19 and Counting: Early Onslaught and Schlittler Shutdown Defeat Delaware

By Milton Posner

NEWARK, DE — You ever looked at a playoff probability chart for a presumed title contender at the start of a season? The one that tells you they have a 95 percent chance of making the playoffs, then skyrockets to 99-point-whatever percent within two weeks as it becomes clear that the team isn’t going to blow it?

Friday afternoon’s baseball game between the Northeastern Huskies (29–6, 17–0 CAA) and the Delaware Blue Hens (10–21, 6–15 CAA) was that phenomenon in miniature. The Huskies pounced quickly, forcefully, and decisively, posting six runs in the first three innings and riding Cam Schlittler’s arm to an 8–1 win.

It was their 19th consecutive win, still the longest active streak in college baseball. A sweep in tomorrow’s doubleheader — which WRBB will broadcast live — will snap the 30-year-old team record in that category.

They wasted no time on Friday. Scott Holzwasser kickstarted the offense in the first inning with a clean single up the middle, adding to his growing footprint in the Northeastern record books.

Up next was Jared Dupere, who entered the game outslugging the rest of the conference by such a wide margin that the league will probably start forcing him to swing a toothpick instead of a bat. The Delaware outfield shifted rightward before Dupere smacked a ringing double right where the centerfielder would normally be positioned.

This plated Holzwasser for the game’s first run, but it also served as the opening salvo in one of the strangest storylines of the season. More on that lower down.

After giving up one run in the first inning, Delaware starter Chris Ludman gave up two in the second. He didn’t pitch poorly, but a hit-by-pitch to Ben Malgeri, a well-placed grounder from Teddy Beaudet, and a Spenser Smith infield single notched another run. Jeff Costello’s warning-track RBI sac fly, despite being the only hard-hit ball of the inning, was an out.

One run in the first, two runs in the second, you know where this is going. The Huskies’ third-inning three spot consisted almost exclusively of hard-hit balls. Dupere’s deep flyout to left wasn’t remarkable in itself, but the fear factor he brought with him to the plate was obvious.

“I have not seen that scenario before. I have not seen four guys in the outfield against us,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “I actually like it in that scenario; there’s zero chance I’m going to bunt him, especially in this park. This park is completely different from ours. The ball flies out of here, the turf is fast, so they know we’re not going to bunt.”

The flyout ultimately made the shift irrelevant, but whatever, right? Delaware got their man. Only thing to do is move on to the next hitter, who hopefully won’t . . . 

Oops.

Oh, and Ludman also yielded a double to Danny Crossen in the next at-bat. But fair enough; Crossen entered the game with a CAA-best .398 batting average. And Ludman got the second out when Malgeri flew out. All he had to do was retire Ian Fair, who has underperformed expectations after being named the CAA Preseason . . . 

Yeah, there’s really nowhere safe to land in this Husky order. Their number seven hitter was predicted to be the best player in the conference this year, but arguably has been the eighth or ninth best hitter on his own team. God help the rest of the conference if he returns to peak form.

“It was good to see the longball,” Glavine said. “It’s a great hitters’ park and I expect to see a bunch more home runs this weekend.”

Unfortunately for anyone hoping Northeastern would continue their 1-2-3 pattern and score 45 runs on the afternoon, the Huskies did not score four runs in the fourth. They did score one in bizarre fashion, however, first loading the bases without a hit — error, error, intentional walk — then cashing in on . . . deep breath . . . a 5-4-3-2 fielder’s choice double play.

Credit Blue Hen first baseman Joseph Carpenter for being alert and smooth enough to gun down Holzwasser, or things could have gotten even further out of hand.

But the fielding prowess wouldn’t hang around for long, as Malgeri followed his one-out, fifth-inning double with a steal of third before an errant throw from catcher Jack Goan sent him home.

The Husky offense faltered from there, failing to score in the final four innings and allowing Ludman to finish on a high note. Glavine cited a lack of focus and the removal of the team’s collective foot from the gas pedal, but noted that “fortunately we had Schlittler on the mound dominating.”

