Boston College baseball hasn’t had a series-opening win since the Eagles dominated Auburn on March 5. Working with a struggling bullpen, injuries, and a competitive ACC schedule, the Eagles did not play up to their abilities during their home stretch over the last month.
Something changed on the road against Virginia Tech on Thursday, though, as the Eagles (13-11, 4-9 Atlantic Coast) pulled out a series-opening 7-3 win over the Hokies (13-9, 9-7).
The game started off on a positive note for the visiting Eagles, as they put up a run in the first frame without recording a hit. A lead-off walk to Brian Dempsey was all the offense BC needed, as he went on to score without any aid from the rest of the lineup. A balk from Hokies’ pitcher Peyton Alford moved Dempsey to second, and an errant throw on his later steal of third base presented BC with an early 1-0 lead.
Mason Pelio earned the start for the first game of the series on Thursday. He was composed through his first two innings, working around a single in the first and a walk in the second to leave the Hokies’ offense scoreless.
The Eagles’ offense took center stage in the second inning to extend its lead to 4-0. Cody Morissette’s double to left field came after a pair of two-out walks, and his hit scored one runner. Strong winds in Blacksburg confused the Virginia Tech outfield, allowing a Luke Gold two-RBI single to safely fall in right-center field.
The third inning was no different for the BC offense. After the first two batters of the inning reached base safely, the Hokies went to their bullpen, opting for Ryan Okuda. Dante Baldelli had an RBI single through the right side, and a well-placed safety squeeze by Dempsey plated another.
Baldelli was impactful in the 9-spot, going 3-for-4 on the day and consistently setting the table for the top of the order.
Despite his short outing, Alford did well to keep the Eagles at bay. He struck out five batters through two innings, but six walks and four hits limited his success.
The Hokies put their first run on the board in the third. A solo home run by Jack Hurley was the hardest hit ball for either club at that point, but Pelio settled down and prevented any more damage from the Virginia Tech lineup.
The fourth inning was the first frame in which the Eagles didn’t score, and the Hokies slowly tried to chip away at their deficit. Stringing together two hits and a sacrifice fly produced the second run for the home team, but once again, Pelio shut down the offense to limit the damage.
The Eagles’ bullpen has been plagued by inconsistent pitching performances this season, but Pelio’s positive showing hopefully indicates an upward trend for BC pitchers. Wild pitches have been costly for the right-hander, but he pitched without a falter on Thursday. In a season-high 6.2 innings, Pelio gave up just three runs and struck out five batters.
Catcher Peter Burns sent a home run over the right-field wall to give the Eagles their seventh and final run of the day. Burns showed both sides of his plate approach on Thursday, countering his successful bunt in the second inning with an impressive home run in the fifth to widen the gap between the teams.
The last instance of scoring for either team came in the sixth inning. A home run by Virginia Tech’s Kevin Madden with two outs ignited some life into the dugout, sparking the Hokies’ infamous sledgehammer celebration, but Pelio did not allow the theatrics to shake his performance, and he recorded the third out to end the inning.
Pelio finished his outing with a 1-5-3 double play in the seventh to reach 100 pitches on the day, and BC head coach Mike Gambino went to his bullpen to finish out the game.
Joey Walsh closed out the game for BC, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings. After giving up back-to-back singles in the eighth, Walsh stranded the runners by retiring the rest of the batters in order.
The Eagles’ offense was quiet for the latter half of the game but threatened to score in the top of the ninth. The bottom of the order helped to turn over the lineup by reaching base, but Dempsey couldn’t score the runners. Walsh allowed two runners in the bottom of the ninth but stayed calm and finished the game for the Eagles to secure the win.
Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / Heights Editor