With cold weather still plaguing its home, Northeastern continued its tour of the South with a three-game series against the South Florida Bulls. Following last weekend’s sweep of the Indiana State Sycamores, the Huskies looked to maintain their red-hot start to the season. In their final nonconference series before CAA games begin, Northeastern faced their toughest challenge yet against a strong Bulls side.
Friday’s game started off with junior righty Wyatt Scotti on the mound, where he immediately struggled. With one out, sophomore Bobby Boser blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to get the Bulls started with an early 1-0 lead.
The Huskies did not waste time in responding to the early sucker-punch from the Bulls’ offense. They loaded the bases in the top of the second inning, and a patient at-bat from junior Luke Beckstein saw redshirt junior starter Hunter Mink walk in the tying run. The Huskies, however, left the bases juiced without adding further damage to the Bulls pitching staff.
It wasn’t long before the potent bats in the Northeastern dugout began doing real work. The top of the fourth inning saw sophomore outfielder Mike Sirota drive in a pair of runs with a single, followed by another pair of RBIs off the bat of graduate transfer first baseman Tyler MacGregor, giving the Huskies a 5-1 lead through only four innings.
The Bulls were not done yet, and their bats still had life in them. The bottom of the fourth saw junior infielder John Montes belt a double down the first base line for a RBI. An inning later, junior outfielder Drew Brutcher singled to left field to drive in another run, making the score 5-3.
The Huskies saw the Bulls’ attempt to claw their way back into the game, and proceeded to shut the door on South Florida with a barrage of offensive blows.
Beckstein got the party started in the top of the sixth, with an RBI single. Senior outfielder Alex Lane, a transfer from Bryant, smoked a three-run home run to left center field, which was followed up a couple batters later by a two-run shot from UMass Lowell transfer junior catcher Jimmy Sullivan, bringing the score to 11-3.
The parade around the bases did not end in the top of the seventh, as MacGregor doubled to right center to score Beckstein, and Lane capped off a stellar performance with his second home run of the night — a three run blast that drove the dagger into the hearts of Bulls fans at Red McEwan Field. A 15-3 scoreline triggered the AAC’s mercy rule, and the game was ended after only seven innings.
Junior righty Eric Yost got the starting nod in Saturday’s game for the Huskies, and before he even threw a single pitch, he had run support. Redshirt senior first baseman Danny Crossen got the offense going with a two-RBI single in the top of the first inning. A 2-0 lead was exactly what Yost needed to start the game with confidence, after a shaky outing his last time on the mound against Indiana State.
The top of the second saw Beckstein drive in a run with a single. Lane continued his red-hot streak, as he smashed his fifth home run of the season and third of the series to right field, earning three RBIs in the process, driving the Huskies lead to 6-0.
The Bulls offense tried to get to Yost in the second, but could only plate two runs off of a pair of RBI doubles. The junior hurler was performing well through his first few innings of work.
The top of the fourth saw Sirota add his fourth home run of the season — a two-run shot — and tying his team-leading season total from last year. The Huskies now led 8-2.
Yost ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the fourth inning, loading up the bases before recording a single out. In fact, he would not even receive the chance to earn an out in the fourth, as freshman infielder Eric Snow drove the ball over the center field wall. Snow’s grand slam saw the Bulls narrow their deficit to two runs, the score sitting at 8-6. Yost’s day was done, as right-handed sophomore Brett Dunham came in to relieve the starter.
Freshman Cam Maldonado kept the momentum on the side of the Huskies, as the outfielder smacked a solo home run over the right field wall, extending the Huskies’ advantage in the top of the fifth inning to 9-6.
Even though the Bulls were down, they were certainly not out, as they quickly loaded the bases against Dunham, who walked the fourth batter to hand the South Florida side a free run, 9-7. Right-handed graduate transfer Griffin Young stepped onto the mound in relief, and escaped the jam without allowing any more damage.
The top of the sixth saw Maldonado continue to rake, as he drove a triple to center field to clear the previously-loaded bases, giving Northeastern a 12-7 lead. An inning later, MacGregor drove in Sirota with an RBI single, driving the advantage up to 13-7.
The Bulls were hanging in the game by a thread, but managed to earn a run through a sacrificial flyout in the bottom of the eighth, bringing the game to its final score, 13-8.
The third and final game of the series was started by redshirt junior southpaw Matt Downing. Just like Yost the day before, Downing received run support early on in the game.
The top of the second saw redshirt freshman outfielder Harrison Feinberg open the scoring for the Huskies with an RBI double. Beckstein earned another RBI in the same inning, striking a sacrifice groundout to second base, allowing Feinberg to score. A 2-0 lead was now behind Downing as he took to the mound for the bottom of the second.
The Bulls had other plans, as they were not going to allow themselves to be swept that easily. Snow continued to pester the Northeastern pitching staff by tagging a grand slam into left field. The Bulls took the lead, their first in the series since the early innings of game one.
The Huskies responded a couple innings later with powerful hitting of their own. MacGregor homered to dead center in the top of the fourth for two runs. Feinberg added a solo shot in the sixth, and the Huskies retook the lead, 5-4.
On the mound, freshman righty Aiven Cabral, who entered after Downing allowed the grand slam in the bottom of the second, was stunning. His 5.2 innings of work held the Bulls scoreless, and he was absolutely dominant. His eight strikeouts shut down the Bulls offense, and gave the Huskies even more room to extend their lead.
Feinberg continued his reign of terror over the Bulls with an RBI double in the top of the seventh. An inning later, Lane tagged a single to center field and drove in yet another run for the Huskies, making the score 7-4.
However, the Bulls were not yet out of the game. When Cabral left the game, the South Florida offense came to life. Brutcher scored a runner with an RBI single, and that began to change the momentum of the contest.
Feinberg had his own response to the Bulls’ attempt to get back in the game: he blasted a home run to left field — his second of the game — and gave the Huskies an 8-5 lead.
The Bulls put up an impressive effort in the bottom of the ninth, scoring two runs and having the tying run on base. However the Huskies closer, right-hander Jake Gigliotti, came in and shut the door. Gigliotti earned the save in his appearance, while Cabral received the winning decision. The 8-7 final score was enough for the Huskies to earn the sweep over South Florida.
The Huskies will begin conference play with a weekend series at Elon. WRBB will have written coverage on our website.