Baseball gives up share of MAC West lead, loses 4-1 at NIU

Frustrating would be an understatement on Friday.

The Central Michigan baseball team could only manufacture one run on six hits and dropped out of first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division in a 4-1 loss against Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Ill.

Senior right-hander Jesse Hernandez (6-2) took the loss, his first in conference play, after allowing three runs on six hits in 7 2/3 innings pitched.

“Jesse pitched very, very well,” said coach Steve Jaksa. “They got two 2-out hits with guys in scoring position that were big. I thought one was a good pitch and another just a fluke hit.”

CMU (23-16, 11-5 MAC) threatened in the first inning but left runners on base without scoring. Senior Billy Anderson led off with a double and sophomore Nate Theunissen walked, setting up runners on the corners, but senior James Teas flew out to end the scoring opportunity.

Northern Illinois rallied with two outs in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead. After Hernandez got a pair of quick outs, two singles and a wild pitch put NIU runners in scoring position for right fielder Jake Hermsen, who singled and put the Huskies on the board.

The Chippewas had another opportunity to score in the third following a single by junior Matt Faiman (2-for-5, run scored) and Theunissen’s second walk. But, just like in the first, Teas concluded CMU’s charge by hitting into a fielder’s choice.

“We were disappointed in the final result but, reflecting on the game, we made very minimal mistakes,” Jaksa said. “I thought we hit the ball hard – we just hit it at people. We hit five liners and didn’t get anything for it.”

An RBI single by Theunissen (2-for-2) in the eighth inning scored Faiman, who doubled to left center to lead off the inning, and put CMU on the board. A ground out and wild pitch moved Theunissen to third base with two outs, but pinch-hitter Tyler Kipkee grounded out to first.

NIU (17-24, 7-9 MAC) added two more runs in the eighth to extend its lead to 4-1.

“I give the guys credit because they just kept doing it (hitting the ball hard),” Jaksa said. “At the end of the day, when we look back, that’s when the frustration bothers you. During the game, each guy is just trying to do the best job they can.”

Ball State took sole possession of first in the MAC West Friday with a 13-12 comeback win against Eastern Michigan.

Both teams play the second game of the series at 2 p.m. today.

“We have to make sure we put this one behind us and not get frustrated by it,” Jaksa said. “It would be nice to go out there and get runs and find some open areas but, at the same time, we have to stay with it. We still got some games to play – we got to keep fighting.”