by Jake Sauberman, deputy sports editor
The Northeastern University (NU) baseball team found their way into the win column this week, splitting a four game series against the University of North Florida.
But first, the Huskies made their way down to Fort Myers, Florida, to take part in an annual Northeastern tradition. Northeastern spent the day at the Boston Red Sox Spring Training facilities and capped off the experience with an exhibition match against the big league club. Usually a low-scoring affair, the Huskies managed to put up six runs on the board despite dropping the game 9-6.
“We swung the bats really well, we had competitive at-bats,” head coach Mike Glavine said. “We played really good defense, and we just had a fun day with it.”
The Huskies remained in Florida throughout the weekend, taking on North Florida four times across three days.
Northeastern took game one on the back of its closer-turned-starter, senior Mike Fitzgerald. Tossing six innings of one-run ball, Fitzgerald kept North Florida off the scoreboard, giving his offense a chance to secure a lead.
“The big thing is having Fitzgerald on Friday nights,” Glavine said. “Even though he’s a senior, making his first career starts for us is a big change for him. As talented as he is, it will take a little bit of an adjustment, and he made it this weekend.”
The Husky lineup took the opportunity given by Fitzgerald’s performance and ran with it early. Junior centerfielder Mason Koppens, given the leadoff role after a strong first series, continued his hot hitting going 2-4 with two runs scored. Freshman third baseman Scott Holzwasser followed him in the two-hole, mashing a first inning homer as part of a three RBI day. This dynamic top of the order gave the Huskies an early 2-0 lead, and they took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning before blowing the game open.
It started on a bases-clearing triple off the bat of senior first baseman Cam Hanley to extend the lead to 5-1. Senior right fielder Pat Madigan then drove in his teammate on a line drive single to left. An eighth inning sacrifice fly from Holzwasser and a two-run shot by senior pinch-hitter Jimmy Hand gave the Huskies the 9-1 victory.
“Every time you’re out there, you want to win, you want to play well,” Glavine said. “I think going into the series 0-3, we wanted to have a better weekend […] We’re happy to get on the board with a couple of wins.”
Game two started out similarly for the Huskies, grabbing a 2-1 lead in the first two innings off an RBI groundout by sophomore left fielder Charlie McConnell and an RBI single off the bat of Koppens.
“We’ve started out nearly every game scoring some runs in the first,” Glavine said. “It’s good, you put pressure on their pitcher and defense right away, and if you can score it allows your pitcher to go out there with the lead […] It’s definitely our focus to get on the board first; it’s one of our goals every game.”
The two teams traded runs until the fifth, when North Florida’s second baseman Chris Berry jacked a three-run homer off Husky sophomore starter Andrew Misiaszek to take a 5-4 lead. That lead wouldn’t survive the eighth, however, as junior shortstop Max Burt knocked an RBI double to even the score at five apiece.
Neither team managed to take the lead before extra innings commenced. The Huskies didn’t delay the game any further, jumping on North Florida for two runs off RBI singles by senior pinch-hitter Nick Fanneron and senior second baseman David Hopkins, taking a 7-5 lead. North Florida attempted a comeback effort, but junior closer Tyler Robinson shut the door with the tying run on third, earning his first save of the season and preserving the 7-6 win.
The latter game in Saturday’s doubleheader was a complete reversal of fortune for Northeastern. North Florida jumped on the scoreboard early and often, knocking around Husky starter Tom Githens for eight runs over just 1.2 innings of work. Down 9-1 in the fourth, NU showed a little fight, tacking on three runs led by Burt’s solo homer. But North Florida wasn’t close to finishing their scoring rout, as they would add another nine runs off the Huskies’ bullpen, handing NU the 17-6 loss.
“We’re not pitching the way we want to and the way we’re capable of right now,” Glavine said of his pitching staff’s slow start. “We have five or six young guys out on the mound who are still trying to get their feet wet in college baseball.”
The pitching woes continued into the Sunday’s game, marking the end of the four game set. Freshman starter Kyle Murphy began the game strong for the Huskies, limiting the opposition to one run through the first three innings. But much like his first start, endurance became the enemy. A three-run shot in the fourth followed by a solo homer in the fifth marked the end of Murphy’s day, and put NU in a 5-1 hole.
North Florida would only pile on from there, tallying six more runs off of its relievers, junior Brian Christian and freshman Brian Rodriguez, before coming away with the 11-1 win.
The split series left Northeastern with a 2-5 record as they plan to head back to Florida over spring break to take on seven different teams in neutral Port Charlotte.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics