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Eric Yost throws a pitch for Northeastern.

‘Anything is possible’ as underdog Huskies aim to repeat as CAA baseball champs

Sophomore Eric Yost helps lead the pitching staff that gives defending champion Northeastern hope at the conference tournament. Jim Pierce/Northeastern Athletics

At the end of a frustrating season, Northeastern is confident of defending its title despite entering the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championship as the No. 5 seed. Such is the paradoxical approach of these Huskies.

“There is a toughness about them where they play better under pressure,” says coach Mike Glavine, who wishes the Huskies wouldn’t leave their best efforts for the hardest circumstances.

Their last-minute nature turned out to be decisive on Saturday. The Huskies had lost five of the preceding six games to set up an all-or-nothing finale at Delaware that would advance the winner to the CAA tournament. The Huskies prevailed, 8-1, to extend their season.

“When they understand the seriousness of what’s going on and what they have to accomplish, there’s just a different atmosphere,” Glavine says in reference to the three-game series at Delaware. Needing to win a single game, the Huskies lost, 4-0 and 5-4, to create drama on the final day.

“Delaware was way looser and more into it in game one, and we were just blah,” he says. “And then you get to game three—they were tight and we were loose, and it was like we knew we were going to win. There’s something about this group that rises up to the occasion. You can feel it.”

The Huskies have played with passion when they've faced their biggest challenges this season. Photos by Jim Pierce/Northeastern Athletics

Northeastern (28-27-1) will open the six-team tournament Wednesday at noon ET (streaming on FloSports) against No. 4 William & Mary (26-21). A win will advance the Huskies to the second round against either No. 1 Charleston or No. 2 North Carolina-Wilmington.

An opening defeat won’t doom the Huskies in the double-elimination event. Last year, they responded to a third-round loss by winning a trio of games over a frantic span of 28 hours, earning their first CAA title and an NCAA Tournament bid with an 11-10 comeback victory over host North Carolina-Wilmington on a 10th-inning walk-off home run by Max Viera.

“The more you do it, the more you get used to it,” says senior designated hitter Corey DiLoreto. “Having your back up against the wall makes you want to fight and find a way to win. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”

One year ago, the Huskies were the CAA’s top seed on their way to a school-record 36 victories. With many of their key players returning, they were the preseason pick to repeat as conference champions. But their hitting has slumped from .295 with 54 home runs in 48 games last year, to .239 with 24 homers in 56 games this season.

And yet they have good reason to be confident.

In March, the Huskies swept a three-game series at No. 8 North Carolina State while scoring their first-ever victory against a top 10 opponent. That was followed by a 5-3 victory at No. 18 Clemson. Overall, the Huskies have gone 5-3 this season against nationally-ranked teams.

“When the competition is there, we’ve turned it up a notch,” says senior right fielder and leadoff hitter Jeff Costello. “Anything is possible in the next few days.”

Though the bats have been relatively quiet, their pitching has remained strong. The Huskies rank No. 4 nationally in earned run average (3.48) in part because they don’t yield freebies—they’re No. 5 overall in walks and hits per inning pitched (for a 1.22 WHIP rating).

“Our pitching has been tooth and nails for us, just fighting through each game,” Costello says. “We have so much depth in our staff that it doesn’t really matter who has the ball that day. They’re going to give us a chance to win.” 

Northeastern will start sophomore ace Wyatt Scotti (7-3, 2.57 ERA) and redshirt sophomore Cam Schlittler (4-8, 3.51) in the first two games. They’ll be supported by graduate student Jordy Allard (1.93), who has thrown 46⅔ innings, mainly out of the bullpen. The scheduled third-game starter is Eric Yost (4-3, 1.84), who shut down Delaware with no earned runs in six innings Saturday, though Glavine will deploy him in relief if necessary. 

“We like to be the underdogs,” DiLoreto says. “We know what we’re capable of, and that’s really all we need is our belief in ourselves. We all believe that we can do something great.”

In their 10 previous CAA tournaments, the Huskies have gone 15-9 in elimination games. 

“I don’t think there were too many teams in the conference rooting for us to get in,” says Glavine in reference to the Huskies’ pedigree for producing when needed. “It was a frustrating year, but we have the veterans and the experience with all the big games these guys have played.”

“I haven’t seen them wilt under the pressure. They’re ready for it,” Glavine adds. “I just think they’ve got to believe that they can do it for a four-day stretch. There’s no reason why we can’t.”

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