Boston College baseball has averaged just two runs per game over its last five contests. Yet the Eagles have managed to win three of those five games on the strength of stellar pitching performances. Dan Metzdorf delivered a gem on Friday night against Duke, Joe Mancini shut down Rhode Island on Tuesday, and on Wednesday against Harvard, it was a battalion of five pitchers that got the job done for head coach Mike Gambino’s squad. The contest featured just five hits, as pitching truly dominated the evening.
Joey Walsh started and threw five strong innings to put the Eagles in a position to win the game. With the contest tied in the eighth inning, Lucas Stalman hit a hard ground ball to third base with three men on and two outs. Harvard infielder Hunter Baldwin booted the grounder, allowing the eventual winning run to cross home plate in a 2-1 BC victory.
Eagles (24-24, 8-16 Atlantic Coast) freshman Emmet Sheehan came on in the eighth to face just one batter. But it was an important one, as he retired the Crimson’s (23-12, 12-6 Ivy League) Patrick McColl, whose .430 batting average is good for fourth in the nation. Sheehan notched his first collegiate win on the evening and was pumping 95 to 96 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball.
“It was only one batter, but [Sheehan] was electric,” Gambino said of the freshman who is beginning to garner a much more important role on this team. “Sometimes across college baseball, there’s not enough patience with guys. Guys need time to throw and develop and he’s just starting that process—we’re just starting to see it come with him.”
BC looked to be on pace for a big inning in the bottom of the first. Harvard starter Chris McGrory walked the first three Eagles batters to load the bases with no one out. But the sophomore righthander bounced back. He retired Jack Cunningham, Gian Martellini, and Joe Suozzi in order to leave three runners on and drop the Eagles to one for their last 32 with runners in scoring position. McGrory settled in considerably with his command after the shaky start, as—after the initial three free passes—he retired the next nine Eagles and posted three zeros on the scoreboard.
Walsh, getting his fourth start of the season on the mound for BC, opened strong, needing just seven pitches to record a 1-2-3 first inning. The southpaw walked a trio of Crimson hitters over the next two innings, but was able to pitch out of jams to match McGrory with three scoreless frames.
Both teams would again match each other in the fourth inning, with Harvard’s Jake Suddleson adding to his .409 average and rifling a double down the right-field line for the contest’s first knock. After a ground ball to the right side moved Suddleson to third, Hunter Bigge sent a sacrifice fly out to center field to give Harvard the 1-0 edge.
The Eagles had an answer, however, loading the bases for the second time in four innings with nobody out. Cunningham led off with a single, Martellini walked, and Suozzi experienced an interesting plate appearance—one that involved trying to bunt and taking a fastball to the face, but still being sent back to the batter’s box for not pulling back his sacrifice attempt. After shaking it off, Suozzi worked a walk, and Chris Galland proceeded to bring in BC’s first run on a sacrifice fly. Yet BC stranded two runners in scoring position again, leaving runs on the board.
The pitchers duel would continue on after the starters exited the game. For BC, Sean Hughes turned in a scoreless 1 1/3 innings, featuring a strong fastball that recorded him two strikeouts. John Witkoski replaced Hughes to pitch a flawless inning and a third, needing just 13 pitches to retire the four batters he faced. Sheehan came in to face McColl and struck him out to keep the game tied after seven and a half.
Harvard turned to the trio of Grant Stone, J.T. Bernard, and Jack Mahala to attempt protect the tie for the Crimson. Stone pitched a hitless two innings where he walked three, but regained his command to end the Eagles’ threats. Bernard pitched a clean frame, but Mahala would not escape his inning unscathed.
Cunningham sparked the rally in the eighth with his second single, followed by a Martellini line drive that extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Galland was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. This set the stage for Stalman, who used a two-strike approach to put the ball in play and got the error the Eagles needed to secure the lead. Matt Gill pitched a dramaless ninth to shut the door for his fourth save of the season.
Gambino was proud of the way his team has fought for a pair of wins the last two days, especially with looming final exams and projects.
“Anybody who goes, or has gone to Boston College, knows what this week is like,” Gambino noted. “These kids are driven academically, this is a really tough time academically, and for them to come and grind out wins like they have the past few days, I’m proud of them.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff