Sports, Baseball, Spring

Boston College Baseball ACC Tournament Preview: Clemson

Since the calendar turned to May, Boston College baseball—even with star freshman Sal Frelick sidelined with injury—has played some of its best baseball. Behind the arm of Dan Metzdorf and the bats of the left side of the infield in Cody Morissette and Jake Alu, the Eagles have gone 6-2. If you go further back to after they were swept by North Carolina, BC is an impressive 10-4 combined—a strong run of play that bodes well for the upcoming ACC Tournament.

Slotted into the field as the 12th and final seed, the Eagles will have an uphill battle to make it past the first two days, seeing as they face No. 8 seed Clemson on Tuesday and get back at it against No. 1 seed Louisville on Wednesday. First pitch for both games is set at 11 a.m. in Durham, N.C., the earliest start BC will face since a March 9 matchup against the Cardinals.

The opener, against Clemson, is a game that the Eagles absolutely must win to both gain momentum into a heavyweight bout with the Cardinals and avoid a quick exit like the last time they were in the tournament. To aid that effort, the Tigers are stumbling into the tournament in a much different state than the Eagles.

Clemson was listed as one of the final five teams in the NCAA Tournament entering its final weekend, but couldn’t complete a series sweep of Wake Forest and finished the regular season at an even .500 in conference play. The Tigers won the Atlantic Division last season, but slumped to fourth this year as they dropped series to North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Duke, and Florida State prior to the set with the Demon Deacons.

Clemson did take two of three from BC in Brighton, Mass., on March 22 to March 24. The Tigers were the last conference team to touch up Eagles’ starter in Metzdorf, tagging him for seven runs on seven hits in nearly eight innings of work in the first game of the series—an 8-1 blowout Clemson win. Metzdorf pitched on Friday, so he won’t be back to face Clemson. The second game was closer on the final scoreline, but the Tigers led 5-0 in the early going and never truly looked back in a 9-5 victory. The Eagles went with Matt Gill on the mound, and he struggled mightily before eventually making the move to the bullpen later in the year. Finally, the series finale went BC’s way on the strength of a dominant outing from Mason Pelio—the freshman allowed a lone unearned run in 6 2/3 innings and struck out eight in a 3-2 victory.

The Tigers, in conference play, very much project as a .500 team. Clemson scored about as many runs as it allowed in the 30-game conference slate, the product of a homer-happy lineup that finished tied for second in strikeouts and ranked just eighth in average. The Tigers are aggressive on the basepaths, registering a conference-best 38 stolen bases in ACC play, and that going for it mentality translates to a less than patient approach at the plate as well. The name to know is Logan Davidson, the No. 24 prospect in the upcoming MLB Draft. Davidson is hitting .294/.592/.409 on the year with 15 home runs and 17 stolen bases, all while playing strong defense at shortstop.

Left fielder Grayson Byrd has an on-base percentage north of .400 and also boasts 12 home runs. Second baseman Sam Hall leads the team in runs and steals, while first baseman Bryar Hawkins has hit the cover off the ball in conference play and leads the team in average. Center fielder Bryce Teodosio is primarily used for his speed, complimenting Byrd’s power next to him, and right field has been manned for a chunk of the year by Michael Green, who has a cannon and a team-high four outfield assists. That’s not to forget catcher Kyle Wilkie, who is nearly hitting .300 and has thrown out 15 runners trying to steal this season.

On the mound, Clemson has a lot of depth in the weekend rotation. It hasn’t necessarily been a stable one, featuring five different pitchers with at least six starts, but head coach Monte Lee seems to have found a dynamic pairing in Mat Clark and Davis Sharpe. Last season, Clark was a freshman reliever, but he moved into the rotation this year and the results have been excellent. In ACC play, Clark is sixth in ERA across nine starts and is holding opponents to a .215 batting average against. Then there’s Sharpe, a two-way player who was named to the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award Watch List and the Pitcher of the Year Award Watch List. Against conference opponents, he’s 10th in ERA and boasts 51 strikeouts in 57 innings of work.

The Eagles aren’t likely to see either of those two, though, and Clemson has several midweek starters to toe the rubber. Keyshawn Askew pitched against them in the series finale and gave up two runs, one earned, in five innings of work. However, he’s moved to the back of the bullpen as of late and might not slide forward. Another option would be Brooks Crawford, the fourth member of the group with nine starts, and he has allowed opponents hit .300 against him to the tune of a 1-4 record and a 6.29 ERA.

The names to know out of the bullpen for the Tigers are Jacob Hennessey, Carson Spiers, Sam Weatherly, and Holt Jones. All three have ERAs under 4.00 and have been steadying influences. Hennessey made a few starts early but has found his place out of the pen, while Weatherly is second on the team with a 3.24 ERA. He has overpowering stuff but struggles to command it at time, piling up 38 strikeouts and 23 walks in just 25 innings. Spiers, the closer, leads the team in appearances (28) and saves (11) and has struck out 42 to just 11 walks in 43 innings. Finally, Jones—who stands a towering 6-foot-8—has a trio of saves and is holding opponents to a .184 batting average against.

Overall, BC matches up fairly well with Clemson. The Eagles dropped two of three earlier this year, but that was with Metzdorf struggling and the lineup producing just nine runs in three games. BC has piled up five or more runs in each of its last six games, and the lineup is firing on all cylinders. It’ll need a steadying pitching performance from whoever head coach Mike Gambino gives the ball to—something easier said than done—but the Eagles shouldn’t be regarded as much of an underdog in the first game on the first day of the ACC Tournament.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

May 20, 2019