Top Story, Spring, Baseball

After Closing Seven-Run Gap, BC Falls to No. 17 FSU in Extras

Down one, with two men on, Gian Martellini stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning of Friday night’s series opener against Florida State with a chance to record his first walk-off hit of his collegiate career—one that would not only cap a monumental come-from-behind effort, but secure Boston College baseball’s sixth win over the Seminoles in program history.

The junior worked a full count before slicing the sixth pitch of the at-bat to right field. Everyone’s eyes were on FSU right fielder Steven Wells as he tracked the fly ball, and reasonably so. Up to that point, the Seminoles had committed six errors, a handful of which were a byproduct of bloopers to right field. This time, though, Wells got under the ball for the putout, wrapping up the four hour and 50-minute slugfest—a game that could have very well been over hours earlier had it not been for a persistent Eagles comeback. BC closed a seven-run gap, scoring at least one run in six of the final seven frames, only to drop its fifth extra-inning affair of the season, 13-12.

Two days removed from a five-run win over Dartmouth, BC (13-24, 5-14 Atlantic Coast) hit the ground running. Jacob Stevens, who was making his 40th career start—the most in program history—pitched a no-hit first inning, recording the first of his three strikeouts on the night. Then, during the bottom half of the inning, Jack Cunningham and Martellini drew a pair of two-out walks, ultimately setting Jake Goodreau up for an RBI double down the right field line. Just like that, the Eagles were leading No. 17 FSU (27-12, 9-9).

Soon enough, Seminoles starting pitcher Drew Parrish settled in, allowing just one hit over the course of the next three innings of play. But Jackson Lueck stole the spotlight. In the top of the third, the Orlando, Fla. native blasted a two-run homer, easily clearing the right field fence. Minutes later—after FSU tacked on one more run—he made up for a few early-game fielding blunders with a web-gem in shallow left field. With a man in scoring position, Goodreau ripped a liner toward Lueck, forcing the junior to get on his horse and lay out for a run-saving catch. After rolling over, he got on his feet, showed the ball to the umpires and celebrated with his teammates. Following a slow start, it was apparent that both Lueck and the Seminoles—losers of four-straight ACC games—had found their footing.

Stevens, on the other hand, was losing his. The junior increasingly struggled with his command, walking seven batters in his four innings on the bump. Attempting to paint the corners, Stevens failed to get FSU or home plate umpire A.J. Lostaglio to bite, time and time again. As his pitch count soared, and the Seminoles loaded the bases to start the fifth inning, BC head coach Mike Gambino decided to pull the plug, replacing the weekend starter with Zach Stromberg. The lefty didn’t make much of a difference—in fact, right off the bat, he walked in the Seminoles’ fourth run of the game.

Stromberg wasn’t getting out of the jam anytime soon. Wells singled off the left-center wall, a few feet to the right of a leaping Chris Galland, scoring both Cal Raleigh and Drew Mendoza. That’s when head coach Mike Martin called for a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over. Rafael Bournigal complied, laying the ball down toward the first base line. Stromberg scurried to pick it up, but as soon as he wound up to throw, he realized that there was no one covering first. In no time, Dempsey sprinted toward the bag, but just as he got there, Stromberg’s delivery ricocheted off the second baseman’s glove. Having to scoop up the loose ball, the Eagles surrendered two more runs on the play.

Trailing, 8-1, the game was already slipping away from BC. Gambino and Co. needed to retaliate—and, in a way, they did. Jake Palomaki singled up the middle, and Galland booked a trip to first, thanks to a catcher’s interference call. Plating the Eagles’ second run of the night, Cunningham hit a hard ground ball to the right side. Bournigal was there to field it, and flipped the ball to Mike Salvatore for the force at second. Instinctively, Salvatore tried to turn two, but his throw to first was off the mark, allowing Palomaki to score from third. The scoring play hardly made a dent in the FSU lead, but was just the start of a long winded BC comeback.

The combination of Sean Hughes, John Witkowski, and Thomas Lane significantly slowed down the Seminoles’ lineup, conceding just two runs—only one of which was earned—in the ensuing four frames. With the bullpen rolling, the Eagles had an opportunity to cut their deficit, inning by inning. Joe Suozzi gave them the spark they needed to actually carry out the plan of attack: Facing an 0-2 count, the sophomore crushed a solo shot to center field. Suozzi, who just went yard for the first time in a BC uniform, sprinted around the bases, as his teammates rose to their feet.

“These guys love Joe Suozzi,” Gambino said. “Everything he does jumpstarts us, but especially [tonight, because] that ball was annihilated.”

After the Seminoles promptly reclaimed their seven-run advantage with a two-score seventh inning, Palomaki reached base to lead off the bottom half of the frame, courtesy of another Seminoles error. Immediately after that, Galland hit an opposite-field fly ball to shallow right field. Perhaps out of confusion, Wells, Albert, and Bournigal all called each other off, and the ball harmlessly dropped in front of the trio of FSU fielders. Galland, of course, was already well on his way to second base by that point. Cunningham, who recorded three hits and four RBIs on the night, rocketed a single up the middle, sending both Palomaki and Galland home, chasing Parrish in the process.

Back within five, BC used a trio of singles, a hit-by-pitch, a sac fly, and a couple of FSU errors to polish off a three-run eighth inning. The Seminoles’ fielding struggles reached an all-time high when Martellini hit a ground ball to shortstop. Once again, FSU went for the double play, and the ambition backfired, as Bournigal’s throw to first rolled past the bag. Naturally, Martellini—with his eyes set on second—rounded the base as fast as he could. Meanwhile, Cunningham trotted to third, and Galland crossed the plate to make it a 10-8 game.

Following a Dante Baldelli strikeout, both Jake Alu and Suozzi booked a trip to first, whether it be because of a hit-by-pitch or simply a walk. Whatever the reason, the two were on their way home anyway—six pitchers later, Anthony Maselli, who entered the game with a mere three hits all season, smashed a double off the left-center wall, bringing in the equalizing runs. The remaining two batters struck out swinging, but Maselli’s two-bagger was enough to extend the game.

Lane tossed a scoreless 10th, but ran into serious trouble in the 11th. The junior walked three of the first four batters he faced in the inning, handing FSU an easy run. Then, in his fourth career at-bat, Cobi Johnson ripped an RBI single through the right side. An off-balance Palomaki got the force at home on the very next play, but Lueck soon lofted up a deep sacrifice fly to center field to plate the Seminoles’ third and final run of the frame.

BC found itself in another hole and in dire need of offense. Weathering a brutal mid-season slump, Alu didn’t let his teammates down, launching a double into the right-center gap. The ball bounced off the wall, and as soon as Wells tried to relay it to his cut-off man, it fell out of his throwing hand. The error gave Alu a chance to stroll into third. Suozzi drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners, and Maselli made the most of the opportunity.

The senior infielder roped a single through the right side, scoring Alu. Palomaki proceeded to tee up a sacrifice bunt, pushing both runners into scoring position. After a Galland punchout, Cunningham buckled down and hit a single right back to the pitcher. Because the ball bounced off Clayton Kwiatkowski’s glove, Suozzi had no trouble running home. The rally ended there, though. Martellini flew out, falling one hit short of a remarkable finish.

Like any coach, Gambino is never happy to see his team lose. But the eighth-year skipper was pleased with the way his guys fought, hustling on the basepaths, forcing errors, and—most importantly—digging themselves out of their own grave.

“No matter what’s going on, you know these guys are going to play really hard and fight and compete,” he said. That’s why people like rooting for ’em. I thought we lost that for a little while—today we got it back.”

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

April 20, 2018

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