If you trot out of the dugout onto a college diamond in blustery winds while hail showers down onto the freshly uncovered grass, you might play for the Boston College baseball team.
If you have to wear a plastic bag over your head while standing in the bullpen just to try and keep yourself from getting wet, you might play for BC. If your hands turn as red as your jersey when you stand at the plate, you might play for BC.
Yes, just like comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s famed “you might be a redneck” joke: there’s an endless list of reasons that make playing for head coach Mike Gambino’s team vastly different from other major conference college baseball teams. Many of those reasons involve the weather—as everyone in Boston knows by now, this year’s weather has broken a plethora of records, most of them snow-related. Because of the lasting effects of this tumultuous winter, the Eagles have spent most of their season trekking across the American South to face their ACC opponents.
But if you can go out in the hail, the biting wind, and freezing temperatures, and still win in your first home game, a mere 31 games into the season, you definitely play for BC.
That’s just what the Eagles (15-16, 5-9 ACC) did on Wednesday afternoon in their home opener at Eddie Pellagrini Diamond at Shea Field, affectionately known as “the Cage.” In the semifinals of Boston’s ugly stepsister of intercollegiate tournaments—the baseball rendition of the Beanpot—BC defeated crosstown rival Northeastern (11-20, 4-5 CAA) 4-1 despite the frigid 36 degree temperatures.
Although they have succeeded more at the plate this season than on the mound, the Eagles saw their pitching staff lead the way against the Huskies. Right-hander Eric Stone retired the first 11 men he faced before laboring through a tough fourth inning. The BC senior walked the bases loaded with two outs, dancing out of danger with a strikeout of third baseman Mike Piscopo. He then followed it up with a scoreless fifth.
“The changeup seemed to help me out of a couple of tough spots,” Stone said. “It was the last pitch I threw that got the out in a 3-2 count.”
That inning gave way to the Eagles’ bullpen, which again put up impressive numbers. Geoffrey Murphy allowed only two walks in 1 1/3 on the mound, followed up by an impressive outing by lefty Tyler Hinchliffe. The pitcher, known by his teammates as “Cheese,” tossed 2 2/3 of shutout relief—the only threat came in the top of the ninth when he allowed a double to center fielder Michael Foster.
The Eagles’ defense also bailed out the pitching staff, albeit with a different look in the outfield. Everyday right fielder Chris Shaw moved over to left, giving way to speedy freshman Donovan Casey. Gambino wanted to protect Shaw, who is not fleet of foot, from Shea’s expansive right field pastures. “I think that move makes us a little bit better in both [outfield] spots,” Gambino said.
The move paid huge dividends for the Eagles. Casey laid out to rob Foster of a bloop single with a runner on second, saving a NU run and helping Stone get out of the fifth—a play Shaw, in all likelihood, would not have made.
At the plate, the Eagles struggled to muster offense. BC only mustered one hit through the first seven innings, capitalizing on a wild fourth inning by Northeastern reliever Brian Christian. The righty from Plymouth, Mass. allowed three runs on two bases-loaded walks (RBIs for Casey and Jake Palomaki) and a bases-loaded hit by pitch (RBI for Johnny Adams). A Joe Cronin walk and a second Shaw base knock set up a Michael Strem RBI single in the eighth off of reliever John Amendola. And although he wasn’t particularly impressed with his team’s offense in this one, Gambino believed his team did what it needed to do.
“Its all about situational hitting,” Gambino said. “Yesterday [in a 2-0 win against Dartmouth] we did it with a big double in the spot, today we did it with being selective at the plate and getting a big hit when we needed it, twice.”
As for the cold, it was nothing new for these veteran Eagles. Although the conditions weren’t ideal, Shaw didn’t think that the weather had any effect on the team’s hitting. Stone echoed that, not even noticing the freezing temperatures. “It was tough to stay loose in between innings,” Stone said. “I didn’t even realize how cold it was until I was done throwing, so it affects you a little bit. But it really wasn’t too bad.”
And now, yet another BC team will have a chance to bring a Beanpot title to Chestnut Hill. The first two chances didn’t go as swimmingly as Eagles’ fans might have hoped, with men’s hockey finishing in third place and women’s hockey in second. But the Birdballers are just happy to be back home.
“Coach was saying before the game: it’s a new start to the season, almost, it’s a shot of energy, something that most other teams don’t get,” Shaw said. “They hit that midseason lull, but we’re on the road so much, we get to come back here and take advantage of teams because we’re starting at home for the first time.”
And if you get to enjoy that advantage, you might play baseball for BC.
Featured Image by Michael Sullivan / Heights Editor