By Peyton Doyle
No sports season ever goes as planned. Even when a team wins a championship the road there never unfurls perfectly. A tanking team could have their vision go sideways by some untimely wins.
Last season, the CAA was split into two divisions, North and South, and Northeastern was voted the favorite to win their division in the preseason. The Huskies smashed through those heady expectations and secured their first CAA Championship. Even they, however, could not have predicted the stellar performance, from their 21-2 record at home in Brookline or their dominant 20-3 mark in conference play.
The 2021 success, combined with a talented, relatively young roster landed Northeastern as the favorite to win the CAA yet again.
While the offense was lacking some pop without guys like outfielder Jared Dupere in the lineup, the order appeared able to score enough runs for their dominant pitching staff. Just the first game of the season however, showed cracks in that plan.
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Cam Schlittler, who was honored as a CAA Co-Preseason Player of the Year, went just four innings while allowing three runs in the season debut, and the offense mustered just four hits in that loss to Long Island.
From there however, some signs were pointing in the right direction as the Huskies scored more than eight runs during three of the next seven games. The team also scored three runs or less in three of those matchups, falling to a record of 3-5 to open the year.
The next matchup the Huskies faced was their first official series of the year, coming against the then nationally ranked No. 8 North Carolina State Wolfpack. Northeastern proceeded to sweep the series, on the back of dominant pitching from their preseason ace Schlittler and perhaps the year’s brightest star, righty Wyatt Scotti, who finished the year third in the conference in ERA.
The Huskies followed up the sweep with two losses and a tie (yes a tie, you read that right). There are no lights at Friedman Diamond so their March 8 matchup with UMass Amherst ended in a 1-1 tie.
The up and down season continued for the Huskies, all the way into conference play where they both swept and were swept. The College of Charleston dominated the opening conference series against Northeastern and a lost series to William & Mary put the Huskies at 1-5 early on in CAA play.
The biggest hitters that remained from last year, junior utility man Danny Crossen, sophomore infielder Max Viera, and senior outfielder Jeff Costello, were not replicating the same kind of production they had in the past. This is not to say that there was nothing going right. Freshman center-fielder Mike Sirota ended the William & Mary series as the team leader in home runs (three), RBIs (18), and batting average (.330). Sophomore righty Eric Yost had a cool 1.53 ERA as a spot starter and reliever, and transfer senior right handed pitcher Jordy Allard continued to shine from the back end of the bullpen.
After a few more weeks of .500 baseball, flip flopping from a dominant staff and a meager offense to a fearsome lineup and average arms, and a season ending injury for phenom Sirota, the Huskies appeared to find their identity.
A rainout and a rather fortuitous turf field in Brookline led to Northeastern facing Hartford at home in a midweek afternoon game April 27. The Huskies won 3-1, a so-so final against a struggling Hawks team who finished the season at 13-37. The way they won however was impressive.
Timely hits by the bottom half of the Northeastern order led to three runs in the bottom of the second inning, it wasn’t much but it was enough for the thin bullpen to work with. The hero of the game was redshirt sophomore catcher JP Olson who tallied two hits, one RBI, and a run.
Olson, along with freshman outfielder Luke Masiuk and junior shortstop Spenser Smith got hot at the right time. The Huskies won their next five games and six of their next seven, including a 9-4 victory over No. 8 UConn May 10.
Despite going just 2-5 to end their season, there was still plenty of hope and life in the Huskies. Their victory over Delaware on the last day of the regular season was enough to give them the No. 5 seed in the CAA tournament and match them up with the Tribe in the opener.
A dominant showing by Scotti and clutch hits from Olson and Crossen lifted Northeastern to a 3-2 victory and into the winner’s bracket to start the tournament.
Their next matchup was a ferocious Charleston team who had swept them handily in the regular season and entered the tournament as the top seed. This time however, RBIs from Masiuk, Olson, and Costello and seven innings of two-run ball by Schlittler gave the Huskies a 6-5 victory.
The next game looked to be a backbreaker for Northeastern as they held two different leads before falling to Hofstra on a walkoff double. Despite pitching struggles from Allard and Yost, the offense still kept igniting, with Masiuk, Olson, and Smith being responsible for all of the team’s seven RBIs.
The loss wounded the Huskies but did not bury them as they won their next game, a rematch against the Cougars and secured a place in the Championship against Hofstra.
A damaged performance by redshirt sophomore righty Thomas Balboni in the ninth allowed for yet another walk off victory for the Pride and ended the Huskies’ season, despite the six runs the offense scored and multiple deficits overcome.
Although the Huskies did not have the season of ultimate triumph as they may have wished, there was still success in 2022. The remaining core of the team and its identity continued to strengthen as the season progressed and stars began to bud all around the field. Olson looks poised to become one of the best catchers in the CAA next season, the outfield of Sirota, Masiuk, and fellow freshman Justin Bosland will be one of the most dynamic in the conference. The pitching staff will continue to be headlined by Scotti, Schittler, redshirt sophomore Sebastian Keane, and Yost with Allard and Balboni out of the bullpen. However, who will be around next year remains to be seen as Schlitter, Keane, and Balboni are all draft hopefuls.
While it is not always the case, a college season should be judged off of its little successes just as much as its large ones, and while the ultimate goal of a title was not accomplished this season, Huskies baseball looks prepared to come back as strong as ever.
Editors’ note: A previous version of this story inaccurately reported North Carolina’s national rank. It was corrected Tuesday, May 31 at 5:20 p.m.