Huskies take it to the CAA championship, but ninth-inning comeback falls short against UNCW


Photo courtesy Jim Pierce

Redshirt junior left-hander James Quinlivan lobs a pitch down the field. Quinlivan allowed two hits and two runs in 3.1 innings against the Seahawks Sunday afternoon.

Sarah Popeck, news staff

Walking into the final game of the CAA tournament, the Huskies (44-14, 20-11 CAA) had to bring everything they had to the diamond.

Northeastern’s 2-1 win over Elon (33-22, 19-9 CAA) Thursday was enough to move them forward, but meant they were facing the first-seeded University of North Carolina Wilmington(34-21, 21-8 CAA). 

After a rain delay postponed Friday’s game into Saturday, the Huskies fell to the Seahawks 6-5 in the 10th inning on a fatal error made by redshirt senior third baseman Danny Crossen.

The Huskies then faced Elon Sunday afternoon for the second time during the tournament in a game that would either punch their ticket to the championship or send them home. In a fierce 14-8 win that included an incredible seven innings of work from redshirt junior right-hander Jake Gigliotti, Crossen went four-for-six with a home run and racked up five RBIs — his best performance all season. Freshman right fielder Cam Maldonado tallied another homer for his rookie season record, putting him at 13.

Only an hour after knocking out Elon, Northeastern found itself in a second matchup against the Seahawks. The Huskies sought revenge after falling in the championship game last year and, after losing to the Seahawks three times this season, hoped to take down one of their biggest rivals. Unfortunately for the Huskies, a 5-4 deficit would send them home from Patriots Point as the CAA runner-up for the second year in a row.

Zane Taylor started on the mound for the Seahawks. The right-handed sophomore started off strong, opening the matchup with a 1-2-3 inning and allowed only two hits in 3.2 innings of work

Sophomore right-hander Jack Beauchesne was first out of the bullpen for the Huskies, but UNCW immediately pounced. Though Beauchesne punched out his first batter, two homers followed — one from redshirt junior left fielder Dillon Lifrieri and the other from freshman first baseman Tanner Thach. 

After allowing two more singles, Beauchesne was retired for graduate student right-hander Patrick Harrington. He started slow by hitting sophomore designated hitter John Newton, which loaded the bases. Redshirt junior center fielder Trevor Marsh grounded out but was credited an RBI, starting UNCW with a 3-0 lead as Harrington closed the inning with a strikeout.

Northeastern was struggling offensively — in the top of the second, senior designated hitter Alex Lane hit a double and was in scoring position when Maldonado advanced him to third, but he was left on the bases after an inning-ending flyout from junior second baseman Luke Beckstein.

Harrington punched out his first two opponents in the bottom of the inning, but when Lifrieri singled up the middle, Northeastern decided to make another change, retiring Harrington for redshirt junior left-hander James Quinlivan, who limited the Seahawks to pop-ups and flyouts to the outfield until the sixth.

Both teams saw an empty third inning, but Northeastern tried to strike again in the fourth. Crossen started with a single. UNCW relieved Taylor with junior right-hander Ethan Chenault, who had three K’s and four hits, only allowing two walks throughout his four innings. Maldonado hit a single to move Crossen to second, but redshirt freshman left fielder Harrison Feinberg struck out to strand both Huskies on the bases.

The Seahawks continued to hold Northeastern back from scoring — sophomore center fielder Mike Sirota came close but got out on a fielder’s choice from third to home in the sixth. 

UNCW attacked again in the bottom of the inning when redshirt freshman right fielder Alec DeMartino doubled to left center. Third baseman redshirt junior Jac Croom paved his way to home with a ball out of the park to right center field. 

Down 5-0, the Huskies brought right-handed graduate student Jordy Allard to the mound for one inning, but it was redshirt senior right-hander Nick Davis who would close out the game, striking out two players and preventing any more runs.

As the Huskies finally found their footing, they built up offensively and tried one final time to make a comeback at the top of the eighth. Sirota started the rally with a single, and Lane walked to join him on the bases. 

Right-handed freshman Connor Kane stepped in for UNCW, but Maldonado snuck in another single to load the bases. A critical walk to Feinberg sent Sirota home and finally put Northeastern on the board. Redshirt junior right-hander Brett Banks relieved Kane and finished on the mound, striking out Beckstein with three runners left on the diamond.

The 5-1 deficit was daunting entering the ninth, but Northeastern had a glimmer of hope as Kane walked junior catcher Gregory Bozzo. Redshirt senior shortstop Spenser Smith singled, and a passed ball inched them closer to home.

Sophomore center fielder Mike Sirota smashes a three-run home run to put the Huskies within one run of the Seahawks. The homer was Sirota’s 18th of the season. (Photo courtesy Jim Pierce)

It was a job for none other than Sirota, who smashed the ball out of the park and sent all three of them around the bases. Soon after, Lane walked again and sophomore designated hitter Justin Bosland was switched in as a pinch runner. He was able to steal second base, but Maldonado grounded out to end the game with a 5-4 loss.

Despite the heartbreaking defeat, four players on Northeastern’s roster received honors on the all-tournament team: Smith, Maldonado, Crossen and Gigliotti.

Northeastern faced the same outcome as the 2022 season when they fell in the championship game, but nonetheless, walked off the field with a plethora of accomplishments — members of the team received CAA honors, such as Rookie of the Year (Maldonado) and Pitcher of the Week (freshman right-hander Aiven Cabral), and earned the program’s first top-25 ranking. 

But their season is not over yet — the Huskies will head to the Winston-Salem Regional as the third-seed to face Maryland, who they previously triumphed over in the regular season. Northeastern will compete for a ticket to Omaha for the College World Series, with the first pitch Friday at 1 p.m.