Spring, Baseball

Offensive Outburst Helps Eagles Avoid Sweep in First ACC Series

After losing a pitchers’ duel and giving up 13 runs in an error-plagued second game, Boston College baseball came into the final game of its first ACC series against North Carolina State looking for the all-important first conference win. After all, the Eagles had lost five of six and were looking for any semblance of momentum entering their home opener.

They found it, using a seven-run third inning and seven scoreless innings from Brian Rapp to take one of three from the No. 10 Wolfpack, topping N.C. State in the series finale, 11-3.

“Today showed, and really all the games, that we can compete like crazy in this conference,” Rapp said in an interview with BC Athletics. “Our offense swung the bats great all day, and the defense has been awesome.”

Just a few hours removed from the Eagles’ (6-8, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) pitching staff giving up a season-high 20 hits to N.C. State (13-3, 2-1), Rapp worked around two hits and five walks to pile up eight strikeouts in seven innings. Backed by mult-hit performances from Jake Palomaki, Jake Alu, Scott Braren, and Chris Galland, the Eagles tied a season high with 11 runs.

After RBI groundouts from Gian Martellini and Braren in the first, the Eagles broke out in the third. They batted around, chasing Wolfpack starter Scott Harrison after just 2 1/3 innings of play

Following a Palomaki double, BC loaded the bases with one out. Braren brought in a run with a single, Jacob Yish drew a bases-loaded walk, and Alu added two more runs with a double. Yish scored on an errant throw, and then Galland added an RBI triple.

Galland, who is hitting .514 through nine games, showcased his speed at the end of the inning. Jack Cunningham chopped a grounder to second and the throw came home, but it wasn’t in time to beat the speedy Galland—who is a perfect 10-for-10 on stolen bases attempts, having swiped three this weekend alone.

The lead, at 9-0, was only extended in the fifth when Cunningham brought in two more via a double. Eagles reliever Thomas Lane gave up a solo home run to Brett Kinneman in the eighth and a two-run shot to Brad Debo in the ninth, but it was too little, too late for the Wolfpack.

This followed an impressive offensive performance earlier in the day from the Eagles—but the day’s first game didn’t feature the same quality of pitching. BC led 3-0 through an inning and a third, but N.C. State scored eight runs over the next three frames, en route to the 13-7 win, chasing Eagles starter Dan Metzdorf after just three innings of work.

It was another rough outing for the junior southpaw, who has pitched beyond the third inning just once in his four starts this season. Metzdorf was handed the loss after giving up six runs, five earned, on nine hits and a pair of walks.

The bullpen didn’t fare much better. The Wolfpack scored four more runs in the fourth, then added added two in the seventh and three in the eighth to take the series win. Reliever Joey Walsh gave up four runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings, and the duo of Will Hesslink and John Witkowski combined to give up three insurance runs in the eighth.

The bright spot was that BC’s lineup woke up, setting the table for the bounceback win in the nightcap.

Palomaki extended his hit streak to seven as he went 2-for-4, scoring twice. Galland continued to rake, going 2-for-5 with a triple, while also swiping two more bases to run his total to nine. Martellini added a no-doubter of a home run to lead off the eighth and finished with three RBIs in the loss.

In Friday’s opener, Jacob Stevens hurled eight strong innings, but one pitch got away from him—and proved to be enough to hand him the loss in a 2-1 pitchers’ duel with Wolfpack starter Brian Brown.

Stevens and the Eagles were clinging to a 1-0 lead entering the eighth inning, the product of a Brian Dempsey RBI double down the left field line in the fifth inning. N.C. State’s Josh McClain reached via a one-out double, then Stevens got an important strikeout for the inning’s second out. However, on his very next pitch, Wolfpack shortstop Will Wilson teed off for the decisive two-run home run.

Stevens finished off the inning and ended with a career-high in innings pitched (eight) and strikeouts (eight), but he was handed the loss, his second of the year. It came down to three bad pitches all night for the junior right-hander—the razor-thin margins for a Friday game were no surprise to head coach Mike Gambino.

“That’s a great ACC baseball game,” he said. “That’s Friday night right there. Bear [Stevens] made three bad pitches all night. That’s crazy to pitch a game like that—he threw 99 or 101 pitches.”

Dempsey’s double was a tough break for the Eagles, as it had the potential to bring in two runs—instead skipping out of play down the left field line for a ground-rule double. The other real chance for BC came after Brown, who impressed with six strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings pitched, left.

In the eighth, Cunningham singled off the first pitch he saw, then advanced after a fielding error on a Dempsey bunt. Palomaki laid down a well-executed sacrifice bunt to move them over, putting two runners in scoring position. Wolfpack head coach Elliot Avent opted to go to his bullpen, bringing in freshman right-hander Reid Johnston.

Johnston got a shallow pop-up from Dante Baldelli before Martellini lined out to third base—just inches away from a two-run double down the line.

Both opportunities—Dempsey’s ground-rule double and Martellini’s near-double—left Gambino shaking his head.

“We had a tough break where the ball bounces over the fence,” he said. “And then Gian had a great at-bat, barrels the ball, and it’s just inches away. That’s kind of your baseball game right there.”

The heart of the Eagles’ lineup struggled mightily throughout on Friday, with hitters two through seven finishing hitless, going a combined 0-for-21. This, followed by the pitching struggles in the second game, handed the Wolfpack its first series win against BC since 2013.

Still, the Eagles came away with a 19-18 edge in runs scored over the weekend—no small feat against one of the nation’s top offenses. The inconsistency with the pitching staff remains BC’s biggest problem, but when two of the three weekend starters are putting the team in a good position to win, it’s a promising sign.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Senior Staff

March 11, 2018