 lead in the fourth on an RBI single by Wozniak. Hermsen walked the first batter of the fifth and was replaced for Tom Barry.
"They came out swinging the bats pretty well," Mathey said. "Even though Jake Hermsen was behind guys, he did limit damage. There were a couple of innings where he made some plays when he needed to. But unfortunately we didn't do enough of them. That's kind of the story of the season."
The Huskies finish the regular season on Thursday at Western Michigan for a three-game set. The first game will start at 2 p.m. NIU will have to sweep the Broncos and hope that Akron gets swept on the road by Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan gets swept at home by Central Michigan in order for the Huskies to reach the MAC Tournament.
Asked what it would take to pull off that sequence of events, Mathey offered one answer.
"Well, the Kentucky Derby winner [Mine That Bird] came in at 50-1," Mathey said. "Things do happen. We're still in the race. We talked with our guys and last week we were in a situation where things were in our control and now we need some help."