No point in a protracted intro here. This team was good. They did fun stuff on the field. Here’s a top 10 list of that stuff.
#10: Fairly Spectacular
The narrative on first baseman Ian Fair solidified somewhat early this season, and it relayed that the CAA Preseason Player of the Year, a player who hit an .357 in his last full college season, was underperforming. And yes, he did finish the year with a .264 average that was more solid than spectacular.
But his defense was smooth and reliable all season, as he presented his fellow infielders with a wide, rangy target on their throws across the diamond. But it was the first play in this countdown that led Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine to laud Fair as the best defensive first baseman in the country.
Besides the reflexes and dexterity, consider the stakes here. Fair turned an RBI single into an inning-ending double play in a championship game that the Huskies eventually won by a single run. As good a play as any to kick off our list.
#9: Tumble Dry Low
As difficult as this catch is, it’s harder than it looks.
For one, the sun is blazing in Scott Holzwasser’s eyes. The ball is also hit directly behind him, and he’s tracking it not with full strides, but with a series of lightning-quick side steps. And then he lands perfectly on his feet, because why not make it a suave catch while you’re at it.
#8: The Short Hop and the Cannon
When the ball landed in fair territory down the left-field line, Nick Marrero had every reason to believe that second base was his.
Jeff Costello realized too late that the ball was out of reach, a realization usually accompanied by a fielder overrunning or deflecting the ball and giving the hitter an extra base. But instead Costello barehands the ball on the dead run, throws on the brakes, and fires a missile into second base to leave Marrero wondering where things went wrong.
#7: Range Factor
This was somehow only the third most impressive play Ben Malgeri made that week. But damn did it look good.
Some centerfielders literally can’t make this play. You need elite speed just to give yourself a chance. But Malgeri led the team in stolen bases for a reason, and he tracks this one as it tails away from him, extends as far as he can, and snags the ball as he lands on the warning track. A major momentum play in a playoff game.
Not that it was the only thrilling moment he produced that day.
#6: “Benny Bright Lights”
To truly appreciate this play, you have to understand just how unlikely it was.
It was the final game of the CAA Tournament. On the mound for UNCW was Landen Roupp, who had spent the weekend showing the hometown fans why he deserved his CAA Pitcher of the Year award. After shutting out the Elon Phoenix in a 12-strikeout complete game three days prior, he’d entered the game in the sixth inning and completely halted the red-hot Husky offense.
The Huskies were down 10–9 in the bottom of the ninth, and based on how the regular season went, Malgeri wasn’t a prime candidate to tie things with one swing. He’d hit just two home runs in 41 regular-season games, and when he fell behind 0-2 it looked like he’d be Roupp’s sixth consecutive strikeout victim.
But Ben Malgeri was in the midst of a perfectly timed power surge, and he delivered the biggest hit of the season to that point.
The media ballots for tournament MVP were cast before Malgeri stepped to the plate in the ninth. But given that this was his fifth home run in five tournament games, he won the award anyway. I can’t imagine the vote was particularly close.
#5: Long-Range Artillery
Just in case you missed him since the end of the last sentence, here’s Ben Malgeri again.
I’d wager that it was a 250-foot throw, and it took every bit of strength and momentum Malgeri could muster to make it there on the fly. His body even went along for the ride. And the throw was right on the money.
The Huskies wound up stranding the tying run in the top of the ninth, so Malgeri’s laser didn’t change the outcome. But there was no moment in the Huskies’ season that was more worthy of a commissioned painting.
Well, maybe one.
4: The Superman Dive
This play doesn’t need to be analyzed. It doesn’t need to be hyped, explained, or contextualized. It merely needs to be watched as often as possible.
This was the second time Holzwasser landed atop SportsCenter’s nightly top 10, and we’ll get to the other one in a minute. But it’s undoubtedly the best defensive play of the season for a team that made a bunch of them.
3: The Human Power Plant
Jared Dupere spent the season trying to unstitch baseballs with blunt force. His Northeastern-record 21 home runs indicate as much, as does the fact that eight of those dingers measured 430 feet or more. He smacked the ball clean out of Friedman Diamond several times, and while his longest measured a whopping 482 feet, that isn’t the one that makes this list.
No, that would be his 479-foot blast against Merrimack on April 20, which hit the top of the press box in right-center field and caromed over to the houses across the street.
I’ve seen flamboyant bat flips before. But I have never seen a player undoing his batting gloves as he eases into his home run trot. Subtle, and savage.
2: The Magician
Speaking of something I’ve never quite seen on a baseball diamond:
Just . . . just . . . what?
MLB fans might recall nifty, creative, and athletic slides from wizards like Javier Báez and Josh Harrison, but I’ve watched those compilations too, and I don’t recall seeing something quite like this. If I’m missing something please let me know, but for now I’m comfortable calling this a one-of-a-kind play.
Plays like that are an atypical kind of impressive. You can watch astounded as Jared Dupere makes Friedman Diamond look like a little-league field, but you also intuitively understand that he’s practiced hitting balls far. In fact, he’s practiced it a lot.
But while Holzwasser has surely practiced sliding since he was a kid, it’s hard to imagine he’s practiced that specific slide much. If I’m wrong then I’m wrong, but that’s my hunch. Which means that this play is based not just on athleticism and skill, but on innate cleverness and instinct.
1: Game Over
The Huskies had spent sixteen years in the Colonial Athletic Association without a title. Even in 2018, when they were good enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the UNCW Seahawks thwarted them in the CAA final. At last, revenge was theirs.
“I can barely talk,” Viera said after the game, a smile as wide as a canyon stretched across his face. “I feel like I’m in a dream.”