Story by Jack Sinclair
LOWELL, Mass. — There are many times in one’s life where it may feel like a person is stuck between two immovable objects. A rock and a hard place, so to speak. The Northeastern baseball team found themselves in that exact situation today, as they took on the UMass Lowell River Hawks in the final nonconference matchup of the season.
The game started at a snail’s pace, and it was clear early on that it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. Righty Jake Gigliotti started the game for the Huskies, getting the ball in the first inning for only the second time this season. Gigliotti, normally a back-end reliever, looked at home in the starting position. He brought his best stuff to kick off the game, retiring the first batter he faced, and pitching around a weak single from Alex Luccini with a groundout and a flyout.
Lowell starter Brendan Holland was also sharp in his fifth start of the season. Holland was similar to Gigliotti, retiring leadoff man Justin Bosland with a strikeout, before having to pitch around a single that came off the bat of the red-hot Spenser Smith. A Luke Beckstein popout followed by a Max Viera strikeout retired the side, and the game quickly slowed down even more.
Each team was sure to grind out at-bats early on, running the count full as often as they could. As a result, Gigliotti walked a man to put runners on first and second with one out. Gigliotti, however, showed his composure, and adapted to the River Hawk’s game plan, attacking the zone and dominating the count.
It was clear that both teams were going to have to minimize the game as much as possible. The pitching was simply too dominant to try and hit the ball hard, so both sides turned to small-ball. Smith singled his second time up to leadoff the fourth inning, where he was able to display his unparalleled baseball IQ. Smith took off in an attempt to steal second, when a weak grounder from Beckstein dribbled towards the third base side. Smith put his head down and rounded second, realizing that the long infield play gave him time to pick up an extra bag. Lo and behold, Smith slid into third well ahead of the throw. Viera’s struggles at the plate continued, as he struck out again his second time up. Lowell pitcher Sal Fusco was displaying a lack of control, and Smith knew it. After a few pitches in the dirt got by catcher Jake Fitzgibbons, Smith picked his spot to attack. One passed ball later, and Smith had scored.
Northeastern’s pitching cranked it up a notch to protect their one run lead. The offense, however, did not. Smith was the lone offensive contributor through seven innings, plating the team’s only run, and recording their only three hits.
The offensive struggles bled over to the pitching side, when in his second inning of work, reliever Michael Gemma pitched into a sticky situation with runners on second and third and only one out. Head coach Mike Glavine put the ball in the hands of Matt Devlin. His leash was extremely short, and after a four-pitch walk to load the bases, his day was done. Next up on the mound was Jack Beauchesne, making his first appearance since May 6. The first batter he faced was Gerry Siracusa, by far the strongest hitter on the River Hawk lineup. Beauchesne battled well, but a fly ball from Siracusa was hit far enough for the man on third to tag up and tie the game. Beauchesne’s second inning of work was not much better, as a hit batter and walk set the table nicely for Lowell to take the lead. Glavine decided to give the ball over to Nick Davis.
Davis was good to start off, but an error at first base meant that he now had to pitch around a bases-loaded one-out jam. Davis needed to get the out at the plate, but pinch hitter Robert Gallagher managed to hit a fly ball to center field that was enough to score the go-ahead run. Davis escaped the inning without further damage, but the Huskies now had their backs against the wall.
The top of the ninth started promisingly, with a leadoff walk being followed by a hit-by-pitch on pinch hitter Corey DiLoreto. Then came the magic for the Huskies. Jack Thorbahn hit into a fielder’s choice, which, coupled with an error at second base, scored the tying run.
The focus then switched back to the pitching, as Jordy Allard took the mound for the Huskies. Allard was sharp from the get-go, pounding the strike zone, and keeping the River Hawks off the scoreboard to force extra innings. He followed that inning of work with the best inning of any pitcher in the ball game. The bottom of the 10th came right after a few Huskies hits in the top of the frame, and Northeastern was desperate to stay in control of the game. Allard was truly special on the mound, reaching deep into his pocket to strike out the side in order.
A sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th scored pinch runner Buddy Mrowka seemed like it might have been enough to give the Huskies the win, but Lowell wouldn’t go down easily. Siracusa, who had been a thorn in the side of Northeastern the whole game, smoked a double into left-center field that scored the tying run once again.
The Huskies’ magic hadn’t worn out quite yet, and who better to prove it than the player of the game to that point, Smith. The infielder smoked a single to right field, and for some reason, the baseball gods looked fondly down upon him. Connor Kelly, the Lowell right fielder, bobbled what should have been a routine play, allowing the speedy Smith to round the bases to third. A single to center from Beckstein was all that was needed to give the Huskies the lead.
Brett Dunham got the ball to close out the game and continued Northeastern’s strong pitching by retiring the side in order to secure the win.
“It was a battle of attrition,” Glavine said after the game. “We got a lot of guys in there today, both teams used a lot of arms, and we were able to come out on top. It was a wild game.”
The Huskies will return to CAA play this weekend at Delaware in the final weekend of the regular season. The Huskies sit on the outside of the playoffs at the moment, but a single win at Delaware should be enough to propel them into the tournament.