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.