Madigan powers Huskies to a sweep of Towson

Junior starter Brian Christian threw seven strong innings and struck out 11 in the win over Towson University / Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics
Junior starter Brian Christian threw seven strong innings and struck out 11 in the win over Towson University / Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

By Jake Sauberman, deputy sports editor

The Northeastern University (NU) baseball team picked a good time to earn its first sweep of the season. After a disappointing series in which the Huskies dropped two of three to Elon University, the team came back strongly this weekend, holding off Towson University to improve their Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) record to 4-2. Despite a loss to Boston College in the Beanpot Semifinals, the Huskies capped off an otherwise successful week.

Northeastern got off to a quick start to the series, jumping to a 4-0 lead in the third inning on a grand slam off the big bat of senior designated hitter Nick Fanneron. An RBI single from senior outfielder Pat Madigan would make it 5-0, and that was more than ace Mike Fitzgerald needed.

Throwing seven strong innings of two-run ball, Fitzgerald scattered four hits and struck out eight. Freshman reliever Brian Rodriguez came out of the bullpen to finish off the final two innings, lowering his season ERA to 0.57 and preserving the 5-2 win for the Huskies.

“The bullpen really provided us with a big spark,” Glavine said. “We only gave up one run out of the pen all weekend, which was big for us after quality starts from our three starters.”

It took longer for the Huskies to crack the scoreboard in Saturday’s match, but when the bats awoke, they roared.

It started on a Madigan homer to left field in the fourth to knot the score at one. A Fanneron RBI single in the fifth followed by back-to-back shots from junior shortstop Max Burt and Madigan again made the score a crooked 5-1. Towson attempted a late comeback off freshman starter David Stiehl, but it was too little too late, as the Huskies ran away with the 7-5 victory.

Madigan’s monster game two performance was part of a larger resurgence over the series, going 5-12 with six RBIs and two home runs over the life of the three-game set. The veteran slugger carried a sub-.200 batting average into the series, uncharacteristic for a hitter of his pedigree. A staple in the heart of the Huskies’ lineup in the last two seasons, Madigan mashed 12 homers and drove in 60 runs between his sophomore and junior years.

“Senior year, I think I let some frustrations in early, but I just simplified things,” Madigan said. “I worked a lot with the coaches in the cages trying to relax more at the plate. Everything’s been working out a lot lately.”

Head coach Mike Glavine has been encouraged by his senior’s resurgence of late.

“He’s trying to simplify his swing a little bit, and hit the ball up the middle more in practice,” Glavine said. “That’s translating to him keeping the ball fair in the game more, not wasting pitches or hooking them foul.”

Glavine cited plate discipline as the biggest catalyst for Madigan’s turnaround. The senior maintained a strikeout-to-walk ratio hovering around 2.0 from 2015 to 2016, but it has since ballooned to 4.40. He has been putting himself behind in the count early, leading to more strikeouts and less walks.

“The biggest thing with Pat is he needs good pitches to hit,” Glavine said. “Sometimes, he gets himself out, but he’s starting to show great plate discipline.”

The Huskies wrapped up the Towson series showcasing their resilience, featuring another strong pitching performance from junior righthander Brian Christian.

Down in a 3-0 hole going into the sixth inning, NU scratched one across on an RBI infield single from junior centerfielder Mason Koppens. An RBI double in the seventh off the bat of sophomore utilityman Charlie McConnell and a two-RBI single from senior outfielder Pat Madigan gave the Huskies the 4-3 lead. Senior infielder Cam Hanley provided the insurance run with a base knock in the ninth, and NU ran away with the stolen win.

Christian was electric on the hill, finally cracking the later frames with a seven inning outing, allowing three runs and striking out 11.

“He threw the ball outstanding,” Glavine said. “We had a tight strike zone, and for him to only get two walks was huge for him. He can pitch to contact and he’ll get strikeouts because of his plus-fastball and plus-slider. What we talked about is trying to do it in four pitches or less.”

The walk total was a big deal for Christian, who had walked six in his previous outing against Elon despite only allowing one hit. Avoiding the base on balls allows the righty to go deeper into games and save the bullpen.

“He knows that he can’t walk guys because his pitch count will go way up,” Glavine said. “If he’s walking guys and striking them out, the next thing you know he’s at 90 pitches in four innings.”

The Huskies closed out their week taking on Boston College as part of the Beanpot Semifinals on Wednesday afternoon. Dropping the match 5-1, the NU offense was stifled by Eagles’ starter Jack Nelson, going just 3-30 over the span of the game.

Northeastern’s senior righthander Nate Borges drew the start, pitching six quality frames of one-run ball and keeping the score close. But freshman reliever Tom Githens and sophomore Tyler Brown surrendered another two each in the later innings, putting the game effectively out of reach.

NU will take on the University of Delaware next weekend, continuing their stretch of conference games within the CAA. This time, however, they will be playing at home, kicking off a homestand that lasts until April 30.
“We’re getting ready to finally be home this weekend after traveling almost all season so far,” Glavine said. “We’re starting to see the consistency that we’ve been looking for.”

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