Sports, Spring, Baseball

Saturday Starter Struggles Plague BC in Loss to No. 17 Georgia Tech

At this point, Boston College baseball head coach Mike Gambino is going to have to manufacture a second weekend starter from out of nowhere. After Dan Metzdorf hurled a quality start on Friday night, helping the heavy-hitting Eagles to a series-opening win over No. 17 Georgia Tech, Gambino gave the ball to Joey Walsh—who had made his first career start in 35 career appearances on Tuesday against Rhode Island—in the rematch on Saturday.

Walsh had been effective against the Rams, hurling four scoreless innings, but the Yellow Jackets boast a much more difficult lineup. Entering hitting .296 in conference play, tops in the ACC, GT quickly proved that Friday night’s two-run effort was a bit of a fluke. The Yellow Jackets chased Walsh in a disastrous third inning, one in which six runs came across the plate, creating a healthy lead that eventually translated to a 9-1 win for the visitors.

BC (18-18, 7-10 Atlantic Coast) continued its dance around the .500 record mark, falling back, as it saw a four-game winning streak come to a screeching halt. Walsh’s shaky start reflects the struggles that the Eagles have had in getting a complete weekend out of their pitching staff. The last two weekends—against North Carolina State and Florida State—BC has had quality starts from both Metzdorf and Mason Pelio.

The Saturday starter, though, hasn’t fared quite as well. Gambino went with Joe Mancini each of the last two weekends after moving on from Matt Gill, and Mancini’s combined line over the two was five innings of work with six runs allowed. Walsh showed promise as a starter against Rhode Island on Tuesday, but after a scoreless first, he quickly ran into further trouble against the hot-hitting Yellow Jackets (23-12, 10-7).

Baron Radcliff took the first pitch he saw from Walsh in the second inning and sent it deep to right field for a solo home run. An inning later, the floodgates opened. Luke Waddell laced a single through the right side, advanced on a bunt, and came home to score on Kyle McCann’s RBI single. Tristin English doubled, and Radcliff walked on five pitches to load the bases. All Walsh needed was a double play ball to limit the damage to a run, but instead Colin Hall dropped a single into no-mans land that brought in two runs and allowed two to move into scoring position on the throw home. The parade continued when Austin Wilhite rocketed a bases-clearing single up the middle with the infield in. Gambino had seen enough.

Walsh exited, but his replacement Nick Couhig—who made his third appearance in the last two weeks after not appearing at all before—promptly surrendered an RBI single to Nick Wilhite. Zach Stromberg emerged from the bullpen and worked around a walk to finally end the inning with a strikeout—a frame that featured six runs on six hits for the visiting Yellow Jackets.

The 7-0 deficit would be imposing to most, but it was even more so with GT’s Connor Thomas on the mound. Thomas entered having earned a win in half of his eight starts, boasting an impressive 56:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a similarly strong 2.84 ERA. He was effective on Saturday, needing 93 pitches to throw seven innings of one-run ball, scattering five hits while striking out four and issuing a lone walk. The junior, a reigning All-ACC First Team selection, retired eight straight after giving up a one-out single in the second.

He ran into trouble in the fifth and escaped it without allowing a run, but the same couldn’t be said about the sixth. Brian Dempsey singled to open the frame to BC, but was held at first after back-to-back flyouts. He moved to second on a Ramon Jimenez single, putting a runner in scoring position for Cody Morrissette. The Eagles’ second baseman laced a single to left field to score Dempsey, who beat a throw home, but Jimenez was gunned down at third by McCann from behind the plate in an unconventional 7-2-5 putout. It spoiled a chance at a further two-out rally from BC, which would only fall further behind in the next inning.

Mancini entered for Hughes, who had retired the side in the sixth, and the multipurpose pitcher got two outs but also gave up two singles. Gambino turned to Will Hesslink, and he gave up back-to-back singles. Both, coming from Wilhite and Waddell, respectively, scored runs—but the second ended the inning as Wilhite was thrown out in a similarly uncommon 8-4-5-2 putout.

The final two innings went smoothly for both pitching staffs, ending up as a lopsided eight-run loss for the hosts. It drew comparisons to last Saturday’s 16-4 setback to the Wolfpack, as the Eagles couldn’t get strong early pitching and dug way too large of a hole to even mount a comeback. As Friday night’s win showed, BC—when it gets a strong start—has the lineup and the backend of the bullpen to hang with anybody in the conference. Saturday proved, though, that an incomplete rotation can spell doom. Ever since Gill was moved, Gambino has turned to the likes of Mancini and Walsh, and the results haven’t been pretty.

Featured Image by Delaney Vorwick / Heights Staff

April 13, 2019