On a windy and cold Friday afternoon, Northeastern (2–3) faced Old Dominion (7–2) in Norfolk, Virginia in the first in a three-game series. Northeastern was coming off an 11–2 drubbing of UMass on Wednesday, but was in for a different affair on Friday, when a rollercoaster of emotions ended in a walk-off home run by the Monarchs’ Kyle Battle.
Northeastern started with a leadoff single by Scott Holzwasser, who extended his on-base streak to 23 games. The next three batters were quickly taken care of, leaving Holzwasser stranded. The Huskies wouldn’t get another chance to score until the fourth inning.
Kyle Murphy, the Huskies’ season opener, battled wind conditions and didn’t have the command he needed. The Monarchs capitalized with a two-run homer by Carter Trice. Old Dominion stranded a couple of baserunners but ended the inning up 2–0.
Murphy settled in at the top of the second and pitched a 1-2-3 inning. He was plagued again by the wind in the bottom of the third, however, as he walked Trice and gave up a run-scoring double to Andy Garriola. After walking three in a scoreless fourth inning to bring his pitch count to 88, Murphy was replaced by stalwart middle reliever David Stiehl.
“Conditions were a little sneaky tough today; it was windy and blowing hard to right and it was a little bit cool,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “It was tough to get a grip on the ball and so the command Kyle had wasn’t what he wanted it to be . . . But overall Kyle settled in; I think he gave us quality innings there.”
After three slow innings, Northeastern’s lineup finally got something started when Jared Dupere singled and advanced to second on an error. Corey DiLoreto followed with a roaring single up the middle to plate him. At this point, Monarch hurler Hunter Gregory was clearly feeling the heat, and walked Max Viera to put runners on first and second. Jeff Castello sent DiLoreto home with a single but was stranded on base.
“Corey made some big plays there and [on] defense he’s a big target back there; he’s long and he’s good to throw to,” Glavine said. “I think it gives them a comfortness to let the ball fly and know he’s gonna cover a lot of ground. He made . . . a diving catch, a couple of leaping catches so the ball found him today . . . He’s swinging the bat well and he’s off to a heck of a start for us.”
Northeastern tacked on six runs across the sixth and eighth innings, putting the score at 8–5 and a win within reach. But the Monarchs returned in the eighth inning with a vengeance. A couple of hits, a passed ball, and an RBI groundout set the table for Trice, who smacked his second home run of the ballgame to cut the Husky lead to one. Northeastern closer Brandon DuFault looked like he would make it out of the inning alive when he struck out Garriola, but caught an unlikely break when the third strike got past catcher Teddy Beaudet and Garriola stole first.
“Obviously no one’s trying to make mistakes but we need to be able to play under pressure,” Glavine noted. “I feel like we just handed them those runs. I’ve seen our guys make those plays hundreds of times so we just gotta learn from it.”
Old Dominion took advantage of Garriola’s second chance and sent him home on a double by Robbie Petracci to tie the score at eight. DuFault finally escaped the inning by striking out Coutney.
After Monarch closer Aaron Holiday retired the side in order in the top of the ninth, Dufault walked Brock Gagliardi to kick off the home half. He settled down and induced a groundout and a strikeout for two outs, but the Monarchs returned to the top of their lineup with the tension peaking: a runner on second, two out. Battle swung hard, connected with a satisfying crack, and sent the ball over the fence for a walk-off two-run homer.
“That one hurt,” Glavine said. “We did so many things well and just not enough. We have to find a way early in the season to win these ballgames.”
Northeastern will be back at Bud Metheny Baseball Complex Saturday at 1 PM for the second of the three-game series.