Birdball Earns First ACC Series Win At Duke

Boston College baseball’s bats woke up this weekend, as the team took two of three games at Duke this weekend to earn its first ACC series win of the season.

On Sunday, the Blue Devils (19-19, 7-11 Atlantic Coast) avoided a sweep by scoring early and often against BC starter Brian Rapp. With one out, Duke loaded the bases off of two hits and a walk. Rapp came back and struck out the next batter on three pitches, but he wasn’t out of the jam yet. Kennie Taylor ripped a bases-clearing double into the right-center gap, and Max Miller brought him home moments later with a bloop single. After just one inning, the Eagles (12-21, 3-15) trailed the Blue Devils, 4-0, in the series finale.

In the third inning, Mitch Bigras appeared to catch a foul pop out near the BC dugout and lose control of the ball on the transfer. When the umpire ruled no catch, head coach Mike Gambino argued the call until he was eventually ejected. Later in the frame, Duke plated two runs thanks to a sac fly and balk, extending the lead to 6-0.

The Blue Devils tacked on a few more insurance runs off of sophomore relief pitcher John Witkowski in the sixth inning. Down 9-0 in the seventh, Birdball finally got on the board thanks to a rally sparked by freshmen. Jacob Yish continued his hot streak with a leadoff single, and Brian Dempsey followed with a hit by pitch. Donovan Casey then singled, loading the bases for junior Jake Palomaki. The second baseman scored a run with a groundout and Michael Strem followed suit with a RBI groundout of his own. That was all the Eagles would get, though, as Gian Martellini drove one to the warning track, but it was tracked down to end the threat.

The Eagles couldn’t reach base in the eighth or ninth innings, resulting in a quiet 9-2 defeat on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday’s matchup featured plenty of offense, including the rare longball for BC.

Duke struck first, with Griffin Conine smashing a three-run homer off Dan Metzdorf in the first inning. The Eagles chipped into the deficit in the second inning behind a RBI double by Casey. But the Blue Devils added two more runs soon after to stretch their lead to 5-1.

Everything changed with two outs in the fourth inning. The rally began with a single from Yish, who advances to third on a single by Dempsey. Casey tallied his second RBI hit of the day, and subsequent back-to-back walks set the table for Martellini. The catcher blasted his first career grand slam over the left field fence, shifting all momentum and giving BC a 6-5 advantage.

Birdball’s bats stayed hot in the sixth inning. Forcing Duke to use three pitchers in the frame, the Eagles racked up six hits and capitalized on two Blue Devil errors to score nine runs and take a 15-5 lead. Once again, it was Martellini for BC, scoring Strem with a single to right for his fifth RBI of the day. Two batters later, Johnny Adams drove in two more runners with a double to push the Birdball lead to 9-5. Next, Yish lined his first career double and Dempsey bunted for a hit as the baserunners kept coming. Casey walked, setting up runners on the corners for Palomaki. The switch-hitter brought in two more runs with a triple. In total, nine straight hitters reached base before Strem eventually flew out.

Duke got one run back in the eighth off of Jack Nelson, but that would be all, leaving the Eagles with a convincing 15-6 win. BC’s 20 hits were the most since the team rattled off 22 hits against Northeastern in 2015.

On Friday, Jacob Stevens and Casey limited the Blue Devils to just one hit in a 3-1 win. Stevens returned to ace form, tossing seven strong innings, walking three and striking out three.

Duke’s lone run came in the third inning, when Miller doubled and advanced to third on a sac bunt. He scored on a sac fly by Chris Proctor. From the fourth to the seventh inning, Stevens retired eight straight batters.

BC broke through in the fourth inning following back-to-back hits from Casey and Palomaki. Strem grounded out to score Casey and Bigras doubled to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Birdball added an insurance run in the fifth thanks to some heads-up baserunning by Adams. The senior captain singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then, when Yish flied out to deep left center, Adams tagged up and kept running around third toward home after the Duke shortstop misplayed the relay throw. Casey shut the door with two scoreless innings of relief, preserving the 3-1 victory in the opening game of the series.

This weekend was vital for the program, which had been swept in four straight conference series heading into this series. Not only did the offense return to respectability, but Stevens looked a lot like the lockdown pitcher fans came to know as a freshman. The Eagles will have to continue this kind of all-around effort if they want any shot of making the ACC Tournament.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

April 16, 2017