After the top of the second inning Friday night, Boston College baseball seemed destined to beat Louisville, regardless of how early in the game it was. The Eagles were up 3-0 with their ace Mason Pelio, who had just finished a one-two-three inning in eight pitches, on the mound. Sloppy defense had given BC all three of its runs unearned, and Louisville’s starter was 58 pitches in after just two innings. In the bottom of the inning, however, Louisville rallied for four runs off a series of hard-hit balls. The Cardinals ran away, and they never looked back.
No. 17/13 BC returned to play Friday against No. 10/15 Louisville following one day off from competition. The Eagles (9-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) are off to a hot start with two series wins over ranked teams and their highest ranking in program history. The Cardinals (9-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) have had a slower start after beginning the season ranked No. 1 in the country. On Friday, Louisville played like a top team and beat BC 7-3 while keeping the Eagles from scoring an earned run.
“That four spot they put up in the second was big because they pressured early,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “[We] scored one in the first and two in the second You could feel the momentum starting to go, and then there’s a long inning. … They threatened again in the third and the fourth, and we just couldn’t get anything going after that.”
The Eagles had no problem getting runners on base. BC had 13 total baserunners on the night off seven hits, three walks, and three errors. Its problem was getting runners home. BC stranded 10 total baserunners, far more than Louisville’s six. Toward the end of the game, the Eagles had chances to put up runs with loaded bases and one out, and they later had a runner on third and one out, but nothing came of either situation.
“Both teams had their chances to get that big hit,” said Gambino. “It was a touch sloppy, but it did feel like that kind of back and forth, back and forth.”
Both teams allowed an unusual amount of free bases, contributing to the overall sloppy play. BC walked eight and hit one batter while also allowing four stolen bases. Louisville walked three BC batters, hit one, and allowed three more to score on errors.
“It felt like a typical college game,” Gambino said. “[We] were never out of it. There were errors. There was aggressive baserunning. … This game could have gone either way if another knock happens here or there in the mid to late innings.”
Pelio’s large walk total accounted for much of BC’s sloppy play. He threw 92 pitches in 4.1 innings of work, giving up five earned runs on five hits and six walks. Meanwhile, he struck out just two Louisville batters. Pelio was tagged as BC’s ace early on in the season but has been inconsistent so far with a 2-2 record after two stellar starts and two disappointments.
Joey Walsh came in to pitch for the Eagles after Pelio was pulled. Walsh has proven to be an interesting player this year, as he has defied the traditional boundaries of pitching roles. He leads BC in saves but has also appeared as a starter and averages almost three innings per game when pitching in relief.
Walsh threw for 3.2 innings Friday while allowing three hits and an earned run, but striking out six Louisville batters.
“We sort of knew this was going to be a dogfight going in,” Gambino said. “We like our bullpen a lot [and] Joey Walsh threw the ball great.”
Although BC’s run production fell short, every one of the Eagles’ starting nine reached base at least once. But, no BC player registered more than one hit, and the Eagles struck out a total of 12 times. Sal Frelick’s RBI triple in the first was both BC’s only extra-base hit of the night and Frelick’s only time on base, a tough break for the outfielder who came into Friday’s game batting .478.
Many of BC’s wins thus far have required a hero. Whether it be Frelick hitting a three-run shot to tie the game against Duke or Cody Morrisette’s two home runs to cement BC’s lead over Maine, the Eagles have relied on at least one clutch hitter to start—and finish—rallies. An extra base during any of BC’s scoring opportunities could have greatly altered the outcome of Friday’s game, but nobody stepped up.
“I would have bet that they win one, we win one, and then you get a really good flip-a-coin game,” Gambino said. “It was a great baseball game tonight.”
Photo Courtesy of BC Athletics