After Mike Glavine announced the Huskies’ 2018 season schedule, he sat back and watched his phone screen light up as the calls, text messages and social media posts began to pour in.
“Are you crazy?” asked family, friends and fans. “Playing this schedule?”
With full weekend series scheduled against major powers Missouri, No. 17 Auburn and Texas Tech, the Northeastern baseball alumnus understood where the concern came from. But after clinching the first CAA regular season title in program history only to fall in the semifinal round of the tournament last season, Glavine had one thing on his mind – redemption.
“We have two ways to reach a regional,” Glavine said. “We’ve only always ever focused on the conference championship. I just asked the team, ‘Why don’t we focus on the other way?’ and that’s to make it as an at-large.”
The Huskies rose to the occasion, collecting the program’s first-ever win over an opponent from the powerhouse Southeastern Conference – Missouri. The day after, they earned their second SEC win against the same foe. To bookend a sweep of the Snowbird Baseball Classic tournament (Presbyterian, Dartmouth, Villanova, Georgetown), Sean Mellen allowed just two hits against Auburn to hand the Tigers their first loss of the season.
It was enough to edge the Huskies into early postseason conversations, with their RPI ranking peaking at No. 2 in the nation in March and remaining within the top 20 since. Glavine’s plan, still in its beginning stages of execution, was working.
“I just felt like this team was ready for this type of challenge, especially given the season that they had last year,” Glavine said, leaning back in his chair in his Cabot Center office. “It will help us get over the hump and get back to a regional. I think just challenging them as much as they could will just prepare us for the tournament.”
The all-too-familiar opponents still loomed – a full conference slate lay ahead, bringing with it memories of the previous postseason. But the Huskies controlled their way through an early road set against James Madison and swept Elon for the first time in program history to open CAA play at their home field, Friedman Diamond in Brookline. Sitting in a steady second slot in the conference standings, Northeastern leads the CAA in hits (362) and is second in the conference in batting average (.273) and RBIs (189).
“We’re a dynamic offense, and if you watch us play we are really fast,” Glavine said. “We have had a bunch of infield hits, stolen bases, things that don’t necessarily show up on the box. We go first to third really well, we score from second almost every time on a single. We do a lot of things with our speed that might not show up statistically but can change a game, and it’s fun to watch.”
Glavine cites his upperclassmen with leading the team through the new perspective for the program – and there’s no shortage of production from them to serve as an example.
Junior Charlie McConnell – who owns the conference lead in stolen bases (24) and senior Max Burt lead the team, batting .345 and .336, respectively. Ty Robinson and Brian Christian lead a relatively young bullpen – seven of 13 pitchers on the roster are freshmen – with Mellen, a sophomore, anchoring the rotation. His 2.06 ERA and 9-1 record are a total transformation from his first season on Huntington Avenue, when he collected a 10.80 ERA while going 1-2. The change is a welcome one, but something that does not shock Glavine and the rest of the Northeastern program.
“There’s a lot that goes into a freshman pitcher, so you tend to see their numbers not quite where they thought they were going to be or where you hoped they’d be,” Glavine said. “He’s just been great. I’m not surprised, he’s extremely talented. He works hard. He has all the makings of being an extremely successful pitcher as he has been this year, and will continue to be.”
With a winning percentage above .600 and plenty of baseball left to play, the Huskies are poised to tackle whatever foe awaits – fearless.
“They’re not afraid to play anyone, anywhere, anytime,” Glavine said. “As a coaching staff, we want to try to instill that attitude in them, and they have bought into it. It’s just that mindset of continuing to believe it’s going to happen. And we’re there.”
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics