Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Northeastern not afraid of big stage
Northeastern's Jared Dupere (8) during an NCAA baseball game against Hartford on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Brookline, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
FAYETTEVILLE — Northeastern won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season going away with a 20-3 record, but the Huskies had to work overtime to claim their first CAA Tournament championship last weekend.
Facing CAA South winner North Carolina-Wilmington on its home field, the Huskies trailed 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth inning with CAA pitcher of the year Landen Roupp on the mound.
Northeastern’s Ben Malgeri came through in the clutch, hitting his fifth home run of the tournament to tie the game on an 0-2 pitch to lead off the frame. Then Max Viera launched a walk-off home run in the 10th to give his team an 11-10 win and send the Huskies to their second NCAA Tournament in three seasons.
Northeastern At a Glance
CONFERENCE Colonial Athletic Association
COACH Mike Glavine (195-147 in seven seasons)
NCAA TOURNAMENT APPEARANCES Nine
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD 6-16
TEAM BATTING AVERAGE .298
HOME RUNS 52
TEAM ERA 3.12
FIELDING PERCENTAGE .980
KEY PLAYERS RF Jared Dupere (.351, 21 HR, 14-15 SB), 3B Danny Crossen (.345, 30 RBI), P Cam Schlittler (8-0, 1.72 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings), P Kyle Murphy (6-1, 3.86 ERA, 87 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings).
Northeastern (36-10) was assigned the No. 3 seed at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional and will open Friday at 7 p.m. against Big Ten champion Nebraska (31-12) at Baum-Walker Stadium. National No. 1 seed Arkansas (46-10) will face NJIT (26-22) at 2 p.m. on Friday in the regional opener.
Northeastern Coach Mike Glavine, the CAA coach of the year, oversees a club that sports one of the best pitching and defensive combos in the country, with a high-scoring offense to boot.
The Huskies rank third nationally in ERA (3.12), have a .980 fielding percentage that is 14th and they score 7.4 runs per game, which ranks 22nd.
Still Glavine, the brother of MLB Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, believes the Huskies will have to reach another level of competitiveness to come out of the Fayetteville regional.
“I think really it’s just belief at this point,” Glavine said on Northeastern social media Monday. “We don’t want to act like, ‘Oh, this is exciting. This is fun just to be there.’
“We’ve got to find a different edge, going into a regional now, and believe that we can do some special things. So I know we believed it going into our conference tournament. It’s taking that same mentality now on the road again and playing … teams we haven’t played in a tough, tough environment and just going down there and playing our style of baseball.”
The mental part of the game, Glavine said, is paramount.
“It’s got to start with a mindset first, and that’s flipping the switch and going down there and believing we can make things happen,” he said.
The Huskies have road wins this season over Wake Forest (20-27) and Old Dominion (42-14), the No. 11 national seed, so they have experience in tough road environments. Additionally, they had to win three in a row in the CAA Tournament after falling to UNC-Wilmington 8-4 in a winner’s bracket game, so they know adversity.
Still, the environment they’ll face at Baum-Walker will be different.
“Yeah, a tough, tough draw obviously,” Glavine said. “Arkansas has just been awesome all year long as is the No. 1 seed, and then obviously Nebraska and NJIT. We’re just excited really, and can’t worry about all that stuff or who we’re playing. We’re just looking forward to a big-time challenge.”
Northeastern’s pitching staff is loaded with talent, mostly from the right-hand side.
Standout right-handers Cam Schlittler (8-0, 1.72 ERA), the CAA co-rookie of the year, Wyatt Scotti (4-1, 2.19) and Kyle Murphy (6-1, 3.86) all have WHIPs (walks and hits divided by innings pitched) of 1.0 or less.
Scotti is 13th nationally with a 0.89 WHIP, while Murphy is 32nd (0.96) and Schlittler is 41st (1.00). In the same department, Arkansas relief ace Kevin Kopps is third (0.78).
Four other Northeastern pitchers with at least nine innings pitched have ERAs of 2.00 or less: Brian Rodriguez (3-0, 1.32 ERA), James Quinlivan (2-0, 1.38), Rick Burroni (0-0, 1.42) and Thomas Balboni (1-0, 1.86). Saves leader Brandon Dufault has a 2-4 record and 3.94 ERA with 5 saves.
Sophomore outfielder Jared Dupere, the CAA player of the year, is hitting .351 and leads the conference with 21 home runs, including four in the league tournament.
The Huskies have five other players with substantial experience hitting .314 or better as part of the team batting average of .298 that ranks 26th in Division I.
Those top hitters are Danny Crossen (.345, 30 RBI), Jeff Costello (.342, 3 HR, 34 RBI), Viera (.341, 5 HR, 25 RBI) and Kyle Peterson (.314, 12 RBI).
Malgeri (.288, 7 HR, 28 RBI), a sophomore outfielder, earned most outstanding player honors at the CAA Tournament.
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