As New England marched deeper and deeper into the month of April, it seemed like there was a contest of sorts going on. This contest pitted the underachieving bats of the Boston College baseball team against the fierce, and apparently unending, reign of Old Man Winter. The Eagles were 12-26, floundering near the cellar of the ACC and in danger of falling out of the ACC playoffs for the fourth year in a row. Then, they did something that the weather has yet to do-they heated up. The Eagles have now improved to 19-27 on the year, including their 7-2 and 4-3 victories over the University of Rhode Island Rams on Tuesday night.
The Eagles’ pitching has been their strong suit this year. The trio of Andrew Chin, John Gorman, and Jeff Burke has combined to go 8-13 with an ERA of 3.98. On Tuesday, however, it was a fresh face leading the Eagles to the win in the nightcap.
Justin Dunn earned his first win as an Eagle, as the freshman allowed three runs on four hits and three walks through four innings. What made Dunn’s outing all the more impressive was the way he recovered his composure.
When the Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a Chris Shaw RBI double, it seemed to signal a continuation of the eighth inning of the first game, in which the Eagles scored five runs to put the game away. Dunn came out in the bottom of the inning and, much like the Eagles’ season, got off to a rocky start. The Rams’ first two hitters reached base on a single and a walk. Dunn struck out Mike Corin to get the first out for the Eagles, but then faltered. The next batter singled, loading the bases. Dunn, flustered, proceeded to throw a wild pitch, handing the Rams their first run and a tie game. A quick sacrifice fly gave the Rams the lead before Dunn could get out of the inning.
In the second inning, Dunn gave up a third run to the Rams thanks to some solid, fundamental baseball from URI. A leadoff single by sophomore outfielder Ryan Olmo was followed by a successful sacrifice bunt, a single, and a sacrifice fly, giving the Rams a 3-1 lead. For the next two innings, Dunn was lights-out, getting three strikeouts and three groundouts, with a walk in the fourth inning preventing him from getting two straight 1-2-3 innings.
One Eagle who has significantly turned around his form this year and has played a large role in the team’s turnaround, is sophomore right fielder Chris Shaw.
Shaw has a 12-game hitting streak in progress, during which the Eagles have gone 8-4. Shaw has brought his batting average up to .313, and recorded his 32nd RBI in Tuesday’s nightcap. Shaw’s turnaround and the Eagles’ hot form is no mere coincidence. Shaw, BC’s regular cleanup hitter, is the engine that powers the offense. When Shaw got off to a rough start, the offense sputtered. Now that Shaw is hitting, and hitting well, it allows the Eagles around him in the lineup to relax and play looser.
This was on full display in Tuesday night’s game. In the fourth inning, with the Eagles down two runs, Cronin and Shaw quickly made the first two outs. Early in the year, that would have all but guaranteed the end of the inning. Instead, BC strung together three straight singles to load the bases, then Johnny Adams hit an RBI double to tie the game. Rams starter Tyler Barss then threw a wild pitch, giving the Eagles the one-run lead they would hold on to for the rest of the game, until it was called after six innings due to darkness.
The Eagles and Rams were scheduled to play two seven-inning games Tuesday, but of course neither game would cooperate. In game one, it took the Eagles until the eighth inning to break out offensively, scoring five runs in the top of the inning to knock off the Rams. This led to game two being shortened. Eric Stevens paced the Eagles in the first game, going six innings and giving up just two runs (one earned), and four hits. Freshman Bobby Skogsbergh pitched the final two frames for the Eagles, during which he walked two but allowed no runs and no other baserunners.
The Eagles took the lead in the eighth on a bold call from head coach Mike Gambino. With first and third and one out, Gambino called for a squeeze. Michael Strem made Gambino look like a genius, as he laid down a perfect bunt that allowed Butera to score and Strem to get on base safely. From there, it was all Eagles, as they took advantage of URI’s mistakes to build an insurmountable lead.
The Eagles are heating up, and at the right time. Old Man Winter could take a lesson from the team.