By Joe Barbito, news correspondent
The Northeastern University (NU) baseball team opened up its season at L. Dale Mitchell Park with a four-game series split against the Oklahoma University (OU) Sooners.
Friday afternoon saw junior pitcher Aaron Civale in his second career start, his first after 21 consecutive relief appearances over the course of two seasons. Working for 7 1-3 innings, he struck out eight batters and gave up two runs. The team gave him three runs to help him earn the win.
Civale worked as a starter for his entire high school career, so the transition from the bullpen was easy for him, head coach Mike Glavine said.
“We knew since the end of last season he was going to be part of the rotation,” he said.
Glavine attributed Civale’s successful start to his hard work in the weight room and dedication to mastering his pitches.
For his performance, Civale was named the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Pitcher of the Week.
The game winner came on an RBI single by junior outfielder Pat Madigan to run freshman designated hitter Charlie McConnell in during the seventh inning.
The Huskies kept their momentum going Saturday afternoon, picking up a 5-3 win in junior All-CAA starter Dustin Hunt’s first start of the season.
Hopes were high for Hunt heading into this year; his 82 strikeouts in 2015 put him first on the team and second in the CAA. He fanned four over four and a third before freshman Andrew Misiaszek took over to finish the remainder of the game.
The duo held OU to just 3 runs as the Huskies scored five with the game winner again coming from Madigan, this time a double to send senior catcher Josh Treff home.
Games three and four proved to be less fortunate for NU, as the Sooners won both by a combined score of 23-8.
OU was quiet through five on the back end of Saturday’s double header, but a five-run sixth inning closed the book on senior pitcher James Mulry.
Oklahoma’s dual threat, pitcher-shortstop junior Sheldon Neuse threw 2 1-3 innings of shutout ball, earning OU the save. On top of that, Neuse knocked in three runs, including a two-run double in the eighth.
Sunday would prove to be another slugfest for the Sooners, as they sent 13 runners home.
Sophomore pitcher Will Jahn was knocked around by OU, giving up seven runs in just two innings.
The Huskies’ bullpen did not fare much better; junior Nate Borges conceded three runs and junior Mike Driscoll allowed four without recording a single out.
Despite leaving 16 runners stranded on base on Sunday, Glavine did not seem alarmed.
“We are trying to keep things positive,” Glavine said. “The good part of this is that we managed to get all those runners on. Now we just need to work on getting them home. We need to get those big extra base hits to break the door down.”
2015 was Glavine’s first year with NU, and it was definitely a turnaround season for the Huskies. They had their best in-conference record (14-10) since joining the CAA in 2006.
After finishing third last season, NU is expected to repeat their standing behind regular season champions College of Charleston and tournament winners University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW).
Glavine’s expectations for the team are high, and he hopes to crack the top three again.
“I like to think we’ll be ready [for CAA play] after our 20 out-of-conference games,” Glavine said.
The Huskies will travel to Texas to take on Abilene Christian University this weekend in a four-game series before their annual exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox on Monday, Feb. 29.
Glavine said this will mostly be for fun, adding that whoever is available to pitch will be getting the mound.
“We have never played this game with a series before it, so we’re focused on winning against Abilene [Christian University],” he said.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.