CMU baseball falls to Northern Illinois in weekend series

Central Michigan's junior infielder Elijah Henning throws the ball to first base during a game against Northern Illinois on Saturday, April 27 in Keilitz Field at Theunissen Stadium. Henning got the out. (Marie Underwood | CM-Life)

CMU baseball took on the Northern Illinois Huskies in a three-game Mid-American Conference series this past weekend.

After falling in games one and two, the Chippewas were able to bounce back in game three with a dominant pitching performance.

CMU is now 15-29 on the season along with being 6-15 in MAC play.

Game 1

The first game was a close low-scoring game. The Huskies got on the board first off of a double play after a scoreless first inning.

Four more scoreless innings passed until the Chippewas tied the game at one off of an RBI ground out from senior catcher Nick Dardas.

Going into the eighth inning knotted up at one, NIU scored off an RBI single to take a 2-1 lead.

That was the final score as the ninth inning went scoreless.

Game 2

CMU found itself down early in game two as back-to-back hits to lead off the game gave NIU a 1-0 lead in the first.

NIU would strike again in the fourth with its biggest inning of the game as the Huskies were able to score four runs in the innings, stringing together five hits.

Three innings later and NIU’s foot was back on the pedal, as a few mistakes by CMU allowed Husky batters into scoring position. NIU capitalized on the mistakes and added three more runs in the inning bringing the score to 8-0.

CMU was finally able to get on the board in the eighth when a single by freshman second baseman Drew Loikits brought in junior shortstop Elijah Henning. Senior outfielder Jacob Donahue drove in another run in the next at-bat.

“I don't know where we were for the first seven innings,” head coach Jake Sabol said. “We hit a few balls hard and had some hard outs, but at the end of the day we got to make something happen.”

The Chippewas were able to score two more runs in the inning cutting the NIU lead in half and making the score 8-4.

Northern Illinois was able to get one back in the ninth, but CMU’s bats stayed hot as the Chippewas were able to score two more runs in the inning. But it was too little too late as the game ended 9-6.

Game 3

CMU entered Sunday’s game looking to not get swept for its second straight Mid-American Conference series.

The Chippewas were able to carry over some momentum from the final two innings on Saturday into Sunday as with two outs were able to score two runs off the bats of seniors Ely Stuart and Danny Wuestenfeld.

“Yesterday I talked about trying to build off the eighth and ninth (innings),” Sabol said. “Having that (game two’s final innings) almost be like the first inning of today and I told those guys, I just said Hey, let's act like we just did that and let's go out there and do it again.”

But that was all the offense CMU would get for the remainder of the game, but it wouldn’t matter as senior right-handed pitcher Keegan Batka had his best start of his collegiate career. 

Batka threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 14 batters and only allowing six baserunners in the game.

Batka who has experienced some setbacks has struggled in times throughout the season, this game was especially important for him as he was pitching for a grandparent who passed away this week.

“I’ve been battling a little arm problem all year,” Batka said. “We started getting that managed a little bit in the past few weeks and now it's just one of my grandparents passed away this past week and just came out, did that for her.”

The arm problem became a factor in this one as in the fifth inning Batka informed coaches that he was feeling tight and that he didn’t know how much longer he had in him.

“He came to us in the end of the fifth or sixth and said, hey my lat is flaring up like we gotta get somebody going just in case,” Sabol said. “He had a quick ending, he looked over and said one more, one more and then it just kept being one more, one more, one more (inning).”

As his pitch count rose Batka kept coming out and after striking out the first two batters in the ninth, it looked like he was rolling, that was until he hit the next batter and head coach Jake Sabol started towards the mound. 

After a quick conversation Sabol headed back into the dugout and on the next pitch the batter flew out to deep center field, as Batka’s teammates celebrated his shutout.

“He (Coach Sabol) came out and made sure everything was ok and calmed me down,” Batka said. “He asked me if I want the ball and I was like 'hell yeah, give me that thing.' I’ve never had a complete game in college, and I wanted to finish it out.”

CMU will look to use the win as momentum, as it hosts Akron in a three game series starting on Friday at 3 p.m.