Virginia Ace Connor Jones Stifles Birdball

In a week of crazy New England weather that brought snow and rain to the area, leading to two cancellations and a postponement, it was only fitting that Boston College baseball took the field at Shea Field Friday afternoon under a downpour of sleet with 20 mile per hour winds. After the sleet passed, the brisk conditions set up the perfect atmosphere for a pitchers’ duel, as the Eagles (14-11, 3-8 Atlantic Coast) sent freshman Jacob Stevens to the mound against the No. 16 defending national champion University of Virginia and its junior ace Connor Jones. Despite Stevens’ stellar outing to match up well with Jones, the Eagles’ bats and usually superb defense let them down, as they fell to the Cavaliers (20-12, 7-6), 3-0.

Stevens gave head coach Mike Gambino and the Eagles everything they could’ve asked for, pitching six innings and allowing one run, none earned, on one hit, while walking five and striking out six.

“Just keep working, just throw strikes,” Stevens said about shutting down a tough Virginia lineup. “These guys are patient, but you’ve got to just keep pounding the strike zone, and eventually they’ll get themselves out.”

The Eagles, however, shot themselves in the foot defensively. In the top of the third, after a one-out walk issued by Stevens to Virginia’s centerfielder Adam Haseley, the Cavaliers’ Ernie Clement reached on an error by BC’s second baseman Jake Palomaki, who failed to cleanly flip the ball with his glove to shortstop Johnny Adams covering second. The next hitter, Matt Thaiss, also reached on an error on a slow grounder down the first base mishandled by Stevens, loading the bases. One of Stevens’ five walks of the day came at an inopportune time, as he walked Daniel Pinero to force in the first run of the game.

The Eagles provided the Cavaliers with more insurance in the top of the ninth, self-inflicting more defensive errors. After Virginia’s Justin Novak was hit by the Eagles’ Bobby Skogsbergh to lead off the inning, Haseley dropped down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded and thrown down the right field line, scoring Novak from first and allowing Haseley to end up on third base. The next batter, Clement, singled Haseley in to put the Cavaliers’ ahead 3-0.

That was all the run support Virginia ace Jones would need. He held the Eagles in check all day, allowing just one hit with four walks and four strikeouts in a complete game shutout to pick up his sixth win of the season.

“This is a very good defensive club,” Gambino said after the loss. “We want to make every play. If our errors are being aggressive and trying to make plays and go after people, then I can live with that.”

After a hot start out-of-conference to begin the year, the Eagles have struggled in ACC play. While the pitching—and normally the defense—have been productive throughout the year, the Eagles’ offense has struggled for most of the season, hitting .270 as a collective unit entering the game, which ranks second-worst in the ACC.

“We’re pressing a bit offensively,” Gambino said. “It’s tough, you know, when you go face a Friday night guy in the ACC, get a week off, and then face another Friday night guy in the ACC … those two guys are going to shut down a lot of offenses.”

Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor

April 9, 2016