Baseball pulls out 12-9 win in offensive showdown with Northern Illinois

Freshman Infielder Zach Heeke, left, welcomes back Sophomore Outfielder Daniel Robinson, middle, and Sophomore Catcher Blake Cleveland, right, on April 1 at Theunissen Stadium. Josh Barnhart | Staff Photographer

Steve Jaksa’s message was loud and clear following Friday’s 18-6 blowout defeat to Northern Illinois: Move on to the next one.

After suffering its worst loss in Mid-American Conference play this season and third loss in four games, the Central Michigan baseball coach wasn’t interested in dwelling on Friday’s outcome, but rather Saturday’s game, which he said the team “had to win”.

His players appeared to receive that message as the Chippewas looked like the team that started MAC play 8-0.

CMU jumped all over NIU pitcher Nathan Thomas with four runs in the first inning on its way to a 12-9 victory at Theunissen Stadium in game two.

Jaksa said the strong first inning set the tone early and erased any negative feelings remaining from Friday's game. 

"I think we had done that a little before hand, but that had put an exclamation point on it," he said. "You don't ever want to forget about it, but you want to prepare for the next day. We were ready to go today. We played really hard and really well."

Central Michigan improves to 24-21 on the season and 12-5 in the MAC. The Chippewas, looking for their second MAC title in three seasons, hold a three-game lead in the West Division and are two games behind Kent State for first place overall.

Sophomore Jason Sullivan and senior Robert Greenman got the scoring barrage started with a pair of two-run homers in the first inning.

Trailing 5-1 in the fourth inning, the Huskies scored three runs off two triples to make it a one-run game. However, CMU stormed back with RBI singles from sophomores Daniel Robinson and Evan Kratt in the bottom of the inning.

Robinson added RBI-doubles in the second and seventh innings to go 4-for-5 on the day with three RBIs.  

"When you come up to bat with runners in scoring position, you don't really want to do anything different. So I just tried to get up there and get on base," Robinson said. "A lot of times in baseball, less is more. I just tried to go up there and put a solid swing on it." 

Central Michigan began to create some separation in the sixth inning with an RBI-single from junior Daniel Jipping and a bases loaded walk to sophomore Dazon Cole. Freshman Zack Heeke added a sacrifice fly.

Sophomore Pat Leatherman (6-4) got the start for the Chippewas and pitched 4 2/3 innings. The Jenison native notched six strikeouts and allowed five runs on seven hits.

Leatherman was replaced by senior Jordan Grosjean who pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits on five runs. Junior Colton Bradley entered in the eighth inning and got the six-out hold.

Up Next

CMU and NIU meet for the third and final game of the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. Freshman Tyler Hankins (4-1, 4.05 ERA) will take the mound for the Chippewas. 

"We're going to have to play the same way we did today and hopefully Tyler will keep the ball down enough and make sure we get more ground balls," Jaksa said. "If that happens, it will be a good day for the Chippewas."