Schlittler scattered eight hits across eight scoreless innings. And I do mean scattered; half of Delaware’s hits were doubles, they constantly had runners in scoring position, and yet Schlittler stranded them all, closing six different innings with a strikeout.

“He just pounded the strike zone. I thought he was very efficient,” Glavine said. “They weren’t swinging as well as they [usually] do, he was in attack mode, so there were a lot of quicker outs.”

Glavine wasn’t kidding. Of the 24 outs Schlittler recorded, 10 were strikeouts, six came on the first pitch of the at-bat, and three came on the second. Two weeks before, Glavine admitted that he regretted leaving Schlittler out there for an eighth inning in which he hit two batters, saying he shouldn’t have taken the energetic freshman’s word for it that he was still good to go. But today?

“I asked him after the seventh inning — I think he was at 94 pitches — how he felt, and his response was, ‘this is the best I’ve felt in a month,’” Glavine recalled. “It wasn’t, ‘yeah I feel good, coach, I’ve got it.’ It was ‘this is the best I’ve felt.’ That’s a much more definitive statement than me deciding that he feels good and wants to go back out there. He’s basically saying, ‘I’m going back out.’”

Glavine also noted that Schlittler looked better today than he did in the aforementioned start, that he wasn’t working as hard, and that the 70-something-degree weather helped. Throw in a sixth-inning relay that cut down a would-be Delaware run, and the result was a stat line that backed his coach’s confidence.

Schlittler improved to 6–0 on the season and dropped his ERA to 1.40. The latter trails only his teammate Wyatt Scotti among qualified CAA pitchers, although Schlittler has tossed 58 innings to Scotti’s 36.

Delaware finally pushed across a run in the ninth against Northeastern reliever James Quinlivan, but officially dropped their fifth game to Northeastern this season a few moments later.

18 and Counting: Huskies Topple Pride, 10–3

By Milton Posner

What seemed in the early stages like another Northeastern blowout, then like a war of bullpen attrition as Hofstra made a late-inning rally, wound up being another Northeastern blowout after all.

A 10–3 win boosted the Huskies to a 16–0 conference record (28–6 overall) and extended their win streak to 18 games, the longest in the nation. That conference start, the best in CAA history, has afforded the Huskies an eight-game division lead; although pandemic schedules are subject to last-minute change, Northeastern has likely clinched first place already.

The nature of the game begot unorthodox substitution patterns. The Huskies and Pride were just three games removed from the capper of their four-game weekend series, and both have four-game series beginning in two days. (Milton Posner and Catherine Morrison will call Northeastern’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games live for WRBB.)

The Huskies answered the time squeeze with a planned bullpen day. Brian Rodriguez started for the first time all season after 11 appearances out of the pen, ceding a hit and a walk in three scoreless innings. 

“Brian has started for us in years past. He had enough rest from the weekend, so it was an easy decision,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine explained. “We really wanted to win that first inning and keep the momentum on our side. I thought he did awesome — pounded the strike zone, pitched really well. I didn’t know how many innings he was going to give us; I just told him to go out and see how it went.”

Thomas Balboni, James Quinlivan, Owen Langan, Jake Gigliotti, David Stiehl, Eric Yost, and Brandon Dufault combined to forfeit just three runs the rest of the way. It was the second-most pitchers Glavine has used in a game this season, equaling the 11–2 win over UMass on March 3 (eight pitchers) and trailing only the 11–1 win over UMass on 4/7 (nine). Glavine confirmed that everyone is expected to be available for Friday’s game, save for Rodriguez.

Hofstra used a healthy six pitchers themselves, but it appeared to be a lot less deliberate. Starter Jack Jett — who had tossed six or more innings in six of his eight starts this season — exited the game without recording an out. Five days after the Huskies tagged him for seven runs on ten hits, they tagged him again. But this time, they didn’t need as many hits.

