Sports, Spring, Baseball

Eagles Claw Out of Eight Run Hole To Beat Merrimack

After one stunning eight-run comeback victory this season, it would seem that Boston College baseball only has so many chances at such a feat left. But the Eagles’ luck hasn’t run out yet.

After dropping a series to North Carolina on Sunday and falling out of the Top-25 rankings, the Eagles took on non-conference opponent Merrimack (3-9) at home. The Warriors took a commanding 5-0 lead after the first inning, and by the top of the third, they had made it 8-0. But BC (12-7) chipped away for the next four innings, pulling out a 10-9 win.

Freshman right-hander Joey Ryan took the mound for the Eagles in the first, but he struggled to find the strike zone. The damage from a leadoff walk coupled with a screaming single up the middle was enough to shake the rookie, as he hit the third batter of the inning to load the bases.

Shortstop Brian Dempsey recorded the first out of the inning, but another hit batter loaded the bases once again for the Warriors, and Merrimack broke it open with a towering grand slam by Thomas Joyce over the right-field wall.

Ryan struck out the next two batters, but enough damage had been done to limit his outing to only one complete inning.

“Joey Ryan was awesome against North Carolina, and he wasn’t very good tonight,” head coach Mike Gambino said in his postgame press conference. “We’ve built on player development, so getting these guys in there and letting them work their stuff out is important.”

Joe Mancini came in as relief in the second inning and quickly retired four Merrimack batters in order before facing trouble in the third inning. A one-out solo home run to left field rallied the Warriors’ offense, as they plated two more runs in the inning to jump out to an eight-run lead over the Eagles.

Mancini did not allow another extra-base hit after the home run, but three timely singles and another walk proved to be costly for the Eagles, who were left with a lot of ground to cover over the next seven innings.

Wyatt Villella was vital for Merrimack on the mound, only allowing three runs over five innings of work. The Warriors’ starter left the Eagles hitless across the first two innings.

Down by eight, the Eagles began to chip away at the Merrimack lead in the bottom of the third. The last two batters in the order ignited their teammates, as graduate transfer Sean Harrington placed the first hit for the Eagles on a single to center field. Travis Honeyman followed with a single to right field, and a two-base error by the right fielder allowed the Eagles to plate their first run.

While BC recorded only one run in the inning, the momentum carried over to the fourth when Jack Cunningham led off the inning, reaching on an error by the second baseman. A single and a ground-ball double play put Cunningham on third base with two outs. Right fielder Dante Baldelli produced the third run for the Eagles with an infield single to third base, scoring Cunningham.

Harrington continued his success at the plate in the fifth inning, sending a double to right-center to start the inning for the Eagles. BC has relied on power hitting all season to manufacture runs, and Sal Frelick was the prime example on Wednesday, as he laced a ball to left-center to score Harrington.

On the mound, the Eagles found three scoreless innings in freshman Charlie Coon. He allowed only two hits and fanned three, and while the score did not accurately reflect the atmosphere, it felt as though the game was slowly turning back in the favor of the home team.

“We have a pretty confident team,” Cunningham said. “We believe in our lineup. Eight runs is a lot, but we have one of the best lineups in the country that can score at will, so we weren’t out of it.”

The Eagles finally put up a crooked number in the sixth inning. Cunningham reached base on a walk, and Vince Cimini’s double cut the Warriors’ lead to four.

With Cimini on third, the Eagles’ offense caught Merrimack off guard, as Baldelli perfectly executed a safety squeeze to the right side. 

The Eagles completed their comeback in the seventh inning, compiling five runs off only three hits. After Dempsey nailed a triple to right center to start and Frelick walked, Luke Gold sent a double down the left-field line to clear the bases.

Cunningham sent a double of his own to right field. With the tying run on second base, the Eagles scraped together the remaining two runs needed to complete the comeback.

As Cunningham dove cleanly into third base on a straight steal—which is nearly unheard of in college baseball—his teammates erupted with cheers from the dugout. Jack Collins couldn’t sit down the Eagles’ lineup after that, as two wild pitches coupled with a walk allowed BC to take the lead.

Jon Campbell Jr. replaced Coon in the seventh inning, but after giving up an unearned run, John West finished the inning, preventing another Merrimack run. He threw two scoreless innings, and Brian McMonagle closed the game for the Eagles in the ninth.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to be back for my fifth year,” Cunningham said. “I’m just excited with the team we have and all the talent.”

Featured Image by Kristian Lamarre / Heights Staff

March 25, 2021
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