Fall Ball Report: Northeastern looks to build on a 2017 Colonial regular season title
If it's possible to strike a commanding presence and put everyone at ease with a laid-back style, I offer you Northeastern Head Coach Mike Glavine.
This approach, however, doesn't mean Glavine isn't a fiery competitor. After witnessing Scout Day and a later scrimmage, there's no question his players compete with intensity.
The still strapping 6'3" Glavine enters his 4th year at the helm after leading the Huskies to their first ever Colonial Athletic Association regular season title in 2017, earning him CAA Coach-of-the-Year honors.
He's right at home at Northeastern, having enjoyed a record setting career as a 1st baseman for the Huskies between 1992-95, entering the school's Sports Hall-of-Fame in 2006. A year later he joined the coaching staff.
Between his stints with the Huskies, Glavine experienced a successful 10-year professional career, culminating in a 2003 cup-of-coffee with the New York Mets along side his MLB HoF brother, Tom.
It's that experience and commitment to Northeastern baseball that has Glavine's program on the move.
Last year was truly a breakout campaign, as the Huskies posted a 16-7 CAA record, winning 5 straight conference road games down the stretch to secure the #1 seed in the CAA tournament before losing two of three to end the season.
And while they do suffer graduation losses, none larger than leading hitter Cam Hanley and pitcher Mike Fitzgerald, a bevy of veterans return along with some talented youngsters from a team who's strength was pitching and defense (team ERA of 3.88 and .983 fielding percentage were both second best in the CAA).
The outfield appears to be in great shape led by a trio of speedsters to patrol the spacious dimensions of Friedman Diamond.
At the top of the order will be versatile Charlie McConnell (101 career starts), a legit 6.6 runner who swiped 13/19 bags in '17. His bat warmed with the weather, slashing .298/.365/.457 in the CAA and Glavine thinks he's primed for a big senior season. He's also a plus in the locker room, "keeping it light and loose, making it fun for the guys".
Cam Walsh (66 career starts) flashed an impressive arm during scout day and possesses a fluid swing from the left side. He hit .291 in 110 AB's, but only .194 in CAA play. Look for Walsh to return to his '16 form when he hit .317 as a freshman.
Out for the fall nursing a bruised knee is senior Mason Koppens, who's improved his batting average every year, from .190 in '15 to .252 in '16 and up to .264 last spring. Most recently, Koppens hit .305 with 10 doubles in 110 Cape League at-bats for Chatam while impressing coaches with an outstanding work ethic. He's also an elite base stealer, swiping 15/18 and led the team in CAA runs scored.
Burt is a physical speciman at 6'2', 210lb who put on an impressive batting practice show for the scouts, consistently ripping deep drives to the pull side. The unquestioned leader and returning captain has started all 167 games in his career while taking a big step forward in productivity last year, slashing .299/.371/.452, including 21 extra-base hits in 197 at-bats. In the field Burt possesses charmin soft hands and "an arm that works really well from all the different angles" says Glavine. He was named the 2017 Colonial Defensive Player-of-the-Year.
While Burt struggled a bit with the wood bat in The Cape, hitting just .205 in 117 at-bats for Harwich, he looks ready for a big spring and low risk senior sign from the '18 MLB draft.
Holzwasser is a well-rounded talent with tools that play, earning him Collegiate Baseball News Freshman All-American honors in '17. He shows good bat speed with quick hands yielding surprising power to the pull side for the diminutive 5'10", 185 pounder. Holzwasser led the team with 7 homers, slashed 260/.387/.460 and stole 11 bases in 15 attempts.
"He's like the energizer bunny, going 100%, full throttle, all the time. The other guys seem to feed off Scott", says Glavine. Along with naturally raising his overall game, Glavine wants to see Holzwasser reduce his strikeout rate. "He has power and can run. When he puts the ball in play, good things generally happen".
The corner infield positions and the DH spot are still to be determined. One piece is the bruising 6'1", 215lb Ryan Solomon , who's power is undeniable, aided by a steep upper cut bat path. He pounded 4 homers and slugged .597 in just 67 at-bats last season. He may see time at both 3B and 1B.
