A lefty power hitter coming up to bat in the ninth inning against a tired, right-handed pitcher trailing by one run sounds like a scene out of a baseball movie. As Boston College baseball’s Joe Vetrano stepped up to the plate in BC’s Sunday matchup against Pitt, the movie-esque scene was playing out.
The energy of the crowd and the bench provided a perfect background for what could have been a season-defining moment for BC, but unfortunately for Vetrano and the Eagles, not every baseball game is like a movie.
Despite cutting its deficit from as many as seven down to one, BC (14–18, 3–12 Atlantic Coast) failed to overcome Pittsburgh (18–12, 7–7) in the game’s final moments, closing out the teams’ three-game series with a 10–9 loss.
“Our whole goal that ninth inning was to get the tying run to the plate,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said after the game.
And Vetrano did just that, stepping up to bat with BC down one run, but a swinging strikeout ended the game.
Starting pitcher Mason Pelio didn’t give up a hit in his first time through the order, but Pitt’s hitters caught up to his 95 mph heater the second time they saw it. After a walk and two hits from the Panthers early in the third inning, Ron Washington Jr. hit a three-run home run just over the wall in left center.
Washington’s homer put Pitt up 4–0 after Tatem Levins hit an RBI double earlier in the inning. Pitt scored two more runs in the inning off a sacrifice fly and a double, giving the Panthers a 7–0 lead heading into the bottom half of the third inning.
“We were hoping for three to four [innings] out of Mason, and we were thinking about 65 pitches,” Gambino said. “He got to 68 in the second, and I didn’t want to let him go.”
Charlie Coon came in during the third to try to stop the bleeding for the Eagles, and it looked like he would do so until Jeffrey Wehler cleared the bases with a two-out double that just barely stayed fair, skipping past third baseman Patrick Roche’s glove.
Pitt’s starter Billy Corcoran was also rolling until the third, and he struck out back-to-back batters to start the inning. An error by Panthers shortstop Tommy Tavarez with two outs prevented Pitt from getting out of the inning, and Vetrano and Parker Landwehr made the Panthers pay with back-to-back home runs, bringing in a combined four runs.
The two home runs brought the Eagles within two runs, as BC scored earlier in the inning off an error by Pitt’s shortstop. Pitt scored once more in fourth and batted in two runs in the top of the seventh inning to go up 10–5.
The Eagles drew within three runs in the seventh, as the heart of BC’s order came up big against Pitt’s Baron Stuart. Luke Gold and Vetrano collected RBIs against Stuart.
Stuart closed the game out, collecting a three-inning save despite giving up four runs. BC came within one after a two-run homer from Cameron Leary. The homer brought up Gold and Vetrano, but neither could cap off the big comeback.
Despite the loss, Gambino said he was pleased with the Eagles’ performance and their resilience this season.
“I’m really, really proud of the battle in our guys all the way through and being able to handle bad injury news what seems like every day to start the year,” Gambino said. “We looked good today, and I’m just proud of the fight and battle because these guys just kept going and going.”