Some games just mean more. Whether it be playoffs, a rivalry game, or a senior night, there are specific games during a season that players mark on their calendars. Friday’s game between Boston College baseball (14-14, 4-12 Atlantic Coast) and North Carolina State (12-11, 6-10) was certainly one of them, as it marked the ninth annual ALS Awareness Game.
Despite the game’s added importance, the Eagles fell to NC State by a staggering margin of 20-5.
Each program has lost former players to the disease. Chris Combs, NC State ’97, battled ALS for four years before dying in 2020. His No. 26 is one of two numbers retired for NC State, and on Friday, the Wolfpack wore special No. 26 jerseys with “Strikeout ALS” on the back nameplate.
Pete Frates, BC ’07, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 and was the driving force behind the viral Ice Bucket Challenge. He died in 2019, and Friday marked BC’S first ALS Awareness Game since then. His No. 3 jersey is one of two numbers retired by BC, and the Eagles wear “PF3” patches on every jersey. Frates and Combs attended the 2017 Annual ALS Awareness Game together at Fenway Park.
“There was not a better model of living out the Jesuit ideals of men and women for others than Pete,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said in his postgame press conference. “To get that diagnosis, and then make it just about ‘What can I do with this terrible news and try to help others?’ We are so honored to play these games and come to work in this building [the Pete Frates Center] every day.”
After a scoreless first inning for both teams, BC left fielder Cameron Leary misplayed a single from NC State shortstop Jose Torres to lead off the top of the second inning, allowing Torres to advance to second. The next at-bat, designated hitter Terrell Tatum laid down a perfectly placed bunt down the third-base line to set up runners on first and third with no outs for the Wolfpack.
Right fielder Devonte Brown lined an opposite-field single into right field, driving in Torres for the Wolfpack’s first run of the game. With a runner on third, Brown drew a pickoff throw from Mason Pelio that sailed past BC first baseman Jack Cunningham, scoring Tatum and advancing Brown to third. Brown scored on an Austin Murr sacrifice fly, giving NC State a 3-0 lead after an inning and a half.
Wolfpack left fielder Jonny Butler tripled to right field to lead off the third inning, coming into score the next at-bat on a single chopped over the head of BC third baseman Vince Cimini. Third baseman Vojtech Mensik belted a two-run home run over the left-field wall to give NC State back-to-back three-run innings. Still, BC was scoreless.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Tatum roped a single to center field to drive in Butler and give NC State a 7-0 lead.
Murr hit his second sacrifice fly of the day in the top of the sixth inning to score Brown and bring the Wolfpack’s run total to eight.
After five scoreless innings, the Eagles finally got something going off NC State starter Reid Johnston. Second baseman Cody Morissette flied out to left field to drive in Dante Baldelli for BC’s first run. Designated hitter Luke Gold then ripped a double down the left-field line to score Sal Frelick, before Cunningham singled to bring Gold home and cut NC State’s lead to 8-3.
Pelio surrendered eight runs—seven of which were earned—on eight hits across six innings. He struck out five NC State hitters and walked three on 106 pitches. Pelio pitched better out of the windup, but he struggled when pitching out of the stretch with runners on base.
“I know his [Pelio’s] results have not been what we all wanted, but I believe in that kid, I do. And I still do,” Gambino said.
Jon Campbell Jr. came in to relieve Pelio in the seventh inning. NC State catcher Luca Tresh, who is ranked as MLB.com’s No. 54 2021 Draft prospect, hit a towering solo home run to left field. Another pitching change came in the seventh inning, as freshman Joey Ryan came in with runners on first and second. Torres, one of the runners that Ryan inherited, scored on a fielder’s choice hit by Brown, bringing the Wolfpack’s run total to double digits.
Conversely, Johnston threw a very quality outing, with his one blemish being a three-run sixth inning. Those were the only runs the Eagles mustered off Johnston, who allowed just three hits, striking out seven and walking three on 6.2 innings. Johnston was relieved with Leary still on first, who came into score on a single from Frelick, bringing Johnston’s earned run total to four.
NC State scored again in the eighth inning on a Butler single that brought in center fielder Tyler McDonough. Ryan then balked with runners on first and third to score Butler. Tatum tripled to left-center to score Tresh, and John West came in to relieve Ryan. The Wolfpack scored another seven runs for a 20-4 lead.
Chris Galland pulled a pinch-hit home run over the left-field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning, as BC emptied out its lineup with substitutes.
“It really doesn’t matter if we lose this game 6-5 or 20-5,” Gambino said. “A loss is a loss. We can put this game behind us, we can win the baseball game tomorrow, and then worry about winning game three. If we win two out of three, and it stinks to lose like this, but it doesn’t matter, you win two out of three.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Senior Staff