Why the record-setting Northeastern baseball team is ready for an NCAA tournament breakthrough against Maryland

Baseball players celebrate in dugout
The Huskies earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history. Photo by Jim Pierce/Northeastern Athletics

The Huskies believe they’re on the verge of breaking through for Northeastern’s first victory in an NCAA baseball tournament regional. 

“It can’t be, ‘We’re happy to be there,’” says coach Mike Glavine, whose Huskies will be making their third NCAA appearance in six years when they meet No. 23 Maryland at 1 p.m. Friday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (streaming on ESPN+). “We’ve got to go toe-to-toe with all three of these teams and believe that we can compete with them.”

The third-seeded Huskies (44-14) are in a four-team regional hosted by powerhouse Wake Forest (47-10)—top seed of the 64-team NCAA Division 1 Baseball Championship—which will take on fourth-seeded George Mason on Friday night.

Spenser Smith running to high five another Huskies player
Northeastern senior shortstop Spenser Smith (22) is the CAA’s defensive player of the year. Photo by Jim Pierce/Northeastern Athletics

The winner of the double-elimination regional advances to the final 16—one step away from the eight-team College World Series held annually in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We know we’re tough,” Northeastern senior third baseman Danny Crossen says. “We know that we have what it takes.”

That confidence was strengthened in no small part by a traumatic play last Saturday involving Crossen, who dropped a difficult pop up in a swirling wind to score the walk-off run in North Carolina Wilmington’s 6-5 semifinal win in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

Crossen, devastated, knelt at home plate as the winners celebrated his misfortune. He was helped to his feet by Northeastern closer Griffin Young, who had collided with Crossen in the aftermath near home plate. Two more players ran to them. In no time the Huskies’ leader was surrounded by teammates.

“We’re all there for each other,” says senior shortstop Spenser Smith, the CAA defensive player of the year. “That’s what makes this team so special. We love to go have fun and just be with the guys. But at the same time when someone’s down, everyone else is there to pick them up.”

The next day in the double-elimination tournament, Crossen went 4 for 6 with five RBIs and a homer in Northeastern’s 14-8 win over second-seeded Elon. 

“That meant everything,” Crossen says of his teammates’ support immediately after the error. “I wouldn’t blame anybody if they blamed me. But there was none of that. Every single guy was there to pick me up. Everybody was coming over and putting their arms around me. 

“To have the support that I get from those guys every day just gives me the confidence to go out there and come back even stronger. The support I got from my teammates in one of the toughest moments I’ve had in my career—they were able to pull me up from that. It was unbelievable.”

The bounce-back win advanced the Huskies to the championship final for the fourth time in five years, where they fell short again to top-seeded Wilmington, 5-4, despite a three-run homer in the ninth by Mike Sirota. Despite losing the automatic NCAA bid awarded to the conference champion, Glavine encouraged the Huskies to plan on qualifying for the national tournament based on the strength of their record-breaking season.

The Huskies learned Sunday that they had earned their second at-large NCAA tournament bid in six years.

“I’m really disappointed we didn’t win the conference tournament,” Glavine says. “But to come out of it as an at-large team is pretty special. It shows that we did things the right way—we play a really hard schedule, we play on the road, we’re not afraid to play anyone anywhere.”

Northeastern is 8-3 against top-50 opponents in the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), which ranks teams based on strength of schedule. Included in that record is a three-game February sweep of Indiana State (42-15), which recovered from that Florida series to host an NCAA regional this weekend.  

The Huskies are 3-0 this season against ranked opponents—including Maryland, their opening opponent as the regional’s second seed. Northeastern beat the Big Ten champions 9-2 at Maryland on May 9, thanks to three Tyler MacGregor homers and a five-hit performance by a half-dozen pitchers.

That victory doesn’t give Northeastern an advantage as it prepares for its 11th overall NCAA appearance on Friday, insists Glavine.

“But at least we’ve seen that team and we know what we’re capable of,” says Glavine, who has personal knowledge of several Maryland players from recruiting visits.

The Huskies set school records of 44 wins (ranking them sixth nationally) and 103 home runs (16th). But their upcoming opponents are even more explosive: Maryland (123 homers) and Wake Forest (110) rank among the top eight nationally in runs per game.

Wake Forest complements its offense with the tournament’s dominant pitching staff. The Demon Deacons lead the nation in strikeouts-to-walks ratio (4.31) and rank second with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Though the Huskies are second nationally with a 3.55 earned run average, they rate well behind Wake Forest’s 2.82. 

“We’ll see more power arms thrown against us than we’ll throw in this tournament,” acknowledges Glavine. But he’s convinced the Huskies can thrive by making the fundamental plays as they have all season.

“All of those top teams—they’re the ones feeling the pressure,” Crossen says. “So we’re able to go out there and play free and play the game we love. And when we can do that, we know we can beat anybody.”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at i.thomsen@northeastern.edu. Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.