Broncos Edged by Huskies in Series Finale, 1-0
For the second straight game, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois were locked in a pitcher’s duel as Bronco freshman lefty Keegan Akin and NIU right-handed senior Alex Klonowski battled on the mound. Klonowski (3-4) hurled a complete game shutout for the Huskies, striking out eight and walking one in the win.
Akin kept Northern Illinois’ offense silent through seven innings. He allowed just three hits before giving up a leadoff single to Brian Sisler in the top of the eighth. Sisler moved to second on a sac bunt and went on to score the eventual winning run when Brandon Mallder doubled off of Bronco sophomore reliever Gabe Berman.
Akin (3-3) tossed a season-high 117 pitches and allowed just four hits, walked six and struckout three.
The Broncos had the tying run at third with one out in the bottom of the ninth but were unable to score. Senior Steve Buglione smacked a pinch hit double to right center to lead off the Bronco at bat and was pushed to third by Dan Shutes' sac bunt. Jordan Tillman couldn’t get his bat on a squeeze bunt and took a third strike looking. Vinnie Booker flew out to right field to end the game.
Western Michigan also missed a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the third. Booker, Kurt Hoekstra and Grant Miller strung together consecutive singles with one out to load the bases, however Klonowski got Andrew Sohn to hit into a 4-6-3 inning ending double play. The Broncos threatened again in the sixth and left runners at the corners.
Defensively, the Broncos turned an impressive 5-4-3 double play to end the top half of the fourth. In the seventh, catcher Brett Sunde threw out a runner attempting to steal second for the third time in the series.
Hoekstra and Miller each batted 2-for-4 and Western Michigan collected seven hits total. The Broncos record fell to 15-23 overall and 6-12 in the conference, while NIU improved to 13-29-1 and 8-10 in the MAC.
Western Michigan is on the road for a pair of midweek games, traveling to Valparaiso Tuesday and Notre Dame Wednesday. The Broncos return to Kalamazoo to host Eastern Michigan in a three-game MAC series over the weekend, May 2-4.