Senior Nolan Lang (77 career starts), fresh off a strong summer as a member of the German National Team, looks to revert to his 2015 form when he hit .285 in 43 starts.
Sophomore Ian Fair, a talented athlete and specimen at 6'3", 210lb, is also in the mix but recently suffered a broken middle finger while fielding a grounder, setting him back a bit.
The lefty swinging 6'4" 195lb Jake Farrell will get time at 1B and DH and could offer some punch at a position where it's expected.
Behind the plate Glavine will likely continue to platoon veterans John Mazza and Mike Geaslen. Mazza's calling card is defense while Geaslen, a former high school quarterback, brings more athleticism and pop with the bat.
On the mound, the clear Friday guy is senior Brian Christian. After struggling with his command in '15 & '16, Christian came into his own last year going 7-3 in 82.2 innings of work, walking only 35 while whiffing 85. He's shut down for the Fall.
The Saturday starting role is there for the taking. One option is the projectable 6'5", 190lb lefty Sean Mellen. He sat 87-89 ("he may be backing off a bit" in his last fall action, said Glavine) while flashing a late, sharp breaking ball. Most importantly, Mellen was around the plate, dotting both sides with his fastball. Last year command was an issue, walking 28 in just 20 innings of work. "He has all the makings, it's all there" says Glavine.
Lefty Andrew Misiaszek was outstanding in '16 sporting a 21/53 walk-to-strikeout rate and a .236 BAA over 52 innings of work. After battling a minor hip issue early, Misiaszek came into his own in the CAA, posting a 2.08 ERA and .218 BAA over 21.2 innings. He'll see the mound often this coming spring.
Also in the mix is 6'2", 215 pounder RHP Kyle Murphy, who ate up 44.1 innings last year and is coming off a strong summer performance.
Glavine expects two talented freshman to make an immediate impact. One is intimidating 6'4", 225lb RHP Kyle Angel who throws from a high 3/4 slot with an aggressive mentality. "He has a chance to be a starter for us" says the skipper.
The other is intriguing 6'5", 180 pounder RHP Brandon Dufault, who sports a high sidearm slot. He was consistently around the plate with a heavy fastball that has touched 93 while displaying a good feel for his secondary stuff. He could be a real weapon out of the pen, particularly against right-handed hitters.
If there's any question whether Northeastern is serious about competing in the southern based CAA, look no further than Friedman Diamond.
Built in the 1920's, these 7 beautiful acres sit in a classic residential community within tony Brookline, MA. In 2015, the outdated home plate seating area and press box were thoroughly transformed, resulting in the spanking new John "Tinker" Connelly Pavilion.
Now 400 fans can sit comfortably around home plate in chair back seats or aluminum benches replete with back rests. Sitelines are terrific, as the grandstand sits perched above the plush all-weather playing surface. The place is absolutely resplendent in the school's bold red & black colors, with tasteful branding seen throughout.
Coupled with a large grandstand beyond the right-center field fence and this complex can easily hold 2000 fans in a wonderful, old-time setting.
You can win here.
2018 Outlook: The Huskies surprised many by winning the CAA regular season a year ago and won't sneak up on anyone this time. While the CAA RPI rank dropped to #21 in 2017, this is a historically competitive baseball conference with RPI's of #14 in both '15 and '16.
College of Charleston will be under new leadership in former South Carolina head man Chad Holbrook. UNC-Wilmngton seems ready to rebound from a down year and defending tournament champions Delaware returns a talented core.
There's no question Glavine has this program headed in the right direction. Like last year, pitching and defense will again be strong. For the Huskies, its about jump starting their offense and putting pressure on opponents. If they can get good production from corner infielders to compliment many other weapons, the Huskies will again be in the hunt for a CAA title and Regional berth.
"I think we're really athletic, fast and now it's about building off last year, kicking the door down and winning a Championship" concludes Glavine.