By Joe Barbito, news correspondent
As the rain fell on Sunday in Pullman, Wash., so did the record of the Northeastern University (NU) baseball team. After winning two of three against the Cornell University Big Red to earn their first series victory of 2016, the Huskies dropped three of four to the Washington State University (WSU) Cougars to fall to 7-8 for the season.
At the Russmatt Central Florida Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla., NU started off strong with a 6-0 win over Cornell on March 5. Junior pitcher Aaron Civale continued to impress, earning the win as he threw seven shutout innings with five strikeouts. His effort combined with freshman reliever Andrew Misiaszek’s finish blanked the Big Red. The Huskies saw consistent offensive output, with three batters recording two hits apiece. NU also amassed three doubles on the day.
Game 2 would prove to be less fortunate for the Huskies as Cornell came back swinging out of the gate. Junior pitcher Dustin Hunt was pounced on in the opening frame, allowing three runs to the first five batters of the night. NU head coach Mike Glavine commended Cornell’s start.
“The first batter took a nine-pitch at bat and the following hitter got on with a two-strike hit,” Glavine said. “That resulted in that three-run first.”
NU battled back later in the game, knotting the score at five at the end of eight innings, but junior Mike Fitzgerald was unable to hold the Big Red back and gave up a game-winning two-run homer.
The deciding game of the series ended in an 11-0 victory for the Huskies as they obliterated Big Red pitching. A four-run third inning followed by a seven-run fifth was highlighted by a three-run triple off the bat of sophomore infielder Mason Koppens. Senior James Mulry earned his first win of the season, tossing six innings of shutout ball.
Both Husky rallies featured clutch hitting, walks and errors from Cornell.
“Our plan, our goal, is to force them to catch, to throw and to catch,” Glavine said. “Especially in a bases-loaded, high-pressure situation, there are no routine plays.”
Glavine noted the importance of the Huskies picking up their first series win of the year.
“Saturday was a tough loss, and we didn’t come out full of energy for the second game,” he said. “I talked to them Saturday night and told them we have to win[…] it feels so good to finally win a series.”
Fate would not favor the Huskies during their trip to face the WSU Cougars. The four-game series opened on March 10 with a 5-3 victory for NU, which was the program’s first ever win against a Pacific-12 opponent. Sophomore Will Jahn got the start, but pitched only three innings before Misiaszek and sophomore Brian Christian stepped in to relieve him.
Friday marked Civale’s fourth start of the year. Over 7 1-3 innings, he struck out a career high 11 batters, but gave up four runs in the seventh and eighth innings to hand WSU the victory. Sophomore Weston Hatten took a full-count pitch past the left-center fences to score the game winning run for the Cougars.
Due to inclement weather, the Saturday game was canceled and rescheduled as a double-header on Sunday. Hunt took the mound for NU for the first game but was only able to finish 3 2-3 innings, yielding five runs in the fourth to permanently put the Cougars up. WSU ultimately won that game by a score of 7-2.
The weekend came to a dramatic close as the Cougars pummeled Mulry for six runs in the fifth inning of the night game. The game was later called due to rain.
Not all was terrible for the Huskies; freshman outfielder Jake Farrell was 5-for-15 on the weekend with two doubles and a run scored. Glavine was impressed with Farrell’s composure at the plate.
“You’re going to see a lot of him moving forward,” Glavine said. “He can use the whole field and play a lot of positions.”
Misiaszek, another standout freshman, pitched three innings in the series opener for his first career save.
“He brings a lot of talent to the mound,” Glavine noted. “He could hit 92 [mph] and is usually sitting in that 88, 89 range. He has a swing-and-miss slider, he has a changeup, he can hold runners really well, a great all around pitcher. And he is extremely composed for a freshman D1 pitcher against Big 12 and Pac 12 opponents.”
NU will play its first home games of the year this weekend in a three-game series with the University of Buffalo before hosting Boston College on Tuesday afternoon at Friedman Diamond in Brookline.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.