Coming off of a 34-run opening series at Charleston Southern, BC baseball rode the momentum right into its first series against an ACC opponent—and its first ranked opponent—of the 2021 season. After splitting the first two games of the series, with BC (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) taking the opener and No. 25/11 Duke (3-4, 1-2) winning the second, the Eagles hung tough with the Blue Devils to take home the series finale by a final score of 5-2 in what was much more of a defensive battle than the first two games.
Junior right-hander Emmet Sheehan impressed with another strong performance on the mound, striking out nine batters for the second week in a row. He pitched a solid six innings for the Eagles, only giving up two runs, one walk, and six hits, and he retired six of his last seven batters faced.
The game was tight most of the way through, as Duke struck back with a run in each inning that BC scored except for the seventh. After starting the top of the second with a single, a double, and a walk, the Eagles only scraped out one run in the inning. First baseman Jack Cunningham led off with a single, and he tried to reach home on sophomore second baseman Luke Gold’s double but was thrown out. Gold then advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored the only run of the inning on a fielder’s choice thanks to catcher Peter Burns’ ground ball.
Cunningham posted an impressive stat line after struggling last weekend against Charleston Southern with no hits across BC’s opening three games. In the series finale against Duke, however, Cunningham went a flawless 4-for-4 with two doubles to end the series hot. Across the weekend series, he went 8-for-12 on hits. Sunday’s game was the first four-hit game of his career.
Duke wasted no time in tying the game at one apiece, as outfielder Peter Matt led off the bottom of the inning, and then another double down the left-field line by Chad Knight drove him home.
BC took back control of the game in the fourth inning thanks to a two-run home run by Gold to drive Cunningham in after he reached on a double. Both hits came against freshman left-hander Josh Allen, who came in to relieve junior right-hander Jack Carey at the start of the inning. The Blue Devils responded with a solo home run of their own by RJ Schreck in the bottom of the fourth to stay competitive while trailing 3-2.
After scoring the first run of the game following his double, Gold showed timely hitting yet again with the go-ahead home run. He went 2-for-4 on the day and has at least one hit in every game but one this season, and he has notched nine RBIs and a .360 batting average across BC’s first six games.
BC sealed the win by putting up another two runs in the seventh. Right fielder Dante Baldelli led off the inning with a single, and two batters later, junior center fielder Sal Frelick homered to right field to provide the Eagles with a 5-2 cushion. That score would hold until the end of the game, as right-hander Alex Stiegler recorded the save, striking out five batters and giving up no runs through three innings.
Stiegler transferred to BC after a four-year career at Yale and has been instrumental out of the bullpen this season, allowing just one run in eight and a third innings of work and striking out 13.
Frelick leads the Eagles’ bats in hits with 12, batting an impressive .429. Infielder Cody Morissette, who went 0-for-3 on the day, continues to struggle to find his groove, batting .136 with only three hits so far this season.
The Eagles have now scored 52 runs through their first six games for a stellar average of over eight and a half runs per game, an increase of nearly three runs per game over the 2019 season.
BC’s 5-1 start is the best it has seen since 2016, when the Eagles opened their first two series of the season undefeated through six games. The series win was BC’s first over a ranked opponent since winning two out of three at No. 19 FSU in 2019.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Senior Staff