To the ire of most northern college baseball programs, there is no dedicated spring training season to shake off the cobwebs of a lengthy offseason. What most programs have to do is use the early games of the season as a makeshift spring training. Using the early slots of the nonconference portion of the season to play baseball in the south is a common remedy to the cold weather back home.
Northeastern’s baseball team made the voyage down to Greensboro, North Carolina to open their season in the warmer confines of the University of North Carolina Greensboro Baseball Stadium. Three games against the UNCG Spartans set the ball rolling on the long season to come.
Junior right-hander Wyatt Scotti took the bump for the first pitch of his third season in the red and black. Expected to be the Huskies ace this coming season, Scotti was dominant, as he so often has been. In his five innings, he held the Spartans scoreless. Scotti also tallied five strikeouts, and limited the Spartans to only four hits and three walks.
On the other side of the ball, Northeastern took a bit longer to settle in. Freshman shortstop Carmelo Musacchia did record the Huskies first hit of the year in the top of the second inning, but he was picked off a few pitches later. Sophomore Justin Bosland and junior Gregory Bozzo added singles of their own, however the UNCG defense held fast.
While Scotti sparkled on the mound, the offense was unable to reward him while he was pitching. Graduate student and Wheaton transfer Griffin Young took the bump in relief of Scotti, and the offense finally found their footing.
A wild pitch from senior hurler Peyton Winbarger saw redshirt senior Danny Crossen score the first run of the year, and the Northeastern offense exploded from there. They tallied 11 total runs over the next two innings, including the tally from Crossen. Highlighting the outburst was sophomore Mike Sirota, whose triple and double added four runs to the scoreboard.
Young was relieved by sophomore Jack Beauchesne in the eighth inning, who in turn was relieved by freshman Charlie Walker. Each pitcher dazzled, as the staff combined for a shutout of the Spartans.
“Scotti was awesome,” said Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine. “I thought everyone [on the mound] looked comfortable, and it was a great opportunity for us to get a lot of new guys in.”
The Huskies took game one of the series 11-0, but their time in Greensboro was not through yet.
If game one was a blowout, then game two was the complete opposite.
Northeastern jumped onto the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. Junior designated hitter and UMass Lowell transfer Jimmy Sullivan cracked the game open with a single through the right side of the infield, which scored Sirota. Musacchia doubled the advantage and passed it to the next batter with a base hit to center field, which scored Crossen.
The Spartans, in deference to their previous performance, were quick to respond to the Huskies’ sucker punch to start the game. Sophomore Rowan Watt doubled down the line to lead things off against junior Northeastern starter Eric Yost. Redshirt junior catcher Mitchell Smith capitalized on his teammates extra-base hit with a single to left field, which halved the UNCG deficit.
Senior transfer from Bryant and left-fielder Alex Lane did not take kindly to the Spartan’s bid to tie the game. A hard-hit triple that reached the wall in left center scored two, and doubled Northeastern’s lead in the second inning. Crossen drove one deep enough to the outfield to give Lane plenty of time to tag-up and score from third. Columbia graduate transfer and first baseman Tyler MacGregor smacked an RBI single up the middle to score Bozzo in the third inning, and the Huskies found themselves in control of the ballgame.
Despite the shaky start, Yost managed to hang in the game and limit the Spartans to their lone score, but unfortunately for the Huskies, his fatigue quickly began to show in the fifth inning. His swing and miss stuff had gone away, and the Spartans were barreling up the junior hurler. A pair of base hits were followed up by junior GC Jarman’s double to deep right field, which drove in a run. A sacrifice fly by the next batter was all Glavine needed to see, and he pulled Yost out of the game.
His replacement, freshman Aiven Cabral, didn’t fare any better than Yost. An immediate wild pitch advanced Jarman to third, where he then scored from on a sacrifice lineout. The Spartans had brought themselves within two runs of the Huskies, and the momentum had very clearly switched sides. Freshman reliever Jay Miller was astounding on the mound for the Spartans, and he had stifled the potent bats of the Huskies through 5.1 innings of work, allowing only a single run.
Graduate student Jordy Allard came in to close the game out for the Huskies, but like many of the pitchers that preceded him, he showed that some of the offseason rust hadn’t been shaken off quite yet. A single and a walk were all the Spartans needed to put the tying run on base. Senior Daniel Cerda showed his veteran experience by poking a single through the infield to score one run, and putting the winning run on base. The comeback was completed the very next at-bat, as freshman Jeremy Wolf singled, and a bad throw by the Huskies allowed him to advance, and the tying run to score from second. Allard’s day was done, with the winning run standing 90 feet away.
Assumption graduate transfer Patrick Harrington relieved Allard, but was unable to escape the jam. Watt singled to left field, scoring Cerda, and walking off the Huskies.
Game two ended in a 7-6 loss for Northeastern. Game three would decide whether the Huskies could win their opening series for the first time since 2018.
Redshirt junior Matt Downing was given the starting nod from Glavine for the series deciding game. He started strong, but a bases-clearing triple in the third inning saw his day end early, and his team trail by three runs in as many innings. Redshirt junior Jake Gigliotti stepped in to relieve Downing, and closed out the inning.
Northeastern’s offense, which had been lying dormant since halfway through game two, finally came to life. Lane singled to drive in Sirota, and Sullivan belted a mammoth three-run home run to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
Sophomore Kennedy Jones squeaked a single through the infield to drive in a run, and the game was level once again. Northeastern did not hesitate to break the deadlock when they returned to the batter’s box. Lane batted a run in via a well placed groundout, and Sirota scored from third after a passed ball, giving the Huskies a two run lead in the fifth.
The Spartans, much like their Ancient Greek namesake, were bloodied and battered, but nowhere near out of the fight. Junior Dosi Jonas belted a double to the wall with the bases loaded, driving in three runs and returning the advantage to UNCG, 7-6. Jones added insurance with an RBI single to dead center, and the Huskies entered the sixth inning trailing by two.
Junior second baseman Luke Beckstein earned his first RBIs of the season in a clutch fashion, driving in a pair of runs with a double in the top of the sixth, tying the game at eight runs apiece.
This score held until the top of the eighth, when freshman Cam Maldonado began his Huskies career with a go-ahead RBI double. Spartans senior Zack Budzik responded with an RBI single of his own, resuming the stalemate.
Northeastern entered the top of the ninth inning with the heart of their lineup up to hit, and they did exactly what they were supposed to. Sirota tagged a leadoff single, which set the table nicely for the hard-hitting MacGregor. In one of his first games for Northeastern, MacGregor connected with a hanging breaking ball, and sent the ball far over the right field wall. A two-run homer for the Columbia transfer, and the Huskies now led 11-9. Crossen tacked on an insurance run with an RBI ground rule double, and the Huskies commanded the game with a 12-9 lead, their largest of the ballgame.
Young pitched the final half-inning of the game with the momentum of the lead behind him. A groundout and two strikeouts was all it took for the Huskies to hold on and grab a dramatic comeback win to claim the series.
“It was a wild game, we didn’t play that great to start the game, but the guys stuck with it,” Glavine said. “It’s a [character building] win today against a regional team from last year. It was a hard win, we could have said ‘hey, this isn’t our day,’ but the guys really were resilient, they fought, and it was a great win.”
Northeastern will continue their warm weather tour with their annual exhibition against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Meyers, Florida this coming Friday. The next college team the Huskies will encounter is the Indiana State Sycamores, who they will be playing in a three game series this coming weekend.