Sports, Baseball, Spring

Pitching Staff Struggles With Command, BC Loses Blowout to No. 3 N.C. State

After losing a heartbreaker on Friday night, Boston College baseball looked to bounce back following a close defeat to No. 3 North Carolina State. The Eagles had the game-tying run erased on the basepaths in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the disappointment from that near-victory lingered as they limped to a 16-4 blowout defeat on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The Wolfpack (19-3, 12-2 Atlantic Coast), which entered leading the conference in batting average, secured the weekend series win behind an explosive offensive performance—it piled up 16 runs off 13 hits while taking advantage of 12 walks from the BC (14-17, 5-9) pitching staff. First baseman Evan Edwards led the way, going 3-for-4 out of the cleanup spot with a home run and four RBIs, while right fielder Lawson McArthur also had a great day at the plate, finishing 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs.

The Eagles were handed their fourth straight loss in what amounted to a bullpen day. With Matt Gill having been moved from the rotation to the back end of the bullpen, BC is short a reliable starter on the weekend, and that showed. Joe Mancini made the start but was chased after back-to-back walks in the third, and the Eagles went on to use six more pitchers, including Nick Couhig, a redshirt freshman who made his debut for BC.

BC did get off on the right foot, however. Even after allowing N.C. State to go up, 1-0, on a throwing error in the top of the first, the Eagles answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame. Shortstop Brian Dempsey got the inning started with a one-out single, stole second, and was driven home by a Jack Cunningham triple. Cunningham later scored off a Gian Martellini single, and just like that the Eagles had the edge in both the momentum and score of the game—but that was short-lived.

The Wolfpack was able to distance itself from the Eagles quickly, as it scored five runs in the top of the third and chipped in two more in the fourth, quickly taking a commanding 8-2 lead after four innings of play. That big third inning output can be traced to a season-long problem the Eagles can’t seem to shake: walks. Mancini was pulled after walking the the first two batters of the inning, and he was relieved by Zach Stromberg, who also struggled with his command. Stromberg walked in a run and then couldn’t escape the frame. N.C. State featured timely two-out hitting, as David Vazquez and McArthur both drove in a pair of runs.

The trouble with control is worth looking at. BC is tied for the conference lead in walks issued, averaging just over five per game. The 12 issued to the Wolfpack was just one shy of the season high thus far. Most teams, especially a top-five team in the country, will take advantage of the free bases that are given to them.

Offensively, the Eagles were hitting the ball well, as they ended the game with 11 hits, but they just couldn’t string them together to have a big inning. Cunningham had a great day at the plate, where he not only hit a triple, but also went yard with a solo jack in the sixth inning. Dempsey and Martellini also turned in multi-hit performances, each tallying a pair of hits.

The Eagles can still take a game from the Wolfpack, as they play Game Three of the series on Sunday, but it’ll require a much stronger pitching performance. Upset wins over No. 10 Louisville and Florida State (now receiving votes) saw BC walk just three and two batters, respectively.  If the Eagles can fix their control issues on the mound and string together some big hits, they can pull off the upset.

Featured Image by Delaney Vorwick / For The Heights

April 7, 2019