EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - For the second straight day and the third time in four games, the University of Evansville baseball team was able to mount a multiple-run comeback, this time rallying from a five-run deficit to win 8-6 over NIU on Sunday at Charles H. Braun Stadium.
"NIU came out swinging today, and a couple of mental mistakes in the field cost us early," UE head coach Wes Carroll said. "I challenged the team over the last seven innings, and we started clicking. Austin started getting ahead in counts, and then we got that big inning."
The Aces (6-4) have now won five consecutive games, and with three wins over NIU, the team locked up its first series sweep of the year. NIU, on the other hand, dropped to 1-10 on the season.
Things seemed to start off well enough for the visitors out of DeKalb, Ill., as an error and hits from Justin Fletcher, Brad Wood and Tommy Hook spotted the Huskies a first-inning 2-0 lead. A Brian Sisler double and a Johnny Zubek bunt single drove in three more as the game moved into the third inning with the Aces trailing 5-0.
However, Aces starting pitcher Austin Allinger (2-0) would begin to find his rhythm in the ensuing frames, leaving the mound in the eighth after allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits while striking out six.
UE would get on the board for the first time in the bottom of the third with a Trey Hair double, but the big rally would have to remain on hold until the sixth. Consecutive singles from Hair, Showers and Jyawook plated the first run and a Jonathan Ramon sacrifice fly brought another home to make it 5-3. After giving up a single to Korbin Williams and then hitting Eric McKibban, NIU's Ryan Olson was pulled from the mound, but it would only get worse for the Huskies from there as Stewart Nelson sent a 3-1 pitch from Matthew Hoffman over the fence in left field for a grand slam.
"I felt that with the way things were going, the pressure was more on them than it was on me," Nelson said. "I got into a 3-1 count, and that's a good hitting count with the bases loaded, and I was able to drive it. It felt pretty good coming off the bat, but I didn't know it would be gone. We're just finding a way to win right now, and that's a good thing to see this early in the season."
It was the first home run of Nelson's career, and it gave UE a 7-5 lead.
After NIU reclaimed a score in the eighth, Hair singled home another to maintain the two-run cushion, and Ryan Brady picked up the save after recording the final four outs of the ball game.
Hair finished the day with three hits and a pair of runs batted in, and both Showers and Williams also enjoyed two-hit days as the Aces out-hit the Huskies 12-9.
The Aces will return to action with a trip to UT Martin on Tuesday.
NOTES: The Aces have now won five consecutive games for the first time since a streak from April 26 – May 2 last season … UE is off to a 6-4 start for the second year in a row … Since 1978, the Aces have posted a 7-1 record against Northern Illinois … This weekend will mark the second time that the Aces have opened the home schedule with a three-game series vs. NIU … UE swept past the Huskies Feb. 24-25 in 1996 … Overall, the Aces are 220-196 against teams that hail from the state of Illinois.