Sports, Spring, Baseball

BC Pitching Staff Impresses in Shutout of Rhode Island

On Sunday, Boston College baseball picked up a signature win over No. 3 North Carolina State. In fact, the victory was the Eagles’ fifth against a top-25 team this season. But, time and time again, BC has struggled to carry that momentum over to non-conference play—entering Tuesday’s contest versus Rhode Island, the Eagles were just 1-3 in games following top-25 upsets.

That wasn’t the case against URI, though, as the Eagles’ pitching was locked in and shut out the Rams by a 4-0 margin, the staff’s second blanking of the season.

Joey Walsh picked up his first win of the year, tossing four scoreless frames of three-hit ball. Travis Lane was stellar out of the bullpen, throwing three hitless innings, coupled with four strikeouts. BC’s (16-17, 6-9 Atlantic Coast) pitching gave up just five hits on Tuesday, marking the fourth time this season where the Eagles have surrendered five or fewer knocks.

“They attacked the zone, they threw strikes today,” head coach Mike Gambino said of his group’s dominant performance. “Walsh threw the ball great, and then Travis [Lane] came in and for a second looked like he wasn’t going to throw strikes, and he settled right back down and started pounding the zone.”

After suffering the loss to N.C. State on Friday night, Walsh took the ball to start the contest for the Eagles. Coming into Tuesday, the sophomore lefty’s longest outing of the season had been two and two thirds innings. Making his first start of his 17 appearances against URI (14-15, 7-2 Atlantic 10), he threw four frames in which he walked just one batter and struck out two.

The Rams threatened in the second, third, and fourth innings, getting runners into scoring position in each frame. Walsh buckled down and got out of trouble each time, however. In the second, a John Cristino double, followed by a grounder to the right side, gave the Rams a runner at third with one out. Josh Brodeur proceeded to hit a grounder right at BC third baseman Jake Alu, who quickly fired home and threw out Cristino, who was running on contact.

“I was just trying to throw strikes and attack guys with not just my fastball, but my slider and go after people,” Walsh said of his effective start. “Gian [Martellini] helped me stay calm which really helped.”

Aggressive baserunning led to the Eagles scoring the game’s first run in the second inning. Jack Cunningham led off the frame with a bunt single down the third base line that beat the shift the Rams were putting on the big lefty. With one out, Cunningham stole second and advanced to third on a poor throw by Cristino. Cody Morissette brought Cunningham home on a hard single up the middle to give the Eagles an early lead.

BC doubled its lead in the bottom of the fourth, largely in part to another defensive miscue from URI. With a runner on first, Dante Baldelli pinch-hit for Cunningham, seeing his first at-bats since he crashed into the center field wall and injured his left shoulder on March 22 against Clemson. The junior hit a soft ground ball to third base, which was fielded cleanly by Brett McManus, but was thrown away at first base, moving the runners to second and third. Martellini brought home the second run on a sacrifice fly.

The Eagles tacked on another run in the fifth off the strength of a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Brian Dempsey and added another in the sixth when Baldelli reached on the Rams’ third error of the afternoon. Morissette skied the Eagles’ third sacrifice fly into right field for his second RBI of the afternoon, and Baldelli crossed the plate, giving BC a four-run edge.

Travis Lane came on to pitch the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Despite the cold day, Lane’s fastball was popping and he was keeping hitters off-balance with his off-speed stuff. The four strikeouts on Tuesday were a season-high for the freshman, and, despite walking three, the big righty was able to pitch out of danger and find his command when he needed it most. His brother Thomas came on in relief to pitch a scoreless ninth and locked down the victory for the Eagles.

On a mighty cold day in Brighton, the Eagles manufactured runs on the strength of only five hits. BC bunted, stole, and forced URI to make plays, forcing three Rams errors, a play style that’s at the core of the team’s identity.

“That’s how we’re built,” Gambino said. We’re built on as a team, when we’re good, we play great defense, we run the bases, situational hits, we play good team baseball.”

The Eagles have bounced back from a four-game skid with a pair of wins in the last three days and continue to straddle .500, with a chance to again reach the mark with a victory on Wednesday against Quinnipiac. This time, there was no letdown from a promising weekend win, and that bodes well as the year winds to a close.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor

April 10, 2019