Northern Illinois catcher Nate Ruzich (Joliet, Ill./South Suburban College) was named the Mid-American Conference's West Division Player of the Week in the conference's final weekly award. Ruzich earned his first career honor with strong play behind the dish and at the plate. The award is the Huskies second player of the week award this season and sixth overall including pitcher of the week.
The junior finished 5-for-12 (.417) with four RBI, two runs, three walks and a hit by pitch at the plate last week for a .529 on-base percentage. His biggest contribution for the Huskies last week was his play behind the dish, leading, controlling and setting a tone for the Huskies defensively at Ball State last Saturday.
Though he had four putouts in Satuday's MAC West Divisional Championship victory against the Cardinals, Ruzich had two crucial putouts at home plate - making the out on a suicide squeeze bunt, which turned into a 3-2-1-3 double play and another on a single to centerfield as Jamison Wells threw the runner out as Ruzich blocked the plate to tag the runner out. Both runs would have tied the game.
The player of the week award is Northern Illinois' first since Alex Klonowski earned the distinction April 1 en route to the Huskies sweeping the weekly award as Eli Anderson earned pitcher of the week as well.
With the win last Saturday, NIU won its first ever Mid-American Conference West Division Championship and the first regular season championship of any kind since 1972.
Ruzich and the Huskies will open the Mid-American Conference Tournament Wednesday May 22 against No. 6 seed Bowling Green, with first pitched slated for 11:30 a.m. Central time. Northern Illinois is the tournament's No. 3 seed, the highest-ever seeding for the Huskies in the MAC Tournament.
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