Story and photos by Peyton Doyle
BROOKLINE, MA — A close game in any sport will cause palpable tension to form.
In baseball, each pitch could cause an eruption of joy or a sting of regret. There is no clock, the pitcher dictates the pace, and the hitter adjusts as best they can. In no other sport does the home team enjoy such an advantage in the drama of exhilaration and pain.
For the last pitch of the Northeastern Huskies’ (6–5) 2–1 win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks (1–8), it was Northeastern catcher JP Olson who commanded the hearts of the surrounding spectators.
Lowell reliever Cam Seguin delivered his final pitch of the outing. He watched it leave the bat but was generally unconcerned as to where it was going. His and everyone else’s eyes were locked on Danny Crossen raring to go, one foot on the third-base bag.
Olson’s fly ball fell into the glove of right fielder Vinnie Martin for an out that didn’t matter. As soon as it touched leather, Crossen’s cleats tore up turf, as he easily made it home ahead of the throw.
Huskies roared from the dugout. The bullpen beyond left field leapt to their feet and charged toward their catcher, who was smiling like the Cheshire Cat after rounding first base.
Northeastern’s walk-off win was a cherry on top of the team’s first series win of the season. After a 10–7 loss and a 2–0 win on Friday, the Huskies rode Saturday’s win to move above .500 for the first time this season.
In the rubber match, Husky head coach Mike Glavine handed the ball to Cam Schlittler, who had the unfortunate assignment of following fellow redshirt freshman Sebastian Keane’s nine-inning shutout the day prior. Schlittler valiantly competed to match his teammate’s effort, allowing a single run in seven innings in his third start of the season.
“The two freshmen really need to feed off of each other, they are really good friends,” Glavine said. “I am seeing them compete with each other and that friendly competition is taking place. Those two guys are horses and we are going to need them all year long.”
Schlittler faced a few hiccups along the way, but stranded every runner he allowed on. The freshman had the River Hawks pounding the turf with grounders, and his infielders made plenty of plays to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
For every ball that found a Northeastern defender, Lowell junior righty Matt Draper countered, refusing to give in. Draper laid into the young Husky squad, not striking out many but generating tons of weak contact. He allowed just two hits over his first five innings.
Northeastern, however, loves to score, and even though it was a chilly day, the bats were bound to get hot.
Husky designated hitter Ryan Cervone, another freshman, came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth still seeking his first hit of the season. For Draper and the River Hawks, Cervone may have appeared to be a pushover — until he ripped a double down the right-field line.
When right fielder Jared Dupere walked, the Huskies were poised to get their bats awake and push some runners across the plate. But after Max Viera hit the perfect double-play ball to shortstop Keagan Calero, it was all up to Crossen. The sophomore hit a bouncer to third baseman Cedric Rose, but Rose was playing too far back to have a chance at the speedy Crossen. By the time the ball got to first, Cervone had scored the Huskies’ first run of the game and Crossen was steps beyond the bag.
“Ryan Cervone is a grinder and a kid who brings it every day in practice and will give you a tough at-bat every time he’s in there,” Glavine said. “We need our bench guys to have big years and Danny Crossen is the same mold. Of course we don’t want injuries, but both of those guys are making our team better for the long run.”
But as Robert Frost said, “nothing gold can stay” and the game did not remain easy for the Huskies following their run in the sixth.
The first batter that Schlittler faced in the seventh, Joey Castellanos, lofted a ball to deep right that was corralled by Dupere but was by far the hardest-hit ball off Schlittler to that point. The next batter, Cam Climo, hammered one to deep center. Northeastern’s Ben Malgeri drifted back but the ball kept carrying, landing beyond the wall in dead center.
Schlittler fanned two of the next three batters to end the inning, but the damage had been done. Lowell had new life and Schlittler’s day was done.
The Huskies got men on again in the bottom of the seventh but left two stranded, and in the eighth were set down in order by Draper and Seguin.
Northeastern reliever Brian Rodriguez came in for a clean eighth inning and then handed the ball to Brandon Dufault for the ninth. Dufault faced pressure early on, as Martin ripped a line drive to left for a single. A bunt moved him over, and Glavine took advantage of the open base by intentionally walking Climo. Dufault defused the ticking time bomb, stranding the baserunners with a strikeout and a ground ball to end the inning.
“Brandon has been pitching well but has just had some tough luck this year,” Glavine said. “It has been a combination of everything for him, with some bad pitch calls, poor defensive plays, and he has gotten himself into trouble with some walks. He has struggled to put it all together, but I trust him.”
Crossen started off the bottom of the ninth for the Huskies, slapping a ball between the second and first basemen. Kyle Peterson followed with a somewhat controversial hit-by-pitch, then Scott Holzwasser laid down a bunt to advance his teammates. With runners on second and third, Olson did all anyone could have asked of him: plate the run.
The Huskies will carry their two-game winning streak into a Tuesday afternoon matchup with Bryant.