The Northeastern Huskies were picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association, even stealing two first-place votes from a UNC Wilmington program that has been to 10 Regionals since 2003. Northeastern — led by preseason CAA player of the year Ian Fair — visits Tuscaloosa to open the 2020 season.
Fun fact: After this series, Northeastern is going to go down to Florida to play a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox.
Fair was the DH last year and was a well-rounded offensive threat — .357, eight home runs was top 10 in the CAA and stole eight bases — thus his preseason player of the year nod.
Northeastern also had second baseman Scott Holzwasser on the preseason All-CAA team. His batting average from last season was a little low (.254) but he did go for extra bases on occasion (12 doubles, two triples and five home runs) on top of a preposterous 27 stolen bases.
Aggressive base running was a consistent factor for the Huskies last year, stealing 101 bases in 57 games, and returning six of its top eight base stealers from last year suggests Northeastern is going to keep running. The other big base stealer of 2019 was right fielder Jeff Costello, who stop 19 bases in addition to hitting .267 with 10 doubles.
Overall, four of Northeastern’s top five in hits last year are back — Fair, Costello, Holzwasser and left fielder Corey DiLoreto — and the Holzwasser-DiLoreto-Costello trio was responsible for 33 of Northeastern’s 84 doubles last year. This lineup won’t be a push over.
Northeastern had five guys start eight or more times last year; two of them are gone and one more (Brandon Dufault) is apparently bound for a closer role. That leaves senior right-handers Kyle Murphy and David Stiehl as the two experienced pieces of the projected rotation.
Neither Murphy nor Stiehl had particularly impressive numbers — Murphy a 4.66 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, Stiehl 4.89 ERA and 1.57 WHIP —but Stiehl in particular was able to keep the walks down a little bit, 32 in 70 innings for 4.114 walks per nine innings.
Know the name Sebastian Keane. He’s a right-handed freshman who was drafted in the 11th round by the Red Sox but enrolled at Northeastern. He was the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year and reportedly has fastball velocity in the mid-90s.