Spring, Top Story

Eagles Hit Four Home Runs in Series-Clinching Win Over Notre Dame

In baseball, a batting slump is comparable to the flu. It is a disease of sorts—something that is infectious and nagging. But eventually, with time, it breaks. Unfortunately for Boston College, it hasn’t been able to get rid of the epidemic. The Eagles have struggled to consistently produce all season.

Prior to the series against Notre Dame, BC sat outside the ACC’s top 10 in every major offensive category. Hitting alone has been a problem. Hitting for power? A catastrophe. Before Friday, the Eagles had only recorded 11 home runs. Every other team in the conference had hit at least 25.

Tell that to Jacob Yish, Jake Palomaki, and Michael Strem—all of whom went yard in Game Two of a crucial three-game series. And it was Strem who knocked one out in the bottom of the eighth, driving in the game-winning run. The Eagles’ four home runs upped their season total by more than 35 percent and, more importantly, propelled them to a series-clinching, 10-9 win in the program’s final weekend at Shea Field.

After back-to-back gems against Wake Forest and Quinnipiac, Dan Metzdorf took the hill. But this time, things didn’t go to plan. In just the second inning, the Irish (26-29, 10-19 Atlantic Coast) got a hold of the lefty.

Leading off, Cole Daily singled to left field. Soon after that, Daniel Jung hit another single. With two men on, Eric Feliz doubled to right field, scoring Daily. To follow that up, Jake Shepski slapped a single toward left field, bringing home both Jung and Feliz. Shepski later scored on a sacrifice fly—Notre Dame’s fourth and final run of the inning.

But one frame later, BC (24-26, 10-19) tied it all up. To start things off, Yish hit a solo shot to left field—the freshman’s first of his career. The ensuing batter, Brian Dempsey, singled through the right side. Then, Palomaki hit a homer of his own, reducing the deficit to just one. To round out the inning, Gian Martellini and Jake Alu hit consecutive doubles—the second of which scored Martellini, tying the game at four.

Nick Podkul hit a leadoff home run in the top of the fourth, allowing the Irish to regain the lead. But Notre Dame’s second scoring outburst took place in the fifth.

Daily reached first on a bunt. Initially, it appeared as if he wouldn’t advance any further. Metzdorf forced the next two batters into infield pop ups. But with two outs, Feliz hit his second double of the day, scoring Daily from first. Right after that, Metzdorf walked Shepski—ultimately forcing head coach Mike Gambino’s hand. Gambino brought in John Witkowksi to diffuse the situation, but it only got worse.

Witkowkski hit Podkul with a pitch, loading the bases. Then, Jake Johnson singled to right center, giving Feliz and Shepski enough time to cross the plate. Eventually, Witkowkski escaped the jam, but the damage was done—the Irish now led, 8-4.

But, just like the third inning, the Eagles answered in the fifth. And this time, they even took the lead. After Dempsey singled up the middle, Palomaki blasted his second dinger of the contest. Donovan Casey continued the rally with a single through the left side. Strem reached first and proceeded to advance to second on a throwing error. To knot it all up, Martellini hit one through the right side, scoring both Casey and Strem. Before the inning ended, Yish hit a single to center, which brought home Martellini.

Following a couple of scoreless frames, Feliz hit a home run to tie the game at nine runs apiece. But it didn’t matter.

In the bottom of the eighth, Strem hit a solo shot, reclaiming the BC lead. Casey took it from there. The junior tossed a one-two-three inning in the ninth to close out the game and the win.

One day earlier, the Eagles kept their postseason hopes afloat with a 6-2 victory in the series opener. Yet instead of a slugfest, Game 1 consisted of a pitcher’s duel—at least for the first six innings.

Jacob Stevens and Brad Bass took the rubber for BC and Notre Dame, respectively. Through six innings of work, both had only given up a pair of runs.

After a scoreless first inning, BC got on the board first in the bottom of the second. First, Alu singled to right field. Then, he swiped second and even advanced to third following a throwing error. Not too long after that, the sophomore tagged up on a Johnny Adams sacrifice fly.

Immediately, the Irish responded. Shepski ripped a double through the right-center gap. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a Podkul single to center.

A similar scoring pattern resumed in the sixth inning. But this time, it was Notre Dame that ended the scoring drought. And it was BC that responded. Each team used small ball to get a runner on base and proceeded to drive them home with an extra-base hit. After the frame, the game remained tied.

Toward the end of the sixth, Peter Solomon replaced Bass. It didn’t take him long to close out the inning. But in the seventh, when he need one the most, he couldn’t buy an out.

Adams reached first on a throwing error. He then stole both second and third, positioning himself for an easy trip home. After an 11-pitch battle at the plate, Dempsey drew a walk. The small ball only continued. Like Adams, Palomaki was safe at first following a throwing error—one that also allowed Adams to score and Dempsey to make it all the way to third. Down in the count, Casey singled to center field, scoring Dempsey. As soon as Solomon walked the next batter, Notre Dame returned to bullpen.

But Patrick McDonald didn’t fare any better. Alu singled up the middle, bringing home Casey and Palomaki—BC’s fifth and sixth runs of the game.

As was the case on Friday, Witkowski and Casey finished out the game on the mound. The two retired the side in back-to-back frames, assuring an Eagles victory.

Even though BC is guaranteed to win its series against the Irish, its postseason fate is anything but certain. An Eagles win on Saturday would book them a trip to the ACC Tournament and eliminate Notre Dame from contention. On the other hand, a loss would have BC scoreboard watching.

If both Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech lose on Saturday, the Eagles are still in. But if the Hokies, who own a head-to-head tiebreaker over BC, beat Miami, Gambino’s uphill battle back to the tournament will end in sour defeat.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

May 19, 2017