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Take 5: Baseball’s rite of spring

Northeastern’s baseball team has stumbled out of the box, winning just four of its first 12 games on a monthlong road trip to Florida and Texas. But the season is young and the Huskies have returned home, where they’ll play 19 times over the next two months. The first game is scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m. at Parsons Field, where the red and black will take on the Niagara University Purple Eagles. Here are five things you should know before the first pitch.

The carryover effect: Last season, the Huskies eclipsed the 30-win plateau for just the fourth time in program history and made a deep playoff run in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. Manager Neil McPhee believes his team has the potential to build on last season’s strong finish and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament this season. “It seems like the team is ready to take its game to the next level,” he says. “Our goal every year is to make the conference tournament. Once we’re there, anything can happen.”

The mashers: The bats of centerfielder Connor Lyons, leftfielder Brad Burcoff, shortstop Jason Vosler, and second baseman Michael Foster have carried the offense through the team’s first 12 games. The quartet of offensive stars have combined to amass 66 of the team’s 118 hits, drive in 22 of 44 RBI, and score 32 of 51 runs. “These four have to be our offensive leaders,” McPhee says. “They have to be the players who we rely on to get multiple hits in an inning and score multiple runs in a rally.”

The aces: Chris Carmain, Nick Berger, and James Mulry have started 11 of the team’s first 12 games. Carmain, a six-foot-three-inch, 215-pound righty, is leading the staff with a miniscule 1.27 earned run average in 28.1 innings pitched. Berger and Mulry, on the other hand, who have combined to surrender 26 earned runs in just 32.1 innings, have yet to find their swing-and-miss stuff. Carmain, McPhee says, has “really matured and is clearly fully recovered from his elbow injury a couple of years ago.” He is also confident that Berger will find his game, noting that “his strength is throwing strikes and competing at a high level no matter the circumstances.”

The youth movement: Twelve of the team’s 33 players are freshmen, including pitcher Dustin Hunt and catchers Nick Fanneron and Joey Scambia. Hunt, a 6-foot-4-inch flame throwing righty, has struck out 13 batters in 13 innings pitched while Fanneron and Scambia have combined to amass nine hits and four RBI in just 12 total games. “Dustin is very calm and collected on the mound,” McPhee observes. “He throws a lot of strikes and has a 90 mph fastball. Look for very big things from him in the future.” Fanneron and Scambia, he says, “have already shown they are capable of stepping into the lineup and hitting Division 1 pitching.”

The curtain call: The 2014 season marks McPhee’s 29th and final year as Northeastern’s skipper. In his first 28 seasons, he amassed 697 victories, the most by any coach of any sport in Northeastern history. On March 2, he collected his 700th career victory, a 7-2 win over St. Bonaventure. “I couldn’t have asked for a better coaching experience,” McPhee says. “I’ll miss the players the most.” Upon retiring, he will be replaced by assistant coach Mike Glavine, the brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine. According to McPhee, the program’s future is in good hands. “Mike has a tremendous relationship with the players, very strong leadership skills, and a natural instinct for the game,” he says.

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