Jeff Costello and Scott Holzwasser walked to open the game. When they attempted a double steal on ball four to Jared Dupere, third baseman Ryan Morash couldn’t handle catcher Nick Marrero’s throw, allowing Costello to score. A Max Viera double cashed in Holzwasser and chased Jett from the game.

“That’s their Friday starter; he just pitched against us the other day,” Glavine noted. “They were probably thinking the same thing we were — wanting to win the first inning and get the momentum. So they gave it to one of their best starters.”

Michael O’Hanlon was first out of the pen for the Pride, and though he retired the side in order, back-to-back sacrifice flies from Danny Crossen and Ben Malgeri completed an odd Husky inning: four runs on just one hit, with no runners stranded.

“It might have been our best offensive inning of the whole year,” Glavine said. “Our guys really grinded out at-bats. We got to two strikes a couple of times but they couldn’t put us away. We really made [Jett] work.”

From then on, the Pride were left to play the same sort of bullpen game the Huskies did. And though O’Hanlon, Chris Mott, and Tristan Nemjo allowed just three combined hits in six innings of work, they still forfeited three runs to the Huskies. It was only in the ninth inning that the Huskies scored by stringing hits together. All told, the Huskies produced 10 runs on the afternoon using ten hits (including four doubles, two from Max Viera), six walks, six stolen bases in six tries, and three hit-by-pitches.

“We didn’t get the long ball today,” Glavine noted. “It was a bit of a hard day to hit; the wind was blowing in, so that’s what we need to be able to do — grind out those at-bats, make them work, drive up pitch counts, work our walks, get hit by pitches, steal bases, put pressure on them, and then get some big hits. We also had some big sacrifice flies. We talk about having a dynamic, relentless offense that scores runs in a lot of different ways. Today we didn’t do it with the home run; we did it with everything else, which was really great to see.”

After six empty innings to start the game, Hofstra finally broke through against Husky hurler Jake Gigliotti, manufacturing a run with a single, a walk, and a single. David Stiehl finished the inning in Gigliotti’s stead, but ceded two runs of his own in the eighth on a two-run double by Kevin Bruggeman. Eric Yost came on and nearly got burned on his first pitch to Brian Goulard, but the fly ball settled into Ben Malgeri’s glove on the center field warning track to neutralize the threat.

A home run would have pulled the Pride within two runs. But the Huskies posted their three spot in the top of the following frame, and the 10–3 final score barely reflected the fingerprints of the snuffed-out Hofstra rally. The Huskies retained their streak, and the attention that has accompanied it.

“We’re streaking. We’re just kind of embracing it, owning it. Every day there’s more confidence than there was the day before,” Glavine said. “No one’s arrogant, no one’s taking anything for granted, no one’s nervous or worried about the streak. We talk about it openly. We know we have the longest streak in the country. We love it.”

“We know everybody wants to beat us,” he continued. “We know every time we play a game now, someone can knock us off. The guys keep rising to the occasion. If anything, it’s heightened their focus, their energy, their passion, and their enjoyment of the game. It really works for us in so many positive ways and it’s been great to see.”

Huskies Conquer Warriors, 12–5

Story by Milton Posner

Photos by Sarah Olender

BROOKLINE, MA — For the first three and a half innings of Wednesday afternoon’s game, the Merrimack Warriors, a squad playing its first full season in Division I, could dare to dream of upsetting the Northeastern Huskies, a squad with a .700 winning percentage. The Warriors jumped out to a 5–0 lead as the Huskies, who were coming off a 10-day COVID hiatus, struggled to keep up.

And then the hammer dropped.

Northeastern (15–6, 3–0 CAA) tacked on nine runs in the fourth and fifth innings and never looked back, eventually dismissing Merrimack (12–15, 8–7 NEC) by a score of 12–5.

“We were pretty bad early in the game, just sluggish and rusty, everything you get with a ten-day layoff,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine noted, adding that timing issues plagued the team until their second time through the order. “Overall it was a great win considering we weren’t on the field, hadn’t practiced as a team, just kinda showed up and played. So I was pretty impressed overall with how they did today.”

