Story by Milton Posner
Photos by Sarah Olender
BROOKLINE, MA — The first three games of the Northeastern–Towson series were largely defined by quality starting pitching, difference-making defense, and the sort of persistent small ball teams play when the wind plucks fly balls out of the air.
But on Sunday afternoon . . . all of that kept happening.
The result was the same, too. The Huskies (23–6, 11–0 CAA) completed their sweep of the Tigers (15–29, 5–7 CAA) with a 3–1 victory. It was their 13th consecutive win and matched the 1991 team for the best start to a season in program history.
The small ball was especially pronounced from the start. The teams’ combined total of seven hits in the first six innings doesn’t seem especially unusual until you examine a few things. First, there were no hits for either team through three innings, only four walks and a hit-by-pitch.
But even when the hits started coming, things weren’t normal. The first base knock of the game, a Billy Godrick line drive smoked over the head of Northeastern left fielder Jeff Costello, was rendered moot when Costello barehanded the ball off the wall and coolly fired a laser into second.
Both of Husky third baseman Danny Crossen’s hits were fairly regular line drive knocks, but the other four hits in the first six innings weren’t. Javon Fields’s hit should have been an error on Northeastern shortstop Spenser Smith, Smith’s own hit was a bunt, Jared Dupere’s was a line drive off the pitcher, and Max Viera’s was a ground ball fielded by the shortstop.
None left the infield. It was the smallest of small ball. Puny ball.
This was attributable partly to the persistent wind, but also to the brilliance of the two starting pitchers. Towson’s Danny Madden ceded four walks and three hits in five innings, but timely outs stranded five Northeastern runners and limited the damage to one run.
“We’re just struggling to have a big inning right now,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said of the team’s approach. “I was probably trying to put some bunts on because I didn’t like what I was seeing and just wanted to put pressure on them. We just couldn’t get the big hits, and I think that’s the last really big piece of our offense right now.”
Northeastern hurler Wyatt Scotti fared even better, striking seven batters and allowing only five baserunners over seven scintillating innings. His start was part of an excellent run of starting pitching for the Huskies, who got 28 ⅔ innings of five-run ball from their starters over the course of the Towson series.
The Tigers did manage a run after Scotti hit one batter and walked another, but the final nail in the coffin wasn’t of his doing. With runners on first and third with two out, Scotti picked Noah Cabrera off of first. When Billy Godrick took off from third, the Husky infielders couldn’t snap off a throw home in time to beat him.
“They certainly intentionally did something; we just didn’t run the defense properly,” Glavine lamented. “Give them credit. They forced us to make plays all game. If we don’t make plays, they capitalize. We didn’t make the right decision there.”
“And then I probably messed up the other one,” Glavine continued, referring to Northeastern’s failed attempt at the same play in the fifth inning. “I was trying to get a run there myself. I wanted Spenser to be aggressive there once they threw the ball; we just went a little bit early and they got us.”
That said, the Huskies did plate a game-tying run immediately before the failed steal, as Scott Holzwasser’s sac fly scored JP Olson. Holzwasser also notched a diving catch that was somehow more spectacular than the one he recorded on Saturday afternoon. Here’s Saturday’s:
And here’s Sunday’s:
Things really came to a head in the eighth inning. With the score still deadlocked 1–1, Towson’s Jake McLaughlin singled, then Burke Camper followed with a bunt to the first-base side of the mound. Holzwasser, first baseman Ian Fair, and pitcher Jake Gigliotti converged on the rolling ball, which Fair fielded. With Holzwasser and Gigliotti failing to get to the bag in time, Fair missed a desperation tag before flipping the ball to empty space. The ball trickled away as McLaughlin advanced to third.
“I didn’t think we were sharp today,” Glavine admitted. “It was a struggle executing some stuff fundamentally, we made a lot of mistakes.”
But Fair redeemed himself on the next play with a gorgeous glove flip to home on a Towson squeeze attempt. Then, after a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, the Huskies escaped the inning unscathed when Godrick hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Replays showed that Godrick was just barely safe, but the Huskies took the win as Godrick slammed his helmet on the ground in frustration and strolled aimlessly toward the outfield.
In the bottom of the frame, the Huskies finally shattered the small-ball streak. Center fielder Ben Malgeri doubled, then Fair, who has largely underperformed expectations after being named CAA Preseason Player of the Year, tripled home the go-ahead run.
“I thought he was on the ball today. I thought his swings were close all game, had a chance to leave the yard or drive a gap,” Glavine said. “He’s still swinging and missing more than he ever normally does; his feet are going a little bit too much and his head’s moving. But I also felt like he was aggressive.”
Olson flew out to center to score Fair from third, providing an insurance run for Husky reliever David Stiehl, who recorded the save. Glavine said his use of five different relievers across just 7 ⅓ relief innings in the series — Eric Yost and Brandon Dufault appeared twice — reflects something more than depth.
“I don’t really like to give the guys set roles,” he explained. “They probably want them; I don’t like to give them to ‘em. I want them ready. When I call your number, you be ready. And I think they learn to embrace that. Today I called Gigliotti’s number. I didn’t think he was very sharp. We kinda made some plays for him, and he made pitches when he had to.”
“Yost is a little bit of everything, so he doesn’t really know his role either,” Glavine added. “I think it’s going to make us a better team in the long run . . . That way, when you get into the [CAA] Tournament, you’ll be prepared.”