After three straight Atlantic Coast Conference series wins, Boston College baseball coach Mike Gambino asked every player to write down reasons for the team’s success.
The simple exercise, conducted two months ago and suggested by legendary BC men’s hockey coach Jerry York, resulted in four themes. The first two, brotherhood and resiliency, spanned the entire roster. The other two went by position. Pitchers consistently attack with confidence. Position players execute on both sides of the ball.
Those tenets have helped the Eagles (30-16, 14-13 ACC) soar to No. 17 in this week’s USA Today baseball coaches poll. In a banner year for New England’s Division 1 teams, Connecticut (35-11, 11-3 Big East) is ranked 10th and Northeastern (37-9, 17-7 Colonial Athletic Association) also received votes.
“It’s been a special year for New England baseball,” said Northeastern redshirt senior third baseman Danny Crossen, a Cotuit native. “Us, UConn, and BC are built mostly around New England players, which puts New England baseball on the map.”
Northeastern is second in the 11-team CAA, mere percentage points behind league-leading North Carolina Wilmington. Although the Huskies dropped two of three to the league leaders last weekend, they could still win the CAA.
Northeastern is 3-0 against top 25 teams. The Huskies beat BC, UConn, and most recently No. 19 Maryland. They boast a loaded lineup and a team batting average of .306, which ranks No. 16 in the country and tops in the CAA.
Among the Huskies who can mash are: freshman right fielder Cam Maldonado (.373, 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 37 RBIs, and league bests with 23 steals and 5 triples); sophomore center fielder Mike Sirota (.358, 14 home runs, 42 RBIs; he is D1baseball.com’s No. 32 draft prospect for 2024); Crossen (.339, 11 doubles, 9 home runs, 37 RBIs); redshirt senior first baseman Tyler MacGregor of Peabody (.343, 15 home runs, 47 RBIs); and senior designated hitter Alex Lane of Andover (.317, 13 home runs, 46 RBIs).
A handful of Northeastern players have walked more than they’ve struck out, leading to a team on-base percentage above .400. The team’s 117 stolen bases rank No. 7 in the country and are nearly 40 more than the next-closest CAA team. And the 88 home runs? An in-progress program record.
“The way our lineup hits, it’s surprising to a point, said MacGregor, a graduate transfer from Columbia who homered three times in the win over Maryland. “But when you look at the hitters we have up and down the lineup, it’s not too surprising at all.”
Northeastern pitchers lead the league in earned run average and are near the top in strikeouts and batting average against. The ace is freshman Aiven Cabral of Lynn (6-3, 2.67), who tossed a complete game shutout earlier this season. Juniors Wyatt Scotti of Barnstable (6-2, 3.61) and Eric Yost (5-1, 4.69) start regularly. Redshirt junior Jake Gigliotti of Paxton (7-0, 3.29) starts and is used out of the bullpen. Griffin Young, a transfer from Division 3 Wheaton, has a 1.14 ERA and 8 saves.
Northeastern also has committed the fewest errors among CAA teams.
“We force teams to beat us,” said ninth-year Northeastern coach Mike Glavine, whose Huskies last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2021. “We’re tough to play against because we’re always attacking.”
UConn, looking for its fifth straight NCAA appearance, leads the Big East standings by a half-game with two league series remaining, relying on potent hitting (.305 team average) and speed (first 100-stolen base season since 2013). Graduate student righthander Stephen Quigley of Halifax, a transfer from Wheaton, is a starting pitcher. His younger brother, Michael, who transferred from UMass Lowell, relieves. Freshman Niko Brini of Plymouth sees limited action.
Near the middle of the pack in the loaded ACC — which has seven of the top 19 teams in RPI — BC is 13-8 against ranked opponents, with two wins over teams ranked No. 2.
Senior center fielder Barry Walsh of Sterling (.305) and junior first baseman Joe Vetrano (.298, 14 home runs, 40 RBIs) lead the offense. BC lost two top position players to injury on consecutive days in late April but both expect to return before the ACC tournament. Junior outfielder Travis Honeyman, MLB.com’s No. 52 draft prospect for 2023, suffered a shoulder subluxation April 29. Junior outfielder Cam Leary, who bats fifth, broke a hamate the day before.
“Obviously they’re a big piece of our lineup,” Walsh said, “but we have a lot of guys who have experienced losing and don’t want to go through that again and will do anything it takes to win.”
Righthander Chris Flynn (6-2, 3.65, 71 strikeouts in 61⅔ innings), a graduate student and transfer from Division 3 Roger Williams, anchors the rotation. Fellow righty Andrew Roman (1.93 ERA, 8 saves), a Monson native and fellow Division 3 transfer (Salve Regina), closes.
After getting swept at then-No. 17 Louisville in early April, the Eagles examined their responses to Gambino’s prompt. Two weekends later, they swept then-No. 16 North Carolina on the road.
BC’s team stats — 12th in the 14-team ACC in batting average (.269) and 11th in pitching (5.49 ERA) — don’t tell the full story, said Gambino, a 1999 BC graduate now in his 13th season.
“When you start to scuffle, you can remember what makes you really good,” said Gambino, who last led the Eagles to the NCAA tournament (and a regional win) in 2016. “This team has a level of toughness and competitive grit that’s not going to end up in the stat sheet.”
Conference tournament winners receive automatic bids to the 64-team NCAA tournament. Even if the three New England powerhouses don’t capture conference crowns, at-large berths could await.