The defining stretch commenced with one gone in the bottom of the fourth, when hits from Ian Fair, Danny Crossen, JP Olson, and Spenser Smith — plus an error and a wild pitch — yielded four runs and chased Merrimack starter Stephen Fleury from the game.

It continued in the fifth as Merrimack hurlers increasingly lost their command. Jack Collins, brought on to relieve Fleury, ceded another four runs, all earned, to the surging Huskies. Scott Holzwasser was hit by a pitch and Jared Dupere singled him to second, then the pair executed the first of the Huskies’ two double steals on the afternoon. Crossen doubled them both home before Fair sent a line drive screaming the opposite way and over the fence.

For Fair, who entered the game hitting just .163 after being named CAA Preseason Player of the Year, the homer was an exceptionally welcome component of a three-for-four day at the dish.

“If Ian is going well, the ball is going to right-center field all day every day,” Glavine noted. “He is a game-changer for us. I don’t want to say he’s the key, but if he gets hitting our offense goes to another level . . . He’s had a couple monster games this year, and a couple of those times we’ve scored double-digit runs; it’s not by accident.”

Collins gave way to LT Pare, who fared little better on the mound. After Kyle Peterson singled, Pare hit Crossen, hit Olson, then walked Smith to force home a run. A fielder’s choice and a double play limited the damage, but the Huskies’ 9–5 lead effectively decided the game.

Base stealing was a critical component of the Huskies’ offensive engine all afternoon, as they swiped eight bases — including two apiece for Dupere and Fair — and were caught just once.

“We spend a ton of time on it in practice; we’ll have a lot of teams beat,” Glavine said. “So we have to utilize it. We talk about stealing bases, but we also talk about the game within a game, which is getting the pitcher to pick over to first a lot, distracting him so our hitter can get a good pitch. I like to think our baserunning is part of the reason why we get some walks and hit-by-pitches, some wild pitches and passed balls — because we put so much pressure on them and they know we can run.”

The last four frames featured three Husky runs and one highlight-reel moonshot. Dupere’s fifth home run in the last six games struck the roof of the auxiliary press box in right-center field and caromed out of the Friedman Diamond altogether. But Dupere’s cold-blooded reaction made a titanic shot even better; the Husky right fielder started undoing his batting gloves as he left the batter’s box and eased into his home-run trot.

On the pitching side, Glavine followed through on his pregame promise to deploy a number of hurlers, largely because of the ten-day layoff. He pulled starter Wyatt Scotti after just two innings, saying Scotti would likely be used this weekend.

“He made a mistake; he was late covering home plate on that wild pitch or he probably would have gotten the guy out,” Glavine said of the play that yielded Merrimack’s first run. “But overall I thought he pitched really well.”

David Stiehl, who relieved Scotti, ceded four runs (three earned) in 1⅓ innings as he struggled to find his command. When he walked a batter after a 3–0 mound visit, Glavine subbed him out.

The hurlers who followed him fared far better. James Quinlivan, Brian Rodriguez, Thomas Balboni, and Eric Yost combined for 5⅔ scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and two walks across that span. Yost was particularly effective, setting down the side in the ninth on just six pitches.

“It’s constantly resetting; I don’t know how the guys are doing it, to be honest,” Glavine said of his pitching staff in light of the COVID layoff. “For them to come out and do what they did today, I was really impressed.”

The Huskies will continue their 15-game homestand with a four-game series against the Delaware Blue Hens. WRBB will call all four contests, beginning with a 2 PM Eastern tilt on Friday; Milton Posner, Khalin Kapoor, and Jack Sinclair will be on the mic for that one.

Northeastern Routs UMass, 11–2

Photos by Sadie Parker

Story by Milton Posner

With their second double-digit scoring effort in as many days, Northeastern (2–2) notched an 11–2 win over UMass (0–1) Wednesday afternoon at Parsons Field.

The Huskies scored in five of the first six frames, including nine runs across the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings to put the game well out of reach. Ben Malgeri and Teddy Beaudet smacked three hits apiece, while Corey DiLoreto smack two doubles, walked twice, and scored four runs.

