BROOKLINE MASS- After Northeastern’s 6-5 victory over VCU Sunday, Frank Compagnone couldn’t hide his desire to make NU’s first CAA tournament since 2006.
It sure showed on the field.
The junior doubled home redshirt freshman Matt Miller in the seventh to break a 4-4 tie and then made a diving catch in left field, going to his right to rob VCU sophomore Joe Van Meter of extra bases with the tying run on first in the ninth.
“It ended up being huge,” Compagnone said of the catch. “That ball had a lot of top spin on it, it just kept going towards the corner. It was little further away then I expected at first.”
The second out of the inning allowed junior Doug Otto to score from third and cut NU’s lead to 6-5. Senior Dan Zehr loaded the bases after allowing a single up the middle to junior Nathan Furry and hesitating on senior Carlos Rodriguez’s chopper on the third base side of the mound. Zehr came off the rubber to field the ball and appeared to double pump before his throw drew senior Mike Tamsin off the first base bag in a close play, which brought Husky head coach Neil McPhee out of the dugout.
But Zehr was able to keep his compsure, striking out junior Matthew Leskiw for his fifth save of the year and ninth of his career, tying the school record and giving the Huskies a critical series win.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” McPhee said. “You can see [Zehr] wasn’t as sharp as he has been, but he is such an incredibly tough competitor. It was one of those games where we kept battling and battling. We gave them some early runs but the character of this team is keeping ourselves in the game and we’re giving ourselves a a chance to win and getting enough clutch hits to do that.”
The Rams scored a run each in the first three innings off Les Williams (six innings, eight hits, two earned runs, six strikeouts), but the sophomore was able to avoid any serious trouble and keep Northeastern in the game.
“Les is one of those pitchers who never lets it get out of control too badly and that’s a huge plus,” McPhee said. “Alright, Les gave up a run, a run, a run, but he didn’t have multiple run innings and that’s always key to a pitcher keeping his team in the game.”
NU scored a pair in the fourth. Miller led off with the first hit of the day for the Huskies, a single to left. Compagnone walked and Tamsin lined an RBI single up the middle. Junior Brendan Stokes sliced a single done the right field line to score Compagnone. Stokes advanced to second thanks to an interference call on senior R.J. Schenk, who bumped into Stokes as he was rounding first. But with runners on second and third, freshman Seth Cutler-Voltz struck out freshman Sam Berg to end the threat.
Sophomore Ryan Maguire lined his second home run of the year over the left field bullpen on the first pitch he saw from Cutler-Voltz to tie the game in the fifth. Stokes’ RBI groundout in the sixth gave NU a brief lead, but VCU tied the game in the seventh off Andrew Leenhouts.
The freshman walked junior Andrew Dimino to start the inning and then slipped coming off the mound to field a bunt by junor M.L. Morgan, putting runners on the corners. After Otto struck out, Morgan stole second and sophomore Michael Cheatham tied the game with a long sacrifice fly to center field.
“We need to get him on the mound more, the role we’re pitching him in right now only allows him to get out there for an inning or two at a time,” McPhee said of Leenhouts. “He’s so talented and been effective, but let’s face it, a freshman has to get innings in.”
But Compagnone’s double on the first pitch he saw from sophomore Aaron Morgan (3-2) gave Leenhouts (1-1, 1.67) his first collegiate victory.
“I actually went up there looking offspeed,” Compagnone said of his at bat. “He put a fastball up and I was able to see it and put it somewhere where they weren’t. It was huge, I was pretty happy about that.”
Junior David Gustafson singled home Northeastern’s final run in the eighth.
With the win, the Huskies (22-15, 8-7) into fifth place in the tightly bunched CAA, which features four teams with an 8-7 conference record. VCU (19-17, 6-7) fell to eighth.
“We haven’t made the tournament the last two years, so we’re dying to make it again,” Compagnone said.
“Everyone’s pushing hard and doing their part. This is my third year so I haven’t been there before but a lot of the guys that have been there before just talk about how great the atmosphere is, so little by little it pumps us up and everyone is just dying to get there.”