Eagles Advance to Beanpot Final With Win Over Northeastern

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Inclement weather in the Boston area forced a Boston College home game in the semifinals of the Baseball Beanpot away from the friendly confines of Shea Field to Friedman Diamond at Northeastern University.

In the first at-bat of the game, though, Donovan Casey made the Eagles feel right at home.

After working a full count with a keen eye, Casey got a pitch he liked and drove it well over the left-field fence. The ball rocketed off the net separating the field from the residential properties across Harrison Street—the homeowners should be thankful it was there.

“It’s fun starting off the game like that, right?” BC head coach Mike Gambino joked.

After that first run on the first at-bat of the game, the Eagles never looked back. Starting pitcher Jack Nelson set the tone with a scoreless outing and the bullpen followed suit en route to a 5-1 win for BC (9-17, 1-11 Atlantic Coast) over Northeastern (11-15, 4-2 Colonial Athletic). The Eagles broke a three-game losing streak with the win.

After Casey’s early blast, Wednesday’s contest was a battle of the quick-working, strike-throwing starting pitchers. Nelson and Northeastern’s Nate Borges kept the ball over the plate, and the position players behind them took care of the rest.

With five innings of shutout ball, Nelson turned in his best start of the season for the Eagles. The sophomore right-hander only allowed two baserunners, and neither got to third base on Nelson.

“We’re kinda getting used to Nelly doing that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which is awesome,” Gambino said. “He has a great rhythm, great flow, he keeps the ball over the plate, and we can get back to the dugout.”

Casey started things off strong to support Nelson, but the pitcher didn’t receive any additional run support for the duration of his outing. The Eagles had chances to bring runners home, but aggressive decisions on the basepaths that backfired neutralized their scoring chances. Casey, of all people, was involved in two of them.

With two outs in the third inning and Michael Strem at the plate, Casey tried to take advantage of a pitch in the dirt that skittered away from Northeastern catcher Michael Geaslen, but Geaslen recovered well and nabbed Casey at second base with a strong throw.

Then, with one out in the sixth inning and Casey on third base, Strem hit a hard ground ball to shortstop. Casey took an aggressive jump off the bag and started his momentum towards home, then got caught in the middle of the baseline before he was tagged out sliding back into third base. Casey’s read on one-out contact was correct, but the ball was hit hard right at the shortstop for an easy out.

The Eagles finally broke through in the seventh inning off a host of Northeastern relievers. Jake Alu started the rally with a single and a stolen base. Following a hit-by-pitch and a walk, Chris Balogh came into the game to pinch hit for Dante Baldelli with the bases loaded. Balogh crushed a double to right field that brought two runners home and tripled the Eagles’ lead, which was all the support that the pitching staff needed.

Lefty reliever Zach Stromberg followed Nelson’s lead on the mound and slammed the door shut on the Huskies. Stromberg threw three scoreless innings and struck out five batters, only allowing two Huskies to reach base.

In the ninth inning, the Eagles capped off a strong performance with a cherry on top. Dominic Hardaway, who came into the game as Balogh’s defensive replacement, got his first hit of the season and stole second to get into scoring position. Johnny Adams brought him home with a double, and Adams himself scored on a subsequent single from Strem.

John Witkowski gave up one run in the bottom half of the ninth inning, but the Eagles had enough of a cushion at that point to hold their lead.

Though weather forced the home-game-to-be away from BC, Gambino said his players didn’t mind making the short bus trip to a road field. Their reward for going with the flow and getting a victory? Another chance to win some hardware in the Baseball Beanpot final against Harvard University later this month at Fenway Park.

“That’s one of the greatest things about this program,” Gambino said. “This isn’t a place where you have to create adversity to teach toughness—it just happens. It’s part of our lives. It didn’t faze these guys at all.”

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

April 5, 2017