MOUNT PLEASANT - Zach Cooper and Mike Nixon combined on a three-hitter to lead Central Michigan to a 3-1 win over Northern Illinois at Theunissen Stadium on Saturday.
Cooper worked seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits to improve to 3-3 on the season. He struck out eight and walked two. Nixon entered the game to open the eighth inning and needed just 21 pitches to retire each of the six batters he faced.
"He gave us his all, and that's all we asked him to do," said CMU head coach Steve Jaksa of Cooper. "It was just an outstanding performance. We couldn't have asked him to do anything other than what he did."
The win was CMU's fifth in its last six games and keeps the Chippewas (23-20, 11-6 Mid-American Conference) atop the MAC West Division standings. NIU falls to 20-20 overall, 10-7 in the MAC.
Cooper retired 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but the CMU offense was not able to touch NIU starter Tom Barry until the bottom half of the sixth. With two outs and runners on the corners, Tom Howard lined a triple over the head of NIU rightfielder Tom Kotis. Howard's first career three-bagger scored Jordan Adams and Jordan Dean.
NIU got one run back in the seventh on an RBI single by Jordan Rishavy, but CMU plated an insurance run in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly by Dean. Nixon took over from there, setting the Huskies down in order in the eighth and ninth frames.
"We weren't sure, since he threw 38 pitches yesterday, where he would be today," Jaksa said of Nixon, "and he was outstanding. He hit his spots really well, he threw his breaking ball for strikes again, and he didn't throw many balls. We're very pleased with where he is at."
Dean, Tyler Hall and William Arnold all had a pair of hits to lead the CMU offense. Three different players had one base hit apiece to account for all of NIU's offense.
CMU tries for its second weekend sweep of the season on Sunday. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.