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Aaron Harper’s Walk-Off Home Run Highlights Doubleheader Split Against Miami


DeKALB, IL – The Northern Illinois University baseball team split its doubleheader with the Miami RedHawks Sunday afternoon at Ralph McKinzie Field, winning game one 3-2 in extra innings on an Aaron Harper (Hemet, Calif./Mt. San Jacinto College) walk-off home run with Miami taking the second game 7-5.
“Aaron stepped up for us in game one,” said head coach Mike Kunigonis. “In these close games, unfortunately we’ve been one hit away and we needed someone to step up and deliver that in game two.”
NIU (5-20, 5-8 MAC) got a stellar pitching performance from starter Reagan Klawiter (Verona, Wis./Madison College). Klawiter retired the side in each of the first three innings. He got some run support from the Huskies in the bottom of the third. Andre Demetral (Rochester, Mich./Florence Darling Tech) started the threat with a one-out double, followed by an Eric Erato (Sussex, Wis./Sussex Hamilton) single. After a popout for the second out, NIU attempted a double steal. Erato took second base, with Miami catcher Cole Andrews trying to chase Demetral back to third. Andrews’ throw went into left field, allowing both runners to score to give NIU a 2-0 lead.
Klawiter was perfect on the mound for 5.1 innings before Miami got its first hit on a William Escala double in the sixth. Escala then stole third and scored on a Blake Buzzeo single, making the score 2-1. The RedHawks would get runners to second and third with two outs before Klawiter got Andrews to fly out to end the inning. Miami tied the game 2-2 in the top of the seventh. Stephen Krause led off the inning with a home run off of NIU reliever Matt Salomonson (Chicago, Ill./Notre Dame College Prep). The RedHawks got another hit in the inning on a David Novak single, but did not score. NIU put the winning run on base with a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh by Jack Blazevich (Woodridge, Ill./Downers Grove South), but were held scoreless as the game went into extra innings.
Miami (11-14, 7-7 MAC) had a chance to take the lead in the top of the ninth. Brian Zapp reached on a one-out single, then stole second base. He got to third on a ground out, but Salomonson kept him there by getting Nick Neibauer to ground out to end the threat. Harper then won the ballgame with a lead-off, walk-off home run over the left field fence to give NIU the 3-2 win.


Harper’s home run was his third of the season. Klawiter allowed just one run on three hits in six innings, striking out two with no walks. Salomonson earned his second win of the season in relief, allowing one run on three hits in three innings.


“He was awesome,” Kunigonis said of Klawiter’s performance in the opener. “Every time he takes the mound our guys feel good that he’s going to give us a go and an opportunity to win. We felt really good with him coming in today and we’ll be looking for that every time he takes the ball.”


The RedHawks jumped out to a 6-1 lead through four innings in game two, with three runs coming in the top of the second. NIU cut into the Miami advantage in the bottom of the fifth. Blazevich led off with a single, followed by Jonathan Latham (Mahomet, Ill./Danville Area CC) reaching on an error. Demetral loaded the bases with a bunt single up the third base line. A passed ball allowed everyone to advance 90 feet, with Blazevich scoring to make the score 6-2. Erato then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring home Latham and put the Huskies within three at 6-3. Miami pitcher Tyler Ronevich got out of the inning with back-to-back flyouts.


Miami tacked on a run in the top of the seventh to go up 7-3. NIU made one last bid at a comeback in the bottom of the final inning. Latham and Demetral drew back-to-back walks leading off the frame. After a flyout, Matt Barnes (Bloomington, Ill./Heartland CC) hit a single to right field to load the bases. Carlos Aranda (Santo Domingo, P.R./Ellsworth CC) drew a walk to bring in Latham and make the score 7-4. A wild pitch then allowed Demetral to score and get NIU within two at 7-5. However, the comeback would end there as Miami reliever Nick Demonica got back-to-back strikeouts to give the RedHawks a split of the doubleheader.


Barnes was 2-for-4 at the plate in the nightcap with an RBI. Relief Pitcher Sam Pederson (Verona, Wis./McHenry CC) allowed one unearned run in five innings of relief on just two hits with two strikeouts.


NIU and Miami will wrap up their series on Monday, April 4 at 12 p.m. CT at Ralph McKinzie Field.   




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