Top of the ninth. Bases loaded. One down. The game was now tied, 4-4.
Nick Sciortino, who stood several feet off first base, had just drawn the third consecutive Boston College walk from Drew Harrington. The lefty hurler had been near perfect entering Saturday afternoon, allowing just one earned run and seven hits in 18 1/3 innings for Louisville, while also compiling a 9-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In his third save opportunity, he could not deliver, jeopardizing a 107-game streak, dating back to 2012, in which the Cardinals (14-6, 5-1 ACC) have not lost a game when leading after the eighth inning. Johnny Adams, who was already 1-2 on the day with a triple, was due at the plate. BC (5-12, 0-6) seemed prepared to steal the first of a three-game set against the No. 18 team in the country.
And then Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell rose out of the dugout. He took a slow stroll to the mound, allowing Zack Burdi, the next Louisville reliever, an extra two or three warm-up pitches. That was all he would need.
The righty consistently hit 99 mph on the gun in the next inning and two-thirds, first fanning Adams and getting leadoff man Jake Palomaki to ground out to second to kill the rally. He then retired three consecutive batters in the 10th to set up a walk-off victory for Louisville in the bottom of the frame. This performance was indicative of the series, as the Eagles dropped the latter game of the doubleheader, 13-0, and the Sunday finale, 5-2.
“I loved where we were,” Gambino said. “I was confident, but it didn’t work out. If we keep playing like that in those situations, the hits will fall.”
While the Eagles came closest to a win in the first game, they also fought back in the final game of the series. Justin Dunn retired the first six Cardinals in order before running into trouble in the third and fourth innings. In total, he allowed seven hits and four runs in those two innings. John Nicklas and Mike King combined to allow just one run in the next four innings, keeping BC within striking distance.
The hitters began to make their way back in the seventh, using four singles to plate two runs. Two twin killings in the next two innings also killed BC’s hopes, forcing the team to wait another week for a chance at its first ACC win.
The lineup as a whole struggled to hit over the weekend, batting just .184 in the four games. Chris Shaw had an especially tough weekend, going 0-12 despite sending a couple balls out near the track. He also snapped his streak of reaching base in consecutive games at 35.
Gorman struggled from the get-go on Saturday afternoon, surrendering back-to-back-to-back doubles in the first and eventually giving up seven runs in four innings of work. His replacement, Brian Rapp, allowed four more men to cross the plate in the fifth, whereas Brendan McKay shined for seven innings on the hill for Louisville, walking just one and striking out nine.
The best two pitching performances of the weekend came in the first game for the Eagles. BC’s starter, Jeff Burke, never looked close to dominant on the mound—he allowed a triple to Louisville’s leadoff man, Sutton Whiting, in the top of the first—but he got the job done. He allowed three runs in the five innings, which doesn’t look great on the statsheet (5.40 ERA), but it kept his team in the game.
Then, after Nick Poore ran into a jam with one out in the seventh, Geoffrey Murphy entered the game and got two consecutive outs. He followed up with a scoreless eighth and ninth, giving BC its chance at the comeback.
This certainly hasn’t been the ideal start for the Eagles, who were also swept in their first two ACC series last season. But, those games were also against ranked teams (No. 16 Miami and No. 3 Virginia), simply adding to the difficulties presented by an abundance of away games in the first half of the season. With a series against an unranked NC State coming up this weekend and warmer weather likely to hit New England in the near future, BC should have a better chance of finding the win column.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Senior Staff