Spring, Baseball, Sports

Pelio’s Quality Start Streak Ends in Blowout to No. 17 Yellow Jackets

The glow of a four-game winning streak—one that featured two victories over top-20 teams—has started to fade for Boston College baseball. After being blown out on Saturday by No. 17 Georgia Tech, the Eagles turned to stellar righthander Mason Pelio in the series’ rubber match on Sunday afternoon.

Pelio, in the midst of a historic freshman season, entered having spun three straight quality starts, pitching into the seventh inning in each of them. And, through the first two innings against the Yellow Jackets, there seemed like a high chance that the streak would continue. He needed just six pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning, then promptly retired the side on strikes in the second.

That would be the best two innings he’d have, however. The freshman promptly allowed four runs in the third inning. Grappling with command struggles, Pelio walked five and hit two batsmen across five innings of work. Without its ace and an ice-cold lineup, BC eventually fell, 7-0.

Pelio was outdueled by GT (24-12, 11-7 Atlantic Coast) southpaw Brant Hurter, who threw seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits and three walks while striking out nine. Hurter worked out of a bases-loaded situation in the second by getting Chris Galland to groundout, stranded a runner on third in the fourth with a healthy four-run lead, and was otherwise rarely threatened in the comfortable win.

The Eagles (18-19, 7-11) dipped below .500 again as the series rapidly got away from them. On Friday, BC coasted to a 9-2 victory, with contributions up and down the lineup. That offensive momentum didn’t carry into the weekend, though, as the Eagles were held to a lone run in Saturday’s loss before failing to manufacture anything against the Yellow Jackets on Sunday.

That trend was reversed by its visitors, as GT pounced on BC’s pitching staff the last two games. It nearly replicated its nine-run effort from the day prior against Pelio and reliever Matt Gill, striking for four runs in the third, two in the sixth, and another for good measure in the seventh. The Yellow Jackets did this despite managing just six hits—one more than the Eagles—as BC collectively issued nine walks and hit four batters while managing just eight strikeouts.

Pelio’s disastrous third inning reflected these command issues. Austin Wilhite drew a four-pitch walk to open the inning, Jackson Webb beat out a sacrifice bunt, and Nick Wilhite watched a 3-2 pitch slip wide to load the bases. Pelio, desperately needing a double-play ball, instead hit Luke Waddell—GT’s leadoff hitter—to bring in a run. After an infield fly and a strikeout, Pelio had nearly limited the damage but again hurt himself by drilling Tristin English and walking Baron Radcliff. With three runs in, Pelio was clearly stressed, and he did himself no favors by allowing another run to waltz in after a balk. Two runners were stranded in scoring position after a big strikeout, but the damage was done, and the Yellow Jackets had the lead for good.

After Pelio exited, GT pounced on BC’s starter-to-reliever convert in Gill. Making his first appearance in nine days, Gill hit the first batter he faced, then issued a one-out walk. An infield single loaded the bases, then two runs came home on a throwing error from Eagles shortstop Brian Dempsey. The Yellow Jackets would wrap up the scoring in the following frame, with Nick Wilhite driving in a run with a single to close the ledger.

It was a tough loss for BC, especially after Friday’s comfortable win inspired hope that this could be a season-defining weekend. The Eagles had already taken two of three from a ranked foe in Florida State, but the chance to do so again against a similarly highly ranked opponent was too good to pass up—especially after starting the weekend off with a bang.

Instead, BC slumped, faltering on Saturday as the result of poor starting pitching. One day later, the bats couldn’t crack Hurter, and Pelio didn’t have his best stuff from the third inning on. All things considered, the weekend showed both how close—and how far—the Eagles are from making noise near the top of the ACC.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor

April 14, 2019