By Joe Barbito, news correspondent
For the second weekend in a row, the Northeastern University (NU) baseball team came up with a split series. This time it was against the Abilene Christian University (ACU) Wildcats at Crutcher Scott Field in Abilene, Texas.
Friday’s 3-2 win looked like a carbon copy of the opener against Oklahoma. Junior Aaron Civale pitched for eight innings, allowing two runs and striking out six Wildcats. Junior Mike Fitzgerald picked up his second save of the season by closing out the game, fanning two in a scoreless ninth.
NU was able to use a bit of small ball in this game to score its runs, which is a strength head coach Mike Glavine is happy to see on the team.
“We’re athletic,” he said. “We can run fast, bunt, steal bases, hit and run. That’s our game.”
Saturday’s doubleheader would prove to be a quiet day at the plate, with an afternoon final of 1-0 favoring ACU. Junior Dustin Hunt pitched a gem over eight innings, allowing five hits and one run while striking out eight. His effort would go in vain as ACU’s pitching blanked the Huskies. Senior starter Garrett deMeyere earned the win for the Wildcats, tossing eight shutout innings. Senior closer Nick Palacois pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
“Dustin deserved a better fate,” Glavine said. “This was one of the best games I’ve seen him pitch in his three years here.”
Glavine added that he is developing a much sharper and harder breaking ball in addition to his fastball, which he called Hunt’s best pitch.
“He can use both sides of the plate and place it on the outside corner,” he added.
ACU took the night game with a 4-3 win. Senior southpaw James Mulry had a bounce-back start, going 6 1-3 innings, during which he allowed four runs – two of them unearned – and struck out six batters. Although the Huskies were unable to keep up with the Wildcats’ pitching, junior outfielder Pat Madigan hit the first NU homerun of the year in the eighth inning.
“Their pitching is very good,” Glavine said. “A three pitch arsenal – fastball, breaking ball and changeup[…] They could use both sides of the plate and keep us off balance. They weren’t walking us or hitting us, and we needed to earn every base.”
The tables turned on Sunday as the Huskies won 4-3 to split the series. Despite sophomore Will Jahn’s lackluster start on the mound, the damage was limited to just two ACU runs in the first and one in the eighth. Fitzgerald pitched the final two innings to record his third save of the year.
Monday was a heavy travel day for the Huskies as they flew from Texas to Florida, followed by a bus ride to Fort Myers for their 13th annual exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox. Managing six total hits against the Sox, NU fell 8-3.
“Our schedules are planned about two years in advance,” Glavine said. “We don’t know about the Red Sox game until about five months ahead of time, and playing on a Monday like this has never happened. Whenever we play against [Boston], the crowd is always on our side.”
NU will head back to Florida this weekend for a three game series against Cornell University in Winter Haven.
“You’ll see Civale, Hunt, Mulry and Fitzy out there,” Glavine said of his pitchers. “We need to get back to our identity: Hitting for good contact and driving in runs.”
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.