A disappointing result at the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship last weekend adds to the Huskies’ motivation as they look ahead to next year. They believe they can build on this record-setting season—and go further in the national tournament.
“It’s honestly exciting,” coach Mike Glavine said after Northeastern lost two tight games at an NCAA regional in Fayetteville, Ark., “Proud of the guys. I hate to see it end like this, hate to lose our guys that won’t be back. But it was a special season.”
Despite the disruptions and doubts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huskies (36-12) earned a school-record 20-game winning streak—the longest in the nation this season—that contributed to their record 18-0 start in the Colonial Athletic Association. They went on to win their first-ever CAA title with three dramatic wins in elimination games, the latter two in extra innings, culminating in a final that swung on two homers—one in the ninth by Ben Malgeri to tie the game against host team North Carolina Wilmington, the other by Max Viera, whose walk-off in the 10th will be remembered for years to come.
Next year, the Huskies figure to build around their young staff of starting pitchers. Staff ace Cam Schlittler (8-1, 1.88), Sebastian Keane (6-1, 4.09), and Wyatt Scotti (4-2, 2.82) can expect to improve as sophomores next season.
The Huskies should continue to excel defensively after ranking No. 9 nationally in fielding percentage (.981). Their strategy of aggressive baserunning (they ranked No. 4 with 2.46 stolen bases per game) will be another strength.
All-American outfielder Jared Dupere (.343, 21 homers, 50 RBIs) is expected to be picked in the Major League Baseball draft; if he doesn’t return to Northeastern next season as a redshirt junior, then the Huskies will aim to establish a balanced lineup around Viera (.348, 6 homers, 26 RBIs, .589 slugging percentage), Danny Crossen (.336, 31 RBIs), Jeff Costello (.329, 34 RBIs), and Malgeri (.280, 7 homers, 28 RBIs).
Closer Brandon Dufault (22 strikeouts in 17 innings despite multiple disruptions to his season) is also expected to be drafted next month.
The Huskies will also lose infielders Scott Holzwasser (.288, 5 homers, 30 RBIs) and Ian Fair (.276, 6 homers, 26 RBIs); outfielder Kyle Peterson (.314); starting pitcher Kyle Murphy (6-1, 3.86); and relievers Brian Rodriguez (3-0, 1.55), David Stiehl (1-1, 3.86), and Rick Burroni (1.32).
“My sophomore year we made it to a regional through an at-large bid,” Holzwasser said. “This year we won our conference, so it was a little different. It felt like we completed a goal we set out for at the beginning of the season.”
On Friday in Fayetteville, the Huskies lost their back-and-forth NCAA opener 8-6 to No. 19 Nebraska. They led 4-0 through three innings on Crossen’s first homer of the season and two RBIs from Dupere. Nebraska scored all of its runs over the next four innings, but Fair responded in the eighth with a bases-loaded two-run single off closer Scott Schwellenbach to trim the deficit to two runs. The Huskies brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth but were unable to deliver against Schwellenbach.
The Huskies lost 3-2 to New Jersey Institute of Technology on Saturday afternoon. Glavine called it a “baseball hangover” game following the high-effort loss to Nebraska hours earlier.
“We just didn’t play well,” Glavine said of the loss on Saturday, in which the Huskies were unable to recover from a 3-0 deficit. “We didn’t have any energy, couldn’t get anything going.”
Overall, the future is bright as Glavine—the three-time CAA coach of the year—approaches his seventh season at Northeastern.
“We took a step forward,” Glavine said of the season overall. “We proved that we belonged.”