Sports, Spring, Baseball

Eagles Lose Rubber Match, Drop Series to Tar Heels

After rocketing up the national polls two weeks ago with a series win over Auburn, Boston College baseball has been fighting just to keep its head above water. Over the last two weekends, the Eagles have faced two ranked teams and lost both series, most recently dropping two out of three games to North Carolina. 

In what was quite the exciting and scrappy series finale with the series tied at one, BC couldn’t complete a ninth-inning comeback and dropped its final game of the weekend to North Carolina 5-4. 

Despite the loss, the Eagles played extremely competitively and outhit the Tar Heels 13-9 in the game.

“Our guys are invested, they’re fired up, they care,” head coach Mike Gambino said in his postgame press conference. “The energy the last couple days has been awesome.”

BC struck first in the first inning after Sal Frelick reached on a double and came home on Jack Cunningham’s two-out single. 

After going three up, three down in the bottom of the first inning, the Tar Heels immediately responded with a solo shot by Danny Serretti to start the top of the second. Joey Vetrano secured the next two outs but loaded up the bases in the process. Gambino pulled Vetrano in favor of Max Gieg, who ended the inning with a fly out.

Frelick continued his hot streak, leading off the third with a solo homer to put the Eagles up 2-1. Again, UNC responded with runs of its own, this time even more forcefully. Gieg struggled in the top of the fourth, surrendering two singles, a walk, and then hit a batter to start the inning. 

With the game tied at two, Gambino entrusted the ball to the hands of veteran Alex Stiegler, who minimized any damage. Stiegler quickly finished the inning with a fly out, a fielder’s choice, and a strikeout, but the Tar Heels batted in two more runs for a 4-2 advantage.

In the fifth, UNC had runners on second and third with one out, but Stiegler held his composure and punched out the next two batters to end the inning with no runs scored.

UNC head coach Scott Forbes pulled righty Max Alba after one batter in the bottom of the fifth. He posted three strikeouts but gave up three runs and seven hits over four innings. 

Lefty Shawn Rapp came in for relief but gave up a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly to allow BC to bring the game back to a stalemate.  

In the seventh, BC threatened to take the lead when Frelick dashed for home from second on a two-out single by Vince Cimini, but UNC’s right fielder threw Frelick out.

Joey Walsh relieved Stiegler in the top of the ninth and gave up a triple to Serretti that brought Justice Thompson home to give UNC the lead once again.

In the Eagles’ last licks, Luke Gold ripped a double and advanced to third on a grounder, but Cimini couldn’t bring him home for the walk-off.

“It’s not getting easier,” Gambino said. “I mean, it doesn’t stop in this conference.”

On Saturday, on the other hand, the Eagles achieved a comfortable 10-3 win. Propelled by a solid start from right-hander Emmet Sheehan and a seven-run seventh inning, the Eagles evened the series up at one. 

Sheehan bounced back from a couple of rough outings—one at Louisville last Saturday in which he gave up three runs in the first inning and five on the day, and one at Auburn the weekend prior in which he gave up eight runs in two innings in BC’s 16-1 loss. Over seven innings this weekend, Sheehan gave up just one run on six hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts.

“The best part about yesterday was there was a little bit of traffic,” Gambino said. “There was a runner on base almost every inning, and [Sheehan] just completely stayed under control, he stayed focused.” 

BC wasted no time putting runs on the board, striking first with two in the first inning. Brian Dempsey led off the game with a single, and Frelick immediately followed with a double. In the next at-bat, Gold hit a sacrifice fly ball to center field to bring Dempsey home. Cunningham then reached on a fielder’s choice on which Frelick scored. BC added to its lead in the third with a Gold homer to go up 3-0.

UNC hitters were quiet for the first half of the game, courtesy of Sheehan’s strong showing, not scoring until the fifth inning. Angel Zarate drove in Clemente Inclan, who reached on a walk, ripping a double down the right-field line to cut BC’s advantage to 3-1.

Righty Caleb Cozart entered the game to relieve Tar Heels starter righthander Max Carlson, who gave up three runs on six hits, a walk, and two strikeouts over 4.1 innings. 

The Eagles blew the game wide open in the seventh for seven runs to seal their victory. Barry Walsh began the rally with a four-pitch walk to start the inning, and a double from Dempsey brought him home.

Gold was intentionally walked, and Davis Palermo came in for Cozart, as UNC tried to escape the jam. Cunningham then slapped a single up the middle to drive in both Dempsey and Gold. Palermo surrendered two 3-2 walks in a row, one to Cimini and the other to Cameron Leary. 

Dante Baldelli picked up a two-RBI single with the bases loaded. Palermo was then pulled as well after failing to record a single out for UNC. Kyle Mott finally escaped the jam but only after giving Dempsey his second hit of the inning, a two-RBI single to give BC an enormous 10-1 lead.

Brad Lombardi ran into a bit of trouble coming in to relieve Sheehan. A costly error plus a pinch-hit RBI single by Eric Grintz gave the Tar Heels a bit of life in the eighth. Joey Walsh entered the game to assist Lombardi in getting out of the inning, but he gave up one more run in the process to finish the game at 10-3.

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

March 22, 2021