Sports, Spring, Baseball

Eagles Prevail Over Notre Dame, Claim Series in Back-and-Forth Affair

Boston College baseball catcher Peter Burns came into his freshman season expecting to catch one or two games a week as a backup to established backstop Gian Martellini. Soon enough, his defense was warranting a promotion—he’s thrown out 13-of-28 runners stealing, a .536 success rate that is tops in the ACC albeit a smaller sample size. Burns moved into a split for starting catching time with Martellini, but the bat didn’t necessarily follow as he entered this weekend hitting just .191.

On Saturday, though, he rose to the occasion not once, but three times, at the plate against Notre Dame. Burns kickstarted a four-run third that erased a 2-0 deficit with a leadoff single, scored a game-tying run in the fourth after a leadoff double, and drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh that tied the game up once again.

When all was said and done, Burns had gone 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI out of the eight spot in the Eagles’ lineup, a pivotal performance in a narrow 9-8 victory over the Irish—one that clinched the series win and featured three ties and five lead changes.

BC (29-25, 12-17 Atlantic Coast) won its fourth straight game and has taken seven of its last eight in a strong end of season surge. The Eagles are a regular season finale win away from hitting the 30-win mark for just the third time this decade and for the first time since 2016, a year that was marked by an impressive run to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Notre Dame (23-28, 12-17) took leads of 2-0, 5-4, and 7-5 in the ballgame, but eventually left the tying run at third base in the top of the ninth and suffered a disappointing loss. After starter Tommy Sheehan labored through five innings, allowing five earned runs on nine hits, Irish reliever Joe Boyle ran into serious control problems.

Boyle recorded the last two outs in the sixth, stranded a runner on third base, and was rewarded with an RBI single from Notre Dame’s Carter Putz in the seventh to extend the lead to two. Boyle would reach full counts to the first three batters in the seventh—Cody Morissette, Brian Dempsey, and Jack Cunningham—and walked all three. After getting Martellini to strike out on three pitches, he walked in a run by issuing Joe Suozzi a free pass and exited with the bases juiced.

Irish manager Mik Aoki went to his closer, Tommy Vail, and he quickly let all three inherited runners score. After getting the second out of the frame on an infield fly, Vail walked Burns to tie the game, but then got Dante Baldelli to ground a ball to second base. Zack Prajzner made a diving stop, yet when he attempted to throw from his knees it rose high, and Burns slid in safely at second when the shortstop pulled his foot off the bag. Two more runs came in on the throwing error, and the damage was done.

BC leaned on reliever Joey Walsh, who entered in the seventh with a runner on first and got two quick outs. He worked around a single for a scoreless eighth, then trotted back out for the ninth and final inning. Notre Dame quickly threatened, putting runners on first and third via a muffed ball and a single, and it eventually loaded the bases after a two-out walk. Walsh—who threw 43 pitches in the extended relief—hurled a wild pitch that pulled the Irish within one. Then, David LaManna very nearly gave Notre Dame the lead with one swing of his bat, but his towering fly ball settled at the warning track in left, and BC escaped with the series win.

It was a gutsy performance from Walsh, who took over after some early struggles from the Eagles’ bullpen. Starter Mason Pelio went just three innings, needing 53 pitches to do so, and gave up two earned runs on three hits with two walks. His replacement in the fourth, Thomas Lane, failed to register an out. Tasked with preserving a 4-2 lead, Lane gave up a single and two walks to load the bases, then watched as all three came in via a wild pitch and a two-run single from Jack Zyska. John Witkowski finished off the inning, but he’d give up an RBI groundout in the fifth and an RBI single to Putz in the seventh before exiting.

The back-and-forth nature of the game saw the BC lineup score at least eight runs for the fourth time in its last five games—after failing to do so in the six games prior. Cunningham went 3-for-4 out of the cleanup spot—his 15th multi-hit game of the season—as he’s rebounded from going just 1-of-13 in the weekend before against Virginia Tech. Six different Eagles drove in a run, and it didn’t matter that current leading hitter Jake Alu went 0-for-5 out of the leadoff spot.

With the win, BC only continues to gain momentum entering the biggest part of its season. The Eagles are up to No. 58 in RPI, and with a run in the ACC Tournament, have a legitimate chance at sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. Of course, BC would likely have to win its pool—which features the No. 1 team in the tourney—but stranger things have happened. After all, the Eagles do feature three wins over teams ranked in the Top 25 by RPI and and have only been swept in a series by a conference opponent once all year.

Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / For The Heights

May 18, 2019