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.”