Freshman hurler Wyatt Scotti fanned five across four scoreless innings to earn the win in his debut. Though the Huskies ceded a run in each of the final frames, the relief trio of Matt Downing, Jake Gigliotti, and James Quinlivan had kept the Minutemen scoreless through the seventh, effectively sealing the game.

But the most absurd moment of the game came on the basepaths. And no, it wasn’t one of the Huskies 10 stolen bases on the day, the ones head coach Mike Glavine said would be key to their offense moving forward. No, it was this preposterous slide from Scott Holzwasser that topped the SportsCenter list at day’s end.

The Huskies will travel south for three games against Old Dominion on March 5, 6, and 7. The Monarchs are 6–2 and, like the Huskies, have scored 11 or more runs in half of their games.

Northeastern Trampled by Wake Forest

By Jordan Baron and Sarah Olender

It was Northeastern baseball’s second game of the season, and anyone who watched yesterday’s matchup knows that Northeastern struggled in the first inning. That story didn’t change on Saturday, as the Huskies dropped their second game in a row, 9–0, to the No. 17 Wake Forest Demon Deacons in game two of a three-game road set. 

It was a tough start in the first three innings. Northeastern batters struck out, popped out, or grounded out, and the one man to make it to first, freshman Max Viera, got picked off a few pitches later.

“Overall we just gotta play better, be sharper, and offensively we showed signs but we didn’t hit well with runners in scoring position, but we got guys on, we put up some pretty good at bats,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “We weren’t quite as sharp and crisp as we were last night.”

Wake Forest easily worked Husky starter Sebastian Keane into a high pitch count. Midway through the third inning, Keane reached his limit, having already thrown 79 pitches and given up six runs. Despite the depressing score, Keane had punched out four Demon Deacons.

“We’ve got to start winning the first inning and putting up zeros,” Glavine said. “So maybe it’s just changing a little bit how we prep pregame and being ready to go in that first inning, trying to get off to a better start because we definitely don’t want to be constantly playing from behind.”

Redshirt senior reliever David Stiehl took over the hill to try and close out the third inning. Stiehl also struggled to shut down the Deacons, allowing two more runs that were both charged to Keane before finally ending the scoring threat. Steihl settled in afterward and finished with an impressive line, allowing no earned runs and just one hit over 2.2 innings of work. The right-hander walked two and struck out three.

On the other side of things, Wake Forest junior starter William Fleming diced the Husky lineup, allowing just one hit through three innings with his fastball hitting the upper nineties.

Suddenly, the Huskies found life in the fourth, racking up three straight hits to load the bases with just one gone. But the right-handed Fleming kept his composure, and showcased the depth and strength of the Demon Deacon pitching staff as he fanned Corey DiLoreto looking and got Jeff Costello to pop to second to end the frame.

Fleming continued his rampage against the Northeastern lineup into the fifth and escaped a jam in the sixth despite the Husky offense putting two runners in scoring position. Jeff Costello gave the ball quite a ride during the rally as he pulled an inside fastball down the left field line, but it hooked foul, and Fleming escaped the inning.

“Tip your cap to their pitchers tonight,” Glavine said. “They did a really good job and had us sort of playing defense when we had runners in scoring position.”

The Northeastern defense didn’t exactly help out their teammates on the mound, as shortstop Spenser Smith booted a ground ball early on, and Ben Malgeri and Costello nearly collided as they let a third-inning ball drop in the gap.

“We had a couple defensive mistakes out there that cost us again,” Glavine said. “Against a team like that or really any team you can’t can’t give them extra routes.”

Despite Keane’s unfortunate start, the Huskies had some good performances from the rest of the pen, as Rick Burroni, James Quinlivan, and Jake Gigliotti all tossed effective innings. The damage was done, however, and Demon Deacons ran away with the 9–0 victory.

“We just weren’t as sharp tonight, weren’t as competitive, fell behind early again, second day in a row makes it tough coming back against the pitching they have,” Glavine said.