Baseball: Northeastern cruises with sweep at Winthrop

Baseball: Northeastern cruises with sweep at Winthrop

The baseball team pushed its winning streak to seven games, the fifth longest active streak in the nation, with a sweep of Winthrop (22-15, 8-1 Big South) last weekend. Senior tri-captain and catcher Dan Milano continued his torrid hitting, tying former center fielder Chris Emanuele’s school record 18-game hitting streak with a 1-4 showing Saturday.

The sweep came despite the loss of senior tri-captain and leading hitter Josh Porter and redshirt freshman right fielder Tony DiCesare. Both players came down with the highly contagious Norwalk virus in the middle of last week.

While other players showed symptoms, the virus did not spread and the team was able to make the trip to South Carolina, said manager Neil McPhee. Porter and DiCesare should return to the lineup either today against Massachusetts or this weekend against Georgia State, he said.

“Winthrop has traditionally, in the last four or five years, either been in the top 25 in the country or close to it,” McPhee said. “I think they’re in a bit of a rebuilding year this year, but they’re still a very, very talented program. So it’s huge for the confidence of the team, particularly the young players. … It just bodes very well for the future this year and the next year or two.”

Forecasted inclement weather forced the teams to cancel Sunday’s game and play a doubleheader Friday.

With Porter and DiCesare out of the lineup, redshirt freshman center fielder David Gustafson took DiCesare’s place at the top of the order, while sophomore outfielder and designated hitter Frank Pesanello filled in for Porter at first base.

Junior Kris Dabrowiecki (5-1 2.62) asserted himself again as one of the conference’s dominant pitchers in game one, going 7 1/3 innings, punching out three while allowing one run on six hits.

The Huskies got on the board in the third, when sophomore left fielder Mike Tamsin drove home redshirt freshman designated hitter Brendan Stokes with a single to left. Tamsin advanced to third on an error by junior left fielder Louis Froehlich, but was stranded when Milano flew out to end the inning. Tamsin finished the day going 2-4.

Winthrop knotted the score in the bottom half of the inning on a sacrifice fly by senior second baseman Chris Carrara. But that was all the Eagles could muster off Dabrowiecki, as he cruised through the seventh inning.

Sophomore righthander Alex Wilson matched Dabrowiecki and the game remained knotted at one apiece going into the seventh. The Huskies tagged sophomore Owen Reid (1-1 5.47) for a pair of runs in the seventh. Sophomore third baseman James Donaldson and redshirt freshman right fielder Frank Compagnone connected on back-to-back doubles, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

After starting the season 14-29, Donaldson went through a 3-35 slump, but has picked it up lately, hitting .389 (7-18) in the past four games. Gustafson then singled home Compagnone for the eventual go-ahead run.

The Eagles would tag sophomore Bobby Carrington for a run in the bottom half of the inning, but he pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to notch his first career save as Northeastern hung on for the 3-2 win.

After being stymied by Dabrowiecki in game one, the Eagles ran into sophomore Jeff Thomson (4-2 3.92) in game two. Thomson pitched his first career complete game, allowing two runs on 10 hits and doing it all in a nifty 84 pitches.

“Baseball is a funny game,” McPhee said. “Jeff Thomson’s game on Friday was a good indication of how hot the team can be. It’s one of the most amazing pitching performances I’ve ever witnessed; nine-inning complete game,84 pitches and 10 hits. That is such an unusual line of stats.”

Thomson was able to keep the ball on the ground, resulting in three double plays by the Huskies.

“Double plays happen because a ground ball is hit at one of your infielders,” McPhee said. “If it’s hit in the hole, it means a run, generally speaking. Baseball can change in an instant. It was a phenomenal game for Jeff. It’s an indication of baseball being a strange game- when things are going your way, they’re going your way.”

Thomson had plenty of support, as the Huskies pounded sophomore Jason Franzblau (6-3, 3.03) for 10 hits and eight runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings of work, and had 14 hits and coasted to an 11-2 victory.

Junior shortstop Mike Lyon got the Huskies on the board quickly in the first. After Gustafson led off with a single to right, Lyon launched his seventh home run of the year to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Northeastern exploded for five runs in the fourth, highlighted by an RBI single by Pesanello and a two-run double by Gustafson.

Gustafson finished the day 2-5 with a run and a pair of RBIs. Milano was 3-4 with three runs and an RBI. Senior second baseman Garrett Chin produced his first multi-hit game as a Husky, going 2-3 with an RBI and a run.

The Huskies sent sophomore Trevor Smith (4-2, 5.45) to the mound Saturday as they went for the sweep. For the second consecutive start, Smith turned in a strong showing, going 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits.

McPhee revealed Smith has been pitching with a shoulder injury this season that could require labrum surgery at the end of the season. However, he has been cleared by doctors to continue pitching the rest of this year.

“He’s throwing very well the last two times out,” McPhee said. “That’s the irony of [his injury], he’s throwing his best of the year his last two times out. He was effectively wild on Saturday. He didn’t have command of the strike zone as much as he did the Sunday before, but his velocity has been consistent, 89-91 [mph]; he’s not giving the other team good pitches to swing at.”

Northeastern jumped out to a 5-0 lead, highlighted by Donaldson’s first home run of the season in the second and a two-run shot to right center by Pesanello in the fourth.

The Eagles put up two runs against freshman Sheldon McDonald, but freshman Ryan Quigley put the kibosh on any Winthrop comeback with a scoreless two innings to earn his team-leading fourth save on the season as NU won 5-4.

Junior Josh McDonald (3-2 4.93) took the loss for the Eagles, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up five runs on eight hits. Lyon, Tamsin and Donaldson each went 2-4, and Donaldson drove in a pair of runs as well.

With a leadoff` single in the sixth, Milano extended his hitting streak to 18 games, but said he wasn’t really thinking about it going into the series.

“It might have crossed my mind a little in the first game [of Friday’s doubleheader] in my last at-bat when I was 0-3,” he said.

Northeastern (16-9 8-6 Colonial Athletic Association) will take its seven-game winning streak into the first round of the Beanpot today against UMass-Amherst at 7 p.m. in Lynn. Sophomore Dan Zehr (2-2, 5.50) will take the mound for the Huskies. The game was originally scheduled for yesterday, but was postponed due to poor field conditions at Fraser Field.

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