Allowing leadoff hitters to reach base is often an Achilles’ heel for pitchers. A leadoff base runner forces a pitcher to throw from the stretch, and in MLB, a player that starts an inning on first has a 42.7 percent chance of crossing home plate.
On Saturday, Boston College baseball was the pattern’s latest victim. Despite a pair of strong rallies, the Eagles fell to No. 18 Louisville 10–6 as a result of an 11th-inning collapse sparked by the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter reaching base.
Head coach Mike Gambino lamented the trend after the game.
“In general, a leadoff walk, I think it scores like 73 percent of the time,” Gambino said. “I think we had four lead off walks today. … I think that was a big difference.”
Louisville (18–5, 5–0 Atlantic Coast) hit the ground running early, leading off with a double from Christian Knapczyk. Ben Metzinger drove him home in the next at-bat with an RBI single. Facing runners on first and second base, BC starter Sean Hard escaped the jam.
Over his four innings, Hard allowed eight Louisville base runners, but he limited the damage to only one run—a critical performance given the Eagles’ slow offensive start.
“[Hard’s] making really, really good progress,” Gambino said. “You see the stuff—the stuff’s elite, and he’s got a chance to be frontline stuff.”
BC (9–13, 1–7) did not record a hit until Travis Honeyman snuck a ground ball past Louisville shortstop Knapczyk in the fourth inning. But after starter Jared Poland retired BC’s next two batters, the Cardinals appeared to be on the verge of quelling the Eagles’ surge—until Joe Vetrano stepped up to the plate.
Vetrano launched an opposite-field home run over the left-field fence to give BC its first lead of the game. With Vetrano’s homer, the Eagles’ bats were rolling. The next three batters followed with base hits, culminating in an RBI double from Patrick Roche.
The Eagles could not hold onto their 3–1 lead for long, as John West—in to relieve Hard at the top of the fifth inning—allowed three runs, including a three-run blast from Dalton Rushing. But just as the Cardinals seemed primed to blow the game open, the Eagles’ bullpen, led by 2.1 innings from Joey Ryan, held Louisville to one run over the next five innings, giving BC’s offense enough time to attempt another rally.
“[Ryan] settled that thing right down,” Gambino said. “He’s become a go-to guy for us, and he threw the ball great.”
Sam McNulty kicked off the bottom of the seventh inning with a leadoff double that caused Louisville coach Dan McDonnell to pull Poland for Kaleb Corbett. Honeyman capitalized, roping a deep double down the left-field foul line to cut Louisville’s lead to 6–4. Two at-bats later, Luke Gold homered, tying the game at six runs each.
Taking over for Ryan, Brendan Coffey threw three more scoreless innings. With the Eagles unable to break the tie, the game headed to the extra innings.
As the clouds darkened and rain loomed, Gambino handed the ball over to Eric Schroeder to open the 11th inning. But the Cardinals made quick work of him.
A series of singles gave Louisville a 7–6 lead. Following a bunt by Cardinals’ pitcher Michael Prosecky to put runners on second and third, Gambino swapped Schroeder for Charlie Coon. After a bases-clearing double and a sacrifice fly, the Eagles entered the bottom of the 11th inning down 10–6.
Fans headed for the exits as the rain began to pour, and Prosecky put the Eagles down in order, ending their hopes of a final rally.
Gambino saw glimmers of hope in his team’s performance.
“There’s only two guys in the field that had much experience coming in,” Gambino said.
“The results right now are not where we want them, but the progress and the growth is awesome.”
Featured Image by Carolina Cannon / Heights Staff