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Rockets sweep NIU on the road

For the IC

Published: Monday, April 23, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 16:04

The Rockets relied on quality pitching, solid defense and clutch hitting to get the sweep this weekend against Northern Illinois.

 “We had great pitching performances, we played very good defense and we were able to score some runs,” said UT head coach Cory Mee. “I’m really pleased with the way we played this weekend.”

Toledo(20-20, 9-6 MAC) opened the series with a 7-3 win over the Huskies on Friday.

Senior first baseman Mark Lapikas and senior second baseman Joe Corfman both produced three hits with Lapikas driving in two runs. Freshman third baseman Anthony Smith went 2-for-4 with two RBI.

Sophomore starter Ryan Wilkinson (5-2) was solid through seven innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with a career-high seven strikeouts.

Corfman stole two bases in the first inning, moving himself into scoring position. Senior center fielder Ben Hammer took advantage with a sacrifice fly, giving UT an early one-run advantage.

Northern Illinois countered in the bottom half of the inning, tying the score with a two-out, RBI triple from Troy White.

The Rockets scored another run in the second with an RBI double from Smith, but NIU answered again to tie the game.

The Huskies took a one-run lead in the third but Wilkinson soon shut the door, allowing only two hits for the next four innings.

Toledotook the lead back in the eighth with RBI singles from Smith and Lapikas. The Rockets added some insurance in the ninth inning, scoring three more runs.

Senior pitcher Lincoln Rassi came on in relief, dominating with five strikeouts in two innings of work to earn his second save of the season.

The Rockets pitching was strong again on Saturday’s 5-1 victory with senior Matt Kuna earning his fourth win of the year.

Kuna was impressive, pitching through 8.1 innings and allowing only one unearned run on five hits and a career-high seven strikeouts.

Freshman left fielder Dan Zuchowski led Toledo offensively with a season-high four hits along with three RBI.

A pair of RBI singles from Zuchowski and junior right fielder Andy Mix gave the Rockets a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

Zuchowski struck again in the fourth with a two out, two-run triple down the right field line, extending UT’s lead to four.

Toledo tacked on one more run in the sixth on an RBI single from Corfman.

Toledo did not score again, but solid pitching from Kuna and senior Tyler Scott limited the Huskies to one run in the final inning.

Scott earned his first save of the season, setting down the final two NIU hitters to close out the game.

Toledo needed 10 innings on Sunday, but pulled out the 4-3 win due to solid pitching and timely hitting.

Zuchowski led the Rockets again, going 4-for-4 with two RBI. Hammer also contributed with two hits, as well as the game winning RBI.

Junior starter Mike Hamann pitched well through seven innings, surrendering one earned run on four hits with five strikeouts. Hamann was also the third-straight Toledo starter to pitch at least seven innings in the series.

“We had three really solid pitching performances,” Mee said. “That was a really big key for us this weekend.”

UT took a two-run lead when Zuchowski homered in the third inning. A sacrifice fly from freshman shortstop Nate Langhals in the fifth pushed the Rockets lead to three.

Northern Illinois answered in back-to-back innings to tie the game.

The Huskies threatened again, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but Rassi came on in relief to successfully work out of the jam.

Toledo took the lead in the 10th on a squeeze play by Hammer to score Corfman.

“We executed the safety squeeze perfectly,” Mee said. “Ben laid down a good bunt, Joe got a great read on it and was able to score the winning run.”

 Another solid performance from Rassi sealed the game, giving him his first win of the season.

The Rockets return to the diamond April 24 when they visit Youngstown State. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

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