Story by Jack Sinclair
About a year ago, the Northeastern Huskies baseball team and the UNCW Seahawks were flying high at the top of their respective divisions of the CAA. Northeastern boasted a power-hitting lineup with the conference’s player of the year, Jared Dupere, while UNCW had dominant pitching, spearheaded by ace and conference pitcher of the year Landen Roupp. But one year later, the Huskies and Seahawks find themselves battling for the final seed in the CAA playoffs, sitting in the middle of the conference.
Eric Yost kicked things off for the Huskies on the mound, making his eighth start of the season for Northeastern. Brooks Baldwin got the offense going for the Seahawks early, smoking the first pitch of the ballgame down the first base line for a single. Yost was quick to settle in, however, and completed the top half of the first frame without further incident.
The Huskies took the cue from Baldwin’s first at-bat, and immediately pounced on the Seahawks starter, RJ Sales. Leadoff man Jeff Costello drew a walk, and Corey DiLoreto wasted no time at all to bring his teammate home, hitting the ball off the right-field wall for an RBI triple before UNCW even recorded an out.
“[DiLoreto’s] just doing it all. I’m so proud of that kid, he plays hurt, plays tough, comes up in big spots, and he’s just been a guy from day one,” said Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine. “All year he’s been there and it seems like the bigger the moment, the better he is.”
However, it seemed like the Huskies’ bats disappeared just as quickly as they hopped on the scoreboard. Sales seemed to settle into his rhythm a bit more, and was able to find a higher level of control as the early innings went on.
It was early in the game when the tides turned for Northeastern. While the Huskies had seemed to come out swinging, it was soon apparent that they weren’t able to get hits off of Sales. They stayed in at-bats for the most part, but the outcome was almost always an out. The Seahawks took to the plate in the second inning, and after an infield single and a hit-by-pitch, they smelled blood in the water. Chris Thorburn took advantage of the jam that Yost was in, and belted a single through the left side to tie the game. A quick three-up-three-down bottom of the second gave the Seahawks even more momentum, and they took advantage in the third inning. After a leadoff single from Taber Mongero, catcher Matt Suggs took Yost to the deepest part of the ballpark for a two run home run, and the lead of the game.
“He struggled with his command. I don’t know if he was trying to be too fine or that it was a hot day, they made him work,” Glavine said of Yost.
While it seemed like the Seahawks strutting their stuff, the Huskies were still stuck in the mud. Northeastern couldn’t string hits together, and if they did, they were stranding runners on the bases.
“We didn’t execute early in the game offensively,” Glavine said. “We had a ton of chances. I think we left nine or 10 guys on base and we had one hit with runners in scoring position, so that game could have been a lot different early on.”
Northeastern’s only other run in the ballgame looked less like a strong, well-oiled machine of an offense, and more like a haphazard attempt to throw everything at the wall and hope that something stuck. After Justin Bosland drew a walk and was picked-off at first in the fifth, it seemed like everything was going wrong. But the man of the hour, DiLoreto, managed to reach base on a free pass, and was advanced to third by a Luke Beckstein single. It was JP Olson, the catcher and cleanup hitter, who poked a single up the middle to score DiLoreto and halve his team’s deficit.
“[Olson’s] been playing great, been awesome. He’s been catching really well, receiving well, throwing the ball well, he’s getting some big hits, he’s just been playing great. I feel like the more he’s played here the better he’s played,” Glavine said.
Yost managed to keep Northeastern in the game through five innings, even pitching around a man on third with one out in his final inning of work. Nick Davis came in to relieve Yost in the sixth, and seemed to have fixed some of the issues from his rough outing against UConn in their midweek matchup. He cruised through the sixth and seventh innings, but at the start of the eighth, it was clear that the heat and fatigue had begun to take its toll. A leadoff double followed by a single put runners on the corners with no outs, and while Davis managed to force Thorburn into a groundout, the runner on third made it safely to home to double the Seahawks’ lead.
That opened the floodgates for the UNCW bats. Ron Evans belted a ground-rule double to score a run off of reliever Jake Gigliotti, and Baldwin finally produced a run with a sac-fly to make it 6-2. The trouble didn’t stop there, though, as Gigliotti continued to struggle through the ninth. A couple of hard-hit singles from Dylan Lifrieri and Thorburn drove in a pair, while a bizarre RBI double-play from Evans ended the inning.
The Huskies would falter at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and dropped the opening game of the series to the Seahawks.
“They were just the better team today. Better coach, better team, and we’re obviously going to have to be a lot better tomorrow to have a chance,” Glavine said.
The Huskies will be back in action tomorrow at 1 p.m., as they take on the Seahawks in game two of this weekend’s series at Friedman Diamond. Mike Puzzanghera and Peyton Doyle will have the call on WRBB Sports, your home for Huskies sports.