Not much has gone right for Boston College baseball in the last few weeks. The Eagles have gone deep into their bullpen game after game but can’t seem to find the magic formula.
After dropping the first two games of their weekend series to NC State (14-11, 8-10 Atlantic Coast), the Eagles (14-16, 4-14) were in desperate need of a win. Unlike BC, however, the Wolfpack is trending upward, as NC State came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country with nine wins in their last 11 games. What resulted followed the team’s trajectories to a tee, and BC fell 7-0 at home.
The Eagles have struggled against ACC opponents and, with their loss on Saturday, dropped below .500 for the first time this season. Going into the second half of the season, the Eagles don’t have much time left to turn things around, and a series sweep shows no signs of improvement.
“This game and series was definitely big for us,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said in his postgame press conference. “However, all these games are big for us. Our backs are up against the wall right now.”
Right-handed graduate transfer Alex Stiegler put together one of his best outings of the season. He pitched 7.2 innings, recording six shutout innings and 11 strikeouts.
NC State right-handed freshman Matt Willadsen continued his strong rookie season with his best outing of the year. He pitched a complete-game shutout and only gave up two hits. Willadsen’s dominance, combined with a rough bullpen outing for BC, led to the completion of the weekend series sweep for the Wolfpack.
Although he was up against one of the best offenses in the ACC, Stiegler used the breaking ball to get the Wolfpack hitters off balance and rolled through the first inning with two strikeouts. Although he gave up a double to left fielder Jonny Butler to start the second, Stiegler got out of the inning with no damage.
Stiegler continued to roll through batters in the third and fourth innings. He ended the third inning with a breaking ball to make the Wolfpack batter fall to his knees for strike three. He kept his momentum up, recording seven strikeouts in just four innings.
“Both [Stiegler] and Emmet [Sheehan] pitched great for us this weekend,” Gambino said. “We needed [Stiegler’s] length today, and he got us to the spot that we wanted going into the eighth inning. … It stinks that his great start was wasted.”
Willadsen’s first inning, on the other hand, was a little shaky. After recording an infield single on his first at-bat, Sal Frelick stole second to get into scoring position early. Willadsen then gave up a walk to Cody Morissette giving the Eagles a chance to get on the board early. The pitcher worked through the jam seemingly with ease and exited the inning unscathed.
He rolled through the Eagles’ batters with command of his pitches and a great defense behind him. In the fourth inning, Morissette hit a hard chopper to first, but Austin Murr snagged it and got the force out to start the inning.
Both pitchers kept rolling through the fifth and sixth innings keeping the game scoreless. Willadsen was so dominant that at one point in the game he retired 16 batters in a row.
In the top of the seventh inning, Butler once again ripped a double to right field. From there, designated hitter Terrell Tatum laid down a bunt that advanced Butler to third and allowed him to reach first safely. Third baseman Vojtech Mensik then grounded out to the pitcher, which advanced Tatum to second and allowed Butler to score the first run of the game.
NC State’s bats stayed hot in the eighth when Wolfpack batters Murr and Luca Tresh both singled and stole a base to put runners at second and third with two outs. Gambino then decided to go to freshman lefty Charlie Coon out of the bullpen.
Coon has typically been strong for the Eagles, tallying 28 strikeouts and only eight walks on the year. That dominance was not the case on Sunday, as he walked his first batter of the day to load the bases. From there, shortstop Jose Torres ripped a double into deep left field sending all three runners home to make the game 4-0.
Facing a growing deficit, the Eagles still could not get going against Willadsen and the Wolfpack defense. In the seventh, Gold hit a rocket to the left-center gap, which Butler snagged, saving what looked like at least a double. The Eagles even tried pinch-hitting freshman Travis Honeyman in the eighth to no avail.
Although Coon started the top of the ninth with a strikeout, lefty Joey Walsh relieved him after Coon gave up another walk. The Wolfpack loaded the bases against Walsh as well after an error and a walk. This time, it was Tresh who took advantage with a double to left-center field, sending home all three runners to make the game 7-0.
Although the Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, Willadsen finished his shutout by striking out Jack Cunningham to end the game.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics