By Justin Diament and Jack Sinclair
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Under the bright lights and heightened pressure of postseason baseball, it was another pitching masterclass for Northeastern that got the job done.
Thanks to six scoreless innings from junior Wyatt Scotti, a six-out save from graduate student Griffin Young, and a late-game miscue from their opponent, the third-seeded Huskies eked out a 2-1 victory over second-seeded Elon to stay alive in the winner’s bracket of the CAA championship.
“Just lost another couple months off my life, but it was worth it,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine joked after the tight win. “Great playoff atmosphere and the crowd was fun. Both teams were just throwing punches.”
The difference between Northeastern and Elon’s seeding in the tournament came down to inclement weather. Since the Phoenix canceled their final game of the season and Northeastern opted to play their final game in the rain (falling 9-2 to Charleston), the Huskies lost the number two seed, and the bye that comes with it, to Elon. To make matters worse for Northeastern, the Phoenix had also taken two of three games in their series against the Huskies this year.
From the start of Thursday’s contest, it appeared to be an uphill battle for Northeastern. Elon’s ace Shea Sprague was stellar on the mound. The Huskies mounted a few threats with two outs, but Sprague got the final out he needed each time. Scotti also shined from the beginning of his start, finding his way through a few two-out jams with timely outs as well.
Scotti would finally receive some run support in the top of the fourth inning. A walk, a sacrifice, and finally a clutch two-out single from sophomore Mike Sirota scored the first run of the game. Scotti followed up the offensive effort with a one-two-three bottom of the fourth. He held the Phoenix without a run through six innings, ending his outing with back to back strikeouts to finish his evening with five punchouts alongside three walks.
“I was really impressed with Wyatt coming in on a little bit shorter rest,” Glavine said. “We liked the match-up we had. We could have thrown [Eric] Yost -— it was Yost’s turn -— but we thought Wyatt pitched really well against Elon earlier in the year and we wanted him to get another chance coming off a tough start.”
Graduate student Patrick Harrington relieved Scotti in the seventh and the Elon offensive finally came to life. Harrington coughed up a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt placed that runner at second base. He staved off the Phoenix with a strikeout, sophomore Charlie Granatell blooped a single to left center field, scoring the tying run. Harrington avoided further damage by forcing a fly out, but the game was still knotted at one run apiece.
The Huskies wasted no time getting back into the game, as senior Alex Lane led off the eighth with a first pitch single up the middle. Redshirt freshman Harrison Feinberg grounded out to the left side, advancing Lane to second. Then came junior Luke Beckstein, who stroked a rather routine looking fly ball to left center field, but Granatell, the hero for Elon just minutes before, dropped the ball, allowing Lane to score. Sirota commented postgame that he was having difficulty tracking fly balls in the lights, providing a potential reason for Granatell’s gaffe on the other side. Regardless, the error allowed the Huskies to take a 2-1 lead.
Young entered in the eighth with the hope that he could finish out a victory with a six-out save. He immediately shined on the mound, striking out the side in the bottom of the eighth. The Huskies went out quietly in the top of the ninth, but it mattered little, as Young continued dealing in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the game with two more strikeouts.
While it wasn’t the prettiest offensive showing for either side, the Huskies’ resilience to prevail in the slugfest is what impressed Glavine most.
“Offensively, we just battled. I thought we hit the ball fine and we honestly didn’t get rewarded for some,” said Glavine. “Tough night to hit and especially there even in the ninth inning, Lane smashes that ball. Any other day that’s gone. So I just thought the offense did enough to win.”
Enough to win indeed.
Remaining in the winners bracket, the Huskies will take on the UNC Wilmington Seahawks in the CAA Championship Winner’s Bracket Finals for the right to advance to the championship round. Justin DIament and Jack Sinclair will have the call Friday at 4pm.