Sports, Spring, Baseball

Go Figure: Just How Much of a Miracle Was Birdball’s Win Over Auburn?

Probability be damned. 

Practically every statistic showed that Boston College baseball, down 9-1 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, should have lost to No. 25 Auburn. Probability said that the Eagles should have walked away with a tally in the loss column, they should have come up short, and they should have boarded the plane back to Chestnut Hill hanging their heads. 

Instead, they took home an 11-9 victory, marking their second series win over a ranked team of the season. Instead, they pulled off the miracle of all miracles. Instead, they rocketed into the national spotlight and hit their highest national ranking—No. 13—in program history. 

How the hell did they pull that off?

In the last five years, a comeback win that large in the ninth inning has only happened two other times—Miami beat Clemson 12-11 in 2018 after being down by eight, and Florida A&M beat East Tennessee State after coming back from a nine-point ninth-inning deficit in 2017. Considering the fact that there are literally thousands of Division I college baseball games played every single year makes the rare comeback that much more stunning. 

Entering the ninth inning, BC had around a 1-in-2813 chance of winning—.035 percent—if you’re looking at MLB history. The MLB isn’t a direct translation to college baseball, but the effect is the same.

It all started with a single from Sal Frelick. He was the catalyst for the Eagles’ comeback, though it took a while for them to feel the effects of his hit. Cody Morissette and Jack Cunningham each flied out to left field, and Frelick advanced to second on a Brian Dempsey single between the two outs. 

Still, even with two runners in scoring position, a win seemed improbable—if not impossible. BC had gone six full innings without finding home plate. There have been 260 MLB games since 1957 where the visiting team was down by eight with two runners on base and two outs, and the home team has won all 260 of them. That stat made BC’s win percentage a staggering zero percent. Apparently, statistics aren’t always right.  

Battling two strikes against him, Luke Gold singled to score Frelick. The miraculous hit made no impact on the Eagles’ win percentage, but it appeared to create a mental shift among the Eagles. Suddenly, scoring was an option again. 

Next up came Cameron Leary in just his fourth career game. Just like Gold before him, Leary got down to his last strike before rocketing a line-drive single and scoring Dempsey. He faced a 3-2 count with runners on first and third, two outs, and a seven-point differential—a stat line that has happened just three other times in professional baseball history. Still, BC sat at a zero percent chance of winning. 

Auburn pitcher Cam Hill then hit Travis Honeyman with a pitch, loading the bases. Seb Thomas came in as relief for Hill and immediately walked Dante Baldelli on four pitches for an RBI. Chris Galland’s double scored Leary and Honeyman, and suddenly, BC had a 2.5 percent chance of winning—not enough for a victory to be at hand, but certainly enough to put a glimmer of hope back in the Eagles’ eyes. 

Just like that, Frelick was back at the plate. He is exactly the sort of player that head coach Mike Gambino would want up to bat down by three with two on base. Frelick led the Eagles in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and stolen bases as a freshman in 2019. Entering the rubber match against Auburn on Sunday, he had recorded three homers this season, and he picked the best possible time to add a fourth. 

“0-1, high in the air, deep to right, and we have a tie game at Plainsman Park,” the announcer called as Frelick launched a rocket over the wall. 

An explosion of noise from the Eagles’ dugout followed the clang of his bat as he rounded the bases to tie it at 9-9. The win probability added (WPA) of that singular hit was 60.16 percent. Who’s to say if it was a miracle, but even the biggest skeptics can’t deny that forcing overtime was perhaps the last thing they would’ve expected entering the inning.

After Joey Walsh retired the last of Auburn’s batters in the bottom of the inning, BC found itself with a win percentage of 47.82 percent, its highest since taking the lead in the second inning. 

Gold sealed it for the Eagles with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th, and Walsh finished it out on the hill. 

Maybe it was a miracle, maybe it was fate, or maybe this Birdball squad is just that good. Whatever mindset you subscribe to, one thing’s for certain: BC is 40,000 feet in the air with no descent in sight. 

Featured Image by Olivia Ramirez / AU Athletics Courtesy of BC Athletics

March 8, 2021
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