Redskins win rubber match against Spartans

MORRIS – Morris spared itself the drama that was prevalent in the first two games of its Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference baseball series with Sycamore, winning Friday’s rubber match, 12-1, in five innings

Game 1 of the series featured a late Morris comeback, and Game 2 a thwarted Redskins rally, but all Sycamore could do after Morris went ahead big Friday was thwart its bid for a shutout in the fifth.

“A lot of people were saying that they were the best team in the conference, and we wanted to prove that we were the best team,” Morris second baseman Matt Bernickus said. “After [Thursday], we got down early, and we knew that we needed to get up early to say that we’re out here to win.”

Morris used small ball and the long ball to score three first-inning runs. Austin Conrod walked and Matt Bernickus singled with a grounder to the shortstop on a hit-and-run. A Trevor Lines sacrifice and a Tom Cheshareck RBI groundout got one run home. Tim Smyk then plated both Bernickus and himself by hitting a home run to right field.

Conrod’s solo home run made it 4-0 Morris in the second, and the Redskins more than doubled their lead in the third, when they batted around and scored five times. Conrod hit a two-run single, Grant Schluntz, Kyle Hill and Bernickus had an RBI single each, and Cheshareck doubled and scored in the inning.

Home runs by Cheshareck and Geno Persico, the latter of which was a two-run shot, completed the Redskin scoring in the fourth.

“Hits are contagious,” Conrod said, “So once one person sees, ‘Oh, hey, it’s right down the middle,’ they’re going to [be aggressive] and the next person’s going to [be aggressive].”

Morris pitcher Cody Niewinski (3-1), held the Spartans without an earned run, with a line that included two hits and two walks over five innings. Niewinski had one strikeout, but on a day with the wind blowing out, the Spartans rarely threatened the Redskins (11-6, 3-2).

“He kept the ball down, primarily,” Morris coach Todd Kein said of Niewinski. “They’re the type of team that if you leave the ball up in the hitting zone, they’re going to make you pay more times than not. Our philosophy for the entire series is, if they’re going to hit the ball, we’re going to make them come out of their comfort zone to do it.”

The top two hitters in the Morris lineup, Conrod and Bernickus, went a combined 5 for 6 with a walk and four runs scored. Cheshareck and Persico also contributed multiple hits.

Morris will return to action today against Pontiac. Rather than a doubleheader, the Redskins will play only one game, because of prom.