Story by Daisy Roberts
After losing to the Hofstra Pride in the morning game Saturday before bouncing back in the loser’s bracket, the Northeastern Huskies looked to remedy that loss with a finals win. The Huskies needed a victory in their morning game Sunday to advance to a winner-take-all matchup later in the afternoon. But ultimately, they were unable to eclipse the Pride, losing in walk-off fashion for the second time in a row against this team, with Hofstra winning their first-ever CAA title and sending them to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
On the bump for Northeastern was right-handed sophomore Wyatt Scotti. Scotti was the star of the pitching staff this season and made a starting appearance in the Huskies’ first game of the tournament, a 3-2 win over William & Mary. In that outing, his seven innings of two run ball led the team to victory. This time, however, Scotti was not even close to matching his dominance from Wednesday.
The first inning set the stage for the rest of the matchup. On the third pitch he saw from Scotti, senior center fielder Anthony D’Onofrio launched a solo shot over the left field wall, and not too shortly after that, junior left fielder Will Kennedy sent one out of the park to center. The two back-to-back blasts seemed to shake Scotti, as senior right fielder Brian Morell sent a double to left field to follow up his teammates and continue Hofstra’s display of power. Doing his best to bounce back, Scotti recorded two outs, but a double down the left field line from junior second baseman Santino Rosso scored Morell, ending the Husky pitcher’s day after only two thirds of an inning.
Taking Scotti’s place on the bump was redshirt sophomore righty Jake Gigliotti. After recording the final out of the first to get the Huskies out of trouble, Gigliotti proved that the choice to put him in was the right one. He cruised through the Pride lineup, not allowing any runs until the sixth inning.
Meanwhile, Northeastern struggled to get anything going against Hofstra’s star pitcher and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, right-handed senior Brad Camarda. Through the first four innings, the Huskies only managed to record two hits off of Camarda. The top of the fifth was a different story. Sophomore second baseman Luke Beckstein, one of the two who had already hit himself on base, began the inning with a leadoff single to right field. Graduate student third baseman Buddy Mrowka followed him up with a walk, putting runners on first and second for junior shortstop Spenser Smith. Smith went on to record his second hit of the game, this one an RBI double to left field, bringing Beckstein home to put Northeastern on the board.
Back to back walks issued to senior right fielder Jeff Costello and junior designated hitter Corey Diloreto would force in another run, as Camarda looked to be losing his control on the mound. Northeastern’s catcher, redshirt sophomore JP Olson, then blasted a sacrifice fly out to right field, scoring Mrowka and tying the game at three. Camarda then retired redshirt junior first baseman Danny Crossen to get out of the inning before Northeastern could take the lead, but the damage had been dealt, the Huskies wiping the slate clean.
Things remained quiet at Latham Park until the bottom of the sixth inning, when Rosso shot a ball down the first base line, going all the way into the right field corner. Rosso hustled for a triple to start off the inning, and was quickly brought home by an RBI single to left off the bat of senior third baseman Ryan Morash, putting Hofstra up 4-3. After a base hit from D’Onofrio advanced Morash to third, the inning ended off of an infield single from Morell, bringing Morash around to score, but the smart, defensive-minded Smith got D’Onofrio stuck in a rundown between second and third base. He was tagged out to end the inning and stop the bleeding, but not before Morash made his way across home plate, doubling his team’s lead.
Northeastern struck back in the top of the seventh, when freshman left fielder Luke Masiuk led off the inning with a double to left field. Camarda, still on the mound for the Pride, got two quick outs off a groundout from Smith that advanced Masiuk to third and a popout in foul territory off the bat of Costello. DiLoreto then stepped up for the Huskies and halved their deficit with a double through the gap in left center. Masiuk scored easily, bringing the score of the game to 5-4 still in favor of Hofstra. Camarda once again got out of the inning and kept his team ahead going into the bottom of the inning.
Gigliotti remained on the bump for Northeastern to start the bottom of the seventh, but his outing would shortly come to an end. Sophomore first baseman Steve Harrington sent a long ball the opposite way over the left field wall to put Hofstra up by two once again. That would be it for Gigliotti, as right-handed junior Nick Davis retired the first two batters he faced to end the inning, but not before the Pride already extended their lead.
The score remained the same, Hofstra leading 6-4, and things began to look bleak for Northeastern. However in the top of the ninth, Northeastern’s gritty offense came to life once again. A one-out walk from Smith and a single from Costello put runners on first and second for DiLoreto. The junior slugger bounced a single off the foot of the Pride closer, sophomore Michael O’Hanlon, and into the outfield, bringing Smith around to score and his team within one. Olson then came up clutch for the second time this game for the Huskies, ripping a ball down the right field line and into the corner for an RBI double. Sophomore Max Viera, who came in as a pinch runner for DiLoreto, would stop at third base, but Costello was able to score easily, tying the game in the top of the ninth and marking O’Hanlon’s fourth blown save of the tournament. He was taken out of the game for redshirt sophomore Zack Bailey, normally an infielder, but his three innings of experience this season was enough to close the inning out for the Pride, getting his team into the bottom of the ninth with a chance to walk off the Huskies for a second day in a row.
Righty Thomas Balboni took to the mound for Northeastern to close out the game, but that would prove to be difficult after a leadoff double off the bat of Morell. After recording the first out of the inning, Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine made the decision to intentionally walk Harrington. Balboni then recorded a strikeout, but his control seemed to be slipping away from him, as he walked Rosso to load the bases with two outs. A force-out at any base, Balboni just needed the hitter at the plate, Morash, to not put the ball in play. But the fatigue got to him, and in his second pitch of the at-bat, Balboni plunked Morash for a walk-off hit-by-pitch to end Northeastern’s run for a second consecutive CAA title.
Glavine didn’t shy away from acknowledging the team’s disappointment with the way their season ended.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result, [getting] to the championship game,” he said. “We had a chance there, it just didn’t go our way… We didn’t mess up, we didn’t give it away, they beat us, and so for that I congratulate Hofstra.”
Even with the underwhelming end to the tournament, however, Glavine still had high praise for his team.
“For our guys, I’m so proud of them,” he said. “They just kept fighting and fighting and fighting and they showed their best this week fighting the way they did… This one was hard, they had to really work for it. I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve given me, the coaching staff, the support staff, the program, the university. They gave us everything they had. It sucks, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but there are no regrets.”
Despite the struggles the Huskies had in conference play, they have much to be proud of, with their five wins against ranked opponents, including a sweep of North Carolina State in March, as well as their underdog tournament run. A young but now more experienced team with a lot of potential, Northeastern will look to bounce back next year and reclaim their place as champions.