NIU Tops No. 16 Stetson

Updated 3/15/2001
DeLAND, FL - Rightfielder Noel Danielson singled home Pat Kerrigan in the top of the tenth inning to give the Northern Illinois University baseball team perhaps the biggest victory in school history as the Huskies defeated Stetson University 3-2 on Wednesday (March 14). The Hatters are currently ranked 16th by Collegiate Baseball.

The win is Northern Illinois' first over a ranked opponent since the school brought the sport back in 1991 and improves the Huskies' record to 6-4 on the season. The loss drops Stetson to 17-3 and snaps the Hatters' six-game winning streak. Earlier in the day the Huskies defeated St. Xavier University 8-7 in 11 innings to give head coach Dave Schrage his 300th career victory.

"It's a great team win," Schrage said of the Stetson victory. "So many guys contributed to this victory. There are a lot of things aren't going show up on the box score. Our guys showed a lot of courage and they weren't intimidated.

"This is the kind of game that builds a program. We want recruits to stand up and take notice that we beat the No. 16 team in the country. With wins like this, people are going to take notice that our program is on the way up."

The Hatters had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. After Vinnie Rinaldi lead off with a doubled to left center, Brian Snyder sent a base hit to centerfield. Kerrigan (Burr Ridge / Darien Hinsdale South) came up firing as third baseman Kyle Kimme (Mahomet / Mahomet-Seymour) relayed the throw to catcher Al Ryniec (Glen Ellyn / Glenbard South) who tagged out Rinaldi. Then Bryan Zenchyk lined out to Jason Ciarrachi (Lombard / Montini), who the flipped the ball to Brent Coyner (Naperville / Central) to double up Snyder and end the inning.

With one out in the top tenth, Kerrigan walked then advanced the second as Stetson pitcher Steve Parker could only go to first to get Coyner out on the high chopper. That brought up Danielson (Butterfield / Butterfield-Odin) as he singled to right field to score Kerrigan with the winning run.

"This gives our team an incredible amount of confidence," Schrage said. "To do what we did today just gives us a tremendous amount of belief in ourselves in that we believe we can beat anybody. This is something that our kids will never forget and it gives us a tremendous boost as a program."

Stetson got on the board first, touching up Northern Illinois starting pitcher Stephen Ayres (Roselle / Lake Park) for a run in the bottom of the third inning. The lefty walked Lee Badgley with the bases loaded for the first run, but kept his composure to get Zenchyk to pop up and end the inning. The sophomore worked seven innings, the longest outing of his NIU career, giving up only two runs, one earned, on six hits with five strikeouts.

"A lot of the credit has to go to Stephen Ayres," Schrage added. "There's no question this is the best I've seen him pitch. He was outstanding. He had his change-up and curve ball working for strikes and he kept them off balance."

NIU broke through on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning. Ryniec started the frame with a walk, then moved up to second on a passed ball. Two outs later Kimme reached on an error by the shortstop that allowed Ryniec to come around and score. The Huskies took a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning as Danielson scored on a pinch-hit RBI single by Dan Urban (Matteson / Richton Park Rich South). With runners on second and third and no outs NIU could not push any more runs across as Stetson had to bring in Preseason First Team All-American Lenny DiNardo to finish the inning.

The Hatters were on the verge of taking the lead in the eighth as they had runners on first and second with one out when Jeff Christy was intentionally walked to load the bases. Reliever Brian Miller (LeMars, IA) then got Chris Westervelt to strike out and leftfielder Frank Corr to pop-out to Ciarrachi to end the inning. The Collegiate Baseball First-Team Preseason All-America outfielder went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

The Stetson victory was Miller's second in less than six hours as earlier in the day he pitched the 11th inning of the Huskies' 8-7 victory over St. Xavier to snap their three-game losing streak.

"I'm really happy with how we bounced back after Sunday's tough loss," Schrage noted. "We had a couple of days off, but today we showed a tremendous amount of courage in winning both games."