Sports, Spring, Baseball

Notebook: Virginia Tech Captures Fenway Victory Despite BC’s Stellar Starting Pitching Performance

When Boston College baseball took the field at Fenway Park on Saturday night for the 10th Annual ALS Awareness Game, it was about more than baseball from the first pitch. Fans showed up in droves for a warm Saturday night at Fenway, and over the course of the evening, BC raised $37,600 for patients battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here are three takeaways from BC’s 6–1 loss to Virginia Tech.

Up-Tempo Defense

For most of this season, BC has struggled to control its opponents’ momentum, repeatedly allowing long rallies from opposing offenses to slow the pace of play and keep the defense on the field. On Saturday, however, the Eagles kept things moving. They took momentary control after scoring the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning, and pitcher Henry Leake kept the game moving by limiting time between pitches and stopping potential rallies in their tracks. Both Leake and Virginia Tech’s Drue Hackenberg ensured an upbeat game by forcing 10 groundouts each and striking out a combined 13 batters.

Through seven innings, Leake allowed just seven hits and one walk while striking out six. He averaged just under 14 pitches an inning, and while he allowed three earned runs during his outing, two came on one swing of the bat. Leake’s pitching kept the Eagles competitive through nine innings, and by lasting seven on the mound, he eliminated the need for relievers to eat up the middle innings. The Eagles have struggled with pitching depth this season, but with starters lasting late into the game, pitching depth is no longer a necessity for winning games.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Hackenberg had an equally productive outing. He also lasted seven innings and limited BC to just six hits and two walks. Though he was slightly less efficient, with about 15 pitches per inning, Hackenberg struck out one more batter than Leake and allowed just one run.

Stranded Runners

It surpasses the combined total of BC’s last two games, but one run is not usually enough to win games—especially after earning 10 baserunners. The Eagles had runners in scoring position four times on Saturday, but only one run crossed the plate. BC hit some balls right at Virginia Tech fielders, but 11 strikeouts limited its chances for moving runners. It is nearly impossible to score a runner without putting the ball in play, and the Eagles struggled to make contact against the Hokies. 

Despite its struggles at the plate, BC was not without scoring opportunities. Three walks and a hit-by-pitch gave the Eagles four free runners, and a throwing error turned a single into a double. BC’s best chance might have come in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Joe Vetrano and Parker Landwehr singled back to back to put runners on first and second with just one out. A base hit could have scored two and tied the game, but instead, Rafe Chaumette struck out, and Patrick Roche grounded out to end the inning. 

Stranded runners have become a theme for the Eagles recently, as 38 Eagles have been left on base over BC’s last five losses. BC’s eight stranded runners on Saturday continued the trend, but it suggests that the Eagles are capable of mustering a high-scoring offense. Getting runners on base is half the battle, and BC was just one or two lucky swings away from helping them across the plate on Saturday. 

Big Crowds on the Big Stage

Most BC baseball games only draw a few faithful fans. But on Saturday night, the atmosphere at Fenway mirrored a BC football game more closely than a weekend baseball game in Brighton, with 3,760 fans in attendance. That total is more than the Oakland A’s drew on Tuesday and Wednesday but about 1,000 less than No. 3 BC lacrosse drew in its matchup against Syracuse on Friday. BC fans showed up to Fenway donning their best late-fall tailgate attire to celebrate a rare 60-plus degree day. While the warm weather faded as the sun disappeared, the excited fan’s energy did not. 

Though most of the park was closed off to fans, each BC hit ushered in a chorus of cheers from the sections behind home plate. The area from the end of BC’s dugout to the end of Virginia Tech’s was packed with fans, and while the majority were there to see BC play, the Hokies still drew supporters of their own. The area behind Virginia Tech’s dugout was packed with loud fans wearing maroon and orange, and when the BC faithful started filtering out after the seventh inning, Virginia Tech’s fans stuck it out. 

College baseball teams rarely play at MLB stadiums, so Saturday night’s affair was special for both fans and players. Its strong draw seems obvious, as fans had full access to the best seats at Fenway for prices lower than Student9s—a program in which the Red Sox offer $9 tickets to local students. Alongside the game, Fenway put on a show of its own. Concession stands were open for business, with massive lines that made it look like a Red Sox game. “Sweet Caroline” played on schedule in the eighth inning, and Fenway’s historic scoreboard displayed BC and VT on specially painted metal slabs. The Eagles struggled to entertain offensively, but fans got what they were looking for in a true Fenway Park experience.

April 24, 2022