Spring, Baseball

Palomaki, Bullpen Shine in Win Over UMass Lowell

Boston College baseball stayed in-state for a midweek tilt against Massachusetts Lowell, hoping to wash away the bitter taste of a weekend series against Florida State in which it took game one into extra innings and led in the next, but was ultimately swept. Although the Eagles trailed early, four scoreless innings from the bullpen and four RBIs from senior Jake Palomaki helped BC overcome its early deficit and start the week off with a solid 9-4 victory over the River Hawks.

After the Eagles (14-26, 5-16 Atlantic Coast) went down in order to lead off the game, UMass Lowell (17-20, 8-7 America East) took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Jack Nelson worked around a pair of full counts to get the River Hawks’ first two hitters to strike out looking. Unfortunately for BC, he then hung a pitch that junior infielder Russ Olive deposited over the right centerfield fence, giving UMass Lowell the early 1-0 lead before Nelson induced a flyout to end the inning.

The early Eagles deficit didn’t last long, as they managed to tie the game in the second. The BC rally began when Gian Martellini doubled to the gap in left center field. After Jake Goodreau moved him over with a groundout, sophomore outfielder Joe Suozzi ripped another ball into left center for an RBI double—his eighth hit in the past four games—that scored Martellini. Though Suozzi managed to advance to third base, thanks to another groundout, he was stranded when Dante Baldelli hit a ground ball to third, ending the inning.

After this exchange of runs, both Nelson and UMass Lowell starter John Polichetti settled down. Nelson would allow just one more hit until the fifth inning, while Polichetti threw two scoreless frames of his own. He did get into some trouble in the fourth inning when Jack Cunningham singled to lead off the frame before Martellini booked himself a free ticket to first base, courtesy of a hit-by-pitch. But, soon after, Polichetti forced Goodreau to hit into a double play before Suozzi grounded to short, ending a promising inning for BC.

Polichetti couldn’t escape trouble for much longer, though, as the Eagles tagged him for five runs in the fifth. The rally started exactly the same way the fourth inning did, with a leadoff single—this time a credit to Jake Alu—and a hit batter in Baldelli. Brian Dempsey placed a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line, advancing both runners, setting up Palomaki for an RBI single through the right side of the infield, increasing his hitting streak to five games, scoring both runners, and giving the Eagles a 3-1 lead.

BC didn’t stop there: Anthony Maselli singled to right, and the Eagles promptly executed a double steal, with Palomaki taking third and Maselli moving up to second in the process. Perhaps rattled by this, Polichetti then bounced a pitch in the dirt, allowing Palomaki to score. After Cunningham drove in Maselli with another single for his seventh RBI in the last four games, River Hawks manager Ken Harring had seen enough. He yanked Polichetti and sent in senior right-hander Matt Kerin to end the inning. Kerin was a little wild initially, as he walked Martellini on four pitches to begin his outing, but a Goodreau flyout and a heads up play from his infield finished off the fifth in just a matter of minutes. After Suozzi singled to left, scoring Cunningham and giving the Eagles a 6-1 lead, UMass Lowell shortstop Joey Castellanos managed to catch Martellini advancing to second, finally ending the BC threat.

The River Hawks cut into the BC lead in the bottom of the frame. Once again, a single and a hit batter to lead off the inning gave UMass Lowell two baserunners with nobody out. After getting a flyout, Nelson allowed a costly single to Castellanos—one that loaded the bases. Vinnie Martin followed that with a single of his own, scoring two runs, and senior Colby Maiola added to Nelson’s troubles with a line drive into right, bringing Castellanos home. Now only up by two, BC head coach Mike Gambino walked out to the mound and sent lefty reliever Zach Stromberg in to clean up the mess. Stromberg did just that, striking out Ben Prada on a 2-2 pitch before getting the final out of the inning on a routine pop-up.

The Eagles’ bats continued to produce, as they restored the five-run cushion in the top of the sixth. Alu and Baldelli drew back-to-back walks to start the frame, and Dempsey laid down another perfect bunt in an attempt to advance the runners. This time, however, a throwing error by Kerin allowed Alu to score all the way from second and left two runners in scoring position for Palomaki. Much like in the fifth inning, he delivered, driving in Baldelli and Dempsey and upping the Eagles’ lead to 9-4.

From there, the BC bullpen took over. Stromberg ran into a little trouble in the bottom of the sixth, when two walks and a Cam Climo single loaded the bases with just one out, but he wriggled out of that jam, getting Castellanos to swing through an 0-2 fastball, prior to getting a lineout to end the inning. Sean Hughes threw a scoreless seventh, though he did allow an Olive double, and John Witkowski put an end to the River Hawks’ hopes, blanking them in the eighth and ninth innings, conceding just one hit while striking out two batters.

With a rivalry series against Notre Dame coming up, and losses in seven of their past eight games, the Eagles’ return to the win column was promising for BC fans. Now it’s on to the Holy War, as Gambino’s team will try to pick up just its second series victory of what has been a tough ACC campaign.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

April 24, 2018