Imagine, for a moment, being Matt Lord or Dave Howarth.
Both are freshmen position players for the Huskies. Neither saw any playing time during the team’s first three games, all decisive losses to the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. So they made their collegiate debuts on Friday afternoon in Fort Myers, Florida.
Lord and Howarth’s last game were in high school. Today they played the Boston Red Sox.
The Huskies hung around for most of the afternoon, but a sixth-inning offensive breakthrough handed the Sox a 3–0 win. The game — along with the Detroit Tigers’ matchup against the Southeastern University Fire — was the first MLB action of the year. The Huskies have faced the Sox 18 times — including every one of the last 17 years — and have never won.
The Huskies threatened quickly, with senior infielder Scott Holzwasser earning a 3–0 count, nearly homering when his drive off Daniel McGrath just hooked foul, then took ball four low and away. But Holzwasser gave it all back a few minutes later when McGrath picked him off. It wasn’t a particularly artful or creative move to first, just a moderately deceptive maneuver that completely froze Holzwasser and hung him out to dry.
The first few innings were marked by clumsy fielding. Though the box score shows just two errors — both were Sox miscues — both teams fumbled the ball plenty. Some resulted in outs when the fielders recovered, others were ruled as hits. The first error came after Northeastern’s Kyle Peterson walked, when a scalding ground ball off the bat of Northeastern’s Jake Rosen leapt into the chest of Sox third baseman Chad De La Guerra. But with two on and two out, McGrath fanned Husky center fielder Jared Dupere to silence the threat.
Dupere couldn’t stand looking bad for long. In the Boston half of the first, Jarren Duran smacked a sinking fly into medium center field. Dupere sprinted to his right and made a nifty sliding snag to keep Duran off the basepaths, allowing freshman hurler Cam Schlittler to escape the inning without a problem.
Northeastern’s best chance arguably came in the second inning. After Corey DiLoreto was called out on strikes, junior outfielder Jeff Costello pulled a line drive into left field. Boston left fielder John Andreoli was shading a bit toward center, so Costello dashed toward second and beat the throw with a headfirst slide. This is no easy feat in JetBlue Park — the Sox’s spring training ballpark has the same dimensions and features as Fenway Park in Boston, including the famously shallow left field wall.
The Huskies had a runner on first with only one out, but again squandered the opportunity through baserunning mistakes. After Teddy Beaudet went down swinging, Costello tried to swipe third base. A strong, accurate throw from Boston catcher Connor Wong cut Costello down, depriving Spenser Smith of an RBI chance and sending the Huskies back into the field empty-handed.
Costello’s decision to steal third with two outs would ordinarily make no sense, but in this game it’s more understandable. He was born in Lexington, 13 miles northwest of Boston. He played high school ball just a few miles from Fenway Park. Maybe he just wanted to steal a base against the Red Sox.
The next few innings proceeded without major intrigue. Neither team capitalized on the other’s fielding missteps. Northeastern turned ground-ball, inning-ending double plays in the third and fourth innings to neutralize the Sox. Both teams substituted liberally in a seven-inning game: the Sox used 19 position players and seven pitchers, while the Huskies deployed 15 position players and six pitchers.
The Huskies came close to getting on the board in the fifth inning. After Peterson reached base for the second time, All-CAA First Teamer Ian Fair slammed a shot down the right field line that raised the Husky hopes, but ultimately fell foul. Fair struck out a minute later on Denyi Reyes’ 32nd pitch of the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Northeastern’s Nick David retired the Sox in order, the first 1-2-3 inning of the afternoon for either squad. Eduard Bazardo would do the same to the Huskies in the top of the seventh, but every other half inning saw runners reach base.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Sox finally broke the stalemate. Marcus Wilson walked, then swiped second base when Husky catcher Dave Howarth’s throw arrived too late. Northeastern hurler Rick Burroni retired the next two hitters to hold Wilson at second, but second baseman Ryan Fitzgerald smacked a ball into the right-center field gap to plate Wilson.
When Burroni walked the next two hitters to load the bases with two outs, Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine took the ball from him, making Burroni the only pitcher for either team to be pulled partway through an inning. The move didn’t pay off, as new pitcher Henry Ennen gave up a two-run single to Jantzen Witte to arrive at the 3–0 final score.
It was the first game for Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke, who took the helm after two years as the team’s bench coach and five years as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Roenicke replaced Alex Cora, who was fired by the Red Sox after his prominent role in the Houston Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme was uncovered. The Sox’s lineup featured AA and AAA ballplayers looking to boost their stock before the season starts next months.
The Huskies, still seeking their first win of the season, will head north to Tampa for a three-game series against the University of South Florida. That series begins with a doubleheader on Saturday, with first pitch at 2 PM EST.