Bullpen, Bats Go Cold Against Pittsburgh in Series Loss

The young season of Boston College baseball has already seen highs, taking 2-of-3 from an impressive North Carolina State team, and lows, getting swept by Clemson. The Eagles weekend series against Pittsburgh fell somewhere in the middle. Losing two of three, BC (13-8, 3-6 Atlantic Coast) struggled throughout the series to shut down the Panthers (11-9, 4-5) offense, to score timely runs of their own, and to play clean baseball on the defensive side, resulting in losses in 2-of-3 games.

BC dropped the last game of the series, 5-4. Freshman right-handed starter Jacob Stevens went five strong innings, allowing just two hits, one run, and three walks to go along with five strikeouts. Costly errors and key hits by the Panthers off BC’s relief pitchers, however, kept Stevens from his third win of the season.

The Eagles struck first, scoring in the third inning off of a solo homerun to centerfield by sophomore Anthony Maselli. BC then continued to threaten Pitt, as sophomore Jake Palomaki reached on a bunt single, and senior Joe Cronin ripped a single through the left side. Sophomore Donovan Casey moved Palomaki to third base on a fielder’s choice, but Pittsburgh starter T.J. Zeuch buckled down and struck out the next two batters.

The Panthers retaliated in the bottom of the fourth inning. Stevens walked the leadoff batter Charles LeBlanc, then Nick Yarnell hit a double to centerfield that put runners on second and third. Alex Kowalcyzk grounded out to third base, but LeBlanc scored to tie the game. Stevens then got the next two batters to ground out to limit the damage done in the inning.

Senior John Nicklas took the mound in the sixth inning, and started his outing with a strikeout. He then gave up a walk to Yarnell, who subsequently stole second base. Kowalcyzk hit a triple off of the left-field wall to score one run and was then driven in by a sacrifice fly, putting Pitt up 3-1.

BC tied the game in the top of the eighth inning, as Palomaki led off the inning with a walk and then stole second. With two outs, senior Stephen Sauter reached on a walk, and senior Gabriel Hernandez came in as a pinch runner. Both runners moved up on a walk pitch, and sophomore pinch hitter Mitch Bigras drew the third walk of the inning to load the bases. Junior Michael Strem then laced a single through the right side to score the tying runs.

The tied game was short-lived, however, as the Panthers took the lead in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore right-hander Brian Rapp came into the game and got the first two outs before a walk to Yarnell, a balk, and an intentional walk to Kowalcyzk. Junior right-hander Justin Dunn then entered the game and gave up a single to Yanni to left that senior left fielder Logan Hoggarth could not field cleanly. With runners on second and third, Maselli could not handle a ground ball which scored another run, putting Pitt up 5-3.

In the ninth inning, Johnny Adams hit a leadoff double to center field and was then moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Palomaki. Adams scored on a passed ball to cut the lead to one run, but senior Joe Cronin popped up behind home plate to end the game.

On Friday, the Eagles suffered a 5-0 loss to the Panthers, BC’s first time being shut out all season. Pitt right-handed starter Aaron Sandefur pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out a career-high 12 batters, and only allowing five hits on the day.

Pitt scored two runs in the third, as senior left-handed starter Jesse Adams gave up a leadoff walk to Yaya Chentouf before getting the first out on a swinging strikeout. LeBlanc then singled through the left side to put two runners on, and Adams threw a wild pitch that allowed both runners to get into scoring position. Adams then threw another pitch that brought in Chentouf for the first run of the game, and Kowalcyzk followed by hitting a sacrifice fly to plate their second run of the inning.

The fifth inning also saw the Panthers cross home plate. Frank Maldonado led off with a stand-up double, and a groundout moved the runner to third base where he would score on a squeeze play. After Adams gave up a two-out single, freshman right-hander Thomas Lane came into the game and got out of a two-out, two runners on jam by getting a grounder back to the mound.

Pitt scored two more runs in the sixth, the first scoring on an RBI single by Chentouf up the middle after Lane walked two batters. Sophomore righthander Bobby Skogsbergh came into the game and gave up the fifth and final run. The Eagles showed defensive canniness as they caught Maldonado between second and third to get the second out, and Skogsbergh got a fly ball to end the inning.

While BC was unable to get runners to cross home plate, its offense was led by Palomaki, who went 2-for-4 on the day, and junior Chris Balogh, who came in to pinch hit in the eighth inning and ripped his first career extra base with a leadoff double.

BC won the first game of the series 6-4, led by strong offensive performances by Cronin and Casey, and a quality outing from junior Mike King. King went 5 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits, three walks, and three runs, two earned.

Both teams struck early. BC scored first on a two-run home run from Cronin, and Pitt capitalized on a BC throwing error and a sacrifice fly by Yarnell. Bigras put the Eagles back on top for good with a solo shot to centerfield in the top of the fourth inning.

The Eagles added three more runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 6-2 lead. Adams got on base by way of a one out walk and stole second base. With two outs Palomaki doubled to left to drive him in. Cronin was then intentionally walked, and Casey singled to right field to score one run and put runners on first and third. The new Pitt pitcher came in and balked, which brought Cronin in from third before getting a pop up to end the inning.

Pitt got one run back in the bottom of the sixth off of a Kowalcyzk double to left center and another base hit, but King got the next two batters to strikeout. He allowed a single to put runners on the corners, and Skogsbergh came into the game to relieve King, quickly getting a grounder to short to end the inning. The Panthers added another run in the seventh as Kowalcyzk hit a sacrifice fly to bring BC’s lead down to two, the closest the Panthers would get to the Eagles for the rest of the game. Dunn pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts to seal the win for the Eagles.

While the offense faltered at times, BC still showed glimpses of how potent it can be from the lead-off hitter to the bottom of the line up. Cutting down on errors will be key for the Eagles as they head into a weekend series against Florida State, the current leader in the ACC.

March 28, 2016

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