College Sports

Relying heavily on local talent has helped ‘gritty’ Northeastern baseball flourish

The Huskies, who ripped off 20 straight wins this season, have 22 players from Massachusetts.

Billerica's Kyle Murphy said playing for fellow Billerica product Mike Glavine was a big reason he stayed home. Jim Pierce/Northeastern Jim Pierce/Northeastern

As Scott Holzwasser contemplated where to go to college, Northeastern’s proximity to his hometown of Sudbury was ultimately one of the deciding factors.

The infielder Holzwasser, now a redshirt senior for the Huskies, knew he wanted his family to easily be able to watch him play in person. While they would have gladly hopped on a flight or made a long drive periodically if they had to, nothing would be as simple as driving a half hour into Boston.

Holzwasser’s choice illuminates a larger trend for Northeastern baseball. On the roster of 41, 22 players are from Massachusetts. Head coach Mike Glavine said the program has always emphasized attracting the top local talent, yet he’s noticed an uptick of late as the area continues to produce more and more elite players.

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“Over the last few years, we’ve taken it to another level,” Glavine said.

The approach has paid dividends for the Huskies. They made their first NCAA Tournament since 2003 in 2018, started last year 10-5 before the pandemic prematurely halted their season, and finished the regular season 32-9 this year.

Northeastern, which pieced together a 20-game win streak late in the season – earned the No. 1 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championship in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Huskies received a first-round bye and will face the lowest remaining seed Thursday, May 27, at 3 p.m. If they keep rolling and win the conference tourney, they’ll head back to the Division 1 NCAA Tournament once again.

“We’re playing loose,” Holzwasser said. “If we’re losing early in a game, it’s never a thought that we might lose. It’s, ‘Let’s chip away and see how we can get back into this.’”

Scott Holzwasser said having his family watch him play in person played a big role in his decision to go to Northeastern. Jim Pierce/Northeastern – Jim Pierce/Northeastern

Seven of the mainstays in Northeastern’s lineup are from Massachusetts – Lexington’s Jeff Costello (.370 hitter), Amesbury’s Jared Dupere (.355 with 17 home runs), Cotuit’s Danny Crossen (.352), Holzwasser (.303), Reading’s Corey DiLoreto, Walpole’s Ian Fair, and Wellesley’s Spenser Smith.

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East Walpole’s Cam Schlittler (1.29 ERA), Barnstable’s Wyatt Scotti (2.13), Billerica’s Kyle Murphy (2.74), and North Andover’s Sebastian Keane are regulars in the rotation. It’s essentially a Massachusetts all-star team competing – and thriving – at the next level.

“I think we have a little bit of an edge,” said Murphy, a redshirt senior. “People count New Englanders out at times, and that’s something we relate to with each other.”

A lot of these players competed against one another in high school and have built-in familiarity that they believe is instrumental as they transition to college. They also understand that it’s not always easy to sharpen one’s skills year-round in New England due to the weather, and they’re all about devising clever ways to do so with one another.

Glavine, like Murphy, is from Billerica, and Murphy said the hometown connection played a major role in his decision. The seventh-year head coach Glavine, who was named Baseball America’s fourth-most underrated coach in 2020, said the recruiting process begins with talking to local coaches and making sure the Huskies don’t miss or overlook anyone in the area.

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He noted that the program prioritizes winning local recruiting battles and then branching out from there. The talent is here, Glavine said. It’s just about finding it and keeping it here. 

“I think we’re lucky from a recruiting standpoint, because there’s a good-sized pool to pull from,” Glavine said.

Murphy said the Huskies have known something special was brewing since last year, and they feel fortunate that the vast majority of their team returned this season. The 20-game streak this spring proved to both themselves and the rest of the country just how dangerous they can be.

The Huskies didn’t lose from April 7 to May 15. They won a mix of tight and lopsided games along the way and punctuated the streak with a 26-4 triumph over Delaware – the most runs in program history – before falling to the Blue Hens in part two of the doubleheader.

“We just started rolling,” Murphy said. “Once we got to 10 or 15, there was a different vibe around the team. We wanted to keep going, and we wanted to be at the field every day. We didn’t want to stop playing.”

Cam Schlittler is excited to compete in his first conference tournament. Jim Pierce/Northeastern – Jim Pierce/Northeastern

Glavine said he’s proud of the resilience the Huskes have shown, both last year and this year. He called them “a coach’s dream” and “extremely consistent.”

They know anything can happen in the postseason, but they like their odds against anyone if they keep playing the gritty brand of Massachusetts baseball they’ve collectively embraced.

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“It’s what we’ve been working toward for two years,” Schlittler said, “so we’re happy to get that opportunity and hopefully win it.”

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