Baseball, Spring, Sports

Previewing the 2023 Baseball Season: With Mentorship and New Facilities, BC Has the Building Blocks to Succeed

The core values of Boston College baseball—character, toughness, and class—are simple, but they speak volumes about the culture that BC head coach Mike Gambino cultivates in his clubhouse. 

“We want to represent the school well and the school values,” Gambino said. “Part of why Pete [Frates] is so sacred to us, as a university and as a program, is to live as a man for others … as a university of men and women for others. He was just the embodiment of it, just like Welles [Crowther] was.” 

These values aren’t just prioritized in the locker room, they’re exhibited on the field. 

“On the field, we talk about playing harder than everybody else, playing smarter than everybody else, and having more fun than everybody else,” Gambino said.

And when it comes to team culture, according to Gambino, leading with gratitude and integrity and implementing a feeling of family are equally salient.

“We talked about this recruiting process, we talked about this with our guys,” Gambino said. “It’s a closeness and a family feel … there’s not many places in the country, not many clubhouses in the country that have it like this.” 

Looking ahead toward the upcoming 2023 season, Gambino’s eyes are set on bolstering this culture through fostering connections within BC’s roster. He’s also locked in on Omaha, Neb., the site of the NCAA Men’s College World Series. 

“We’ve had this really fun, steady build to get to this point where now we have a facility and now we’re able to recruit with it,” Gambino said. “This is like the start of the next phase, program wise. This has always been about trying to build a program.” 

Despite competing in a powerhouse baseball conference, Harrington Athletics Village and the Pete Frates Center—which was completed in 2020—puts BC into the upper echelon of college baseball in facilities, according to Gambino.  

“Complete ripple effect,” Gambino said. “We still didn’t have indoor cages until the Frates Center. And now we’re starting to recruit with them. … And we’ve already shown that we have high draft picks, major leaguers coming out of here.”

But there’s still a brighter future ahead for BC, and Gambino’s not satisfied yet. 

“I’m not happy with where we are yet,” Gambino said. “I want to host regionals here. I want to go to Omaha. I want to be in a regional every year. Now, we play in a conference with 14 teams, and every one of them thinks they should be in Omaha every year. … We know this year, our margin of error is razor thin. But it’s also part of our edge and part of our grit and part of our toughness.”

After going 19–34 during the 2022 season, the Eagles are taking a different path to success in the upcoming 2023 season by developing maturity through greater mentorship, according to Gambino. 

This season, BC returns a consistent trio of junior hitters—Joe Vetrano, Travis Honeyman, and Cameron Leary—and a pitching squad with a core of starters in second-year graduate Henry Leake, graduate transfer Chris Flynn, sophomore Sean Hard, and junior reliever John West. BC’s pitching, however, will need to steadily improve, as it registered the worst ERA in the ACC last year at 7.11. 

There’s also a solid core of freshmen at Gambino’s disposal, such as newcomers Adonys Guzman, Kyle Wolff, and Bobby Chicoine—a catcher, first baseman, and pitcher, respectively.

Pitching

During the 2022 season, Leake—who will start on the mound in BC’s first game against Pepperdine on Feb. 17—pitched in 18 games and made six starts, going 2–3 and registering a 6.27 ERA. Leake totaled 54 strikeouts and 15 walks in 51.2 innings and will likely be BC’s most consistent presence on the mound.

West and right-hander Sean Hard, meanwhile, have some of the most potential in the Eagles’ bullpen, according to Gambino. 

Pitcher Henry Leake, pictured above. (Leo Wang / Heights Staff)

“Sean Hard has high, high-end potential,” Gambino said. “But it’s like he’s at the point now we’ve got to go from potential to like getting it done. I one hundred percent believe he will, but we need to take that next step.

Gambino said he believes both West and Hard also have potential to find success playing professionally.

“I believe Sean is gonna pitch in the big leagues,” Gambino said. “We have shown, of course like, you know, developing players both into high-end prospects and into big leaguers, we’ve got pretty good at it. We’ve got a reputation that our guys have a lot of success when they leave, Johnny West is in that group of guys that’s taking that step, sort of like Emmet Sheehan did.”

West, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, made 10 appearances out of the bullpen his freshman year in 2021 and pitched in 19 games with one start as a sophomore in 2022, going 1–1 with a save. He struck out 31 batters in 33 innings in 2022.

Hard, on the other hand, came into college with some of the brightest raw talent the program’s ever seen, according to Gambino. As a freshman, Hard made nine starts in 15 appearances, fanning 43 batters in 32.2 innings. His 2022 ERA of 11.85 was inflated, mostly due to his lack of experience and being thrust right into the rotation, according to Gambino. 

Chicoine is BC’s next up-and-coming pitcher. The freshman notched speeds of 90 miles per hour and higher in high school as a three-time all-section pick at Byram Hills High School. 

“Bobby Chicoine is going to be special,” Gambino said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

Hitting

The Eagles’ offense is powered by two guys: Vetrano and Honeyman. The pair were selected to D1Baseball.com’s position power rankings—with Honeyman coming in as the No. 15 outfielder in the nation and Vetrano coming in as the No. 23 first baseman—and both are a lock at the plate as potential first-rounders in the 2023 MLB Draft.  

“You’ve got a group in there that’s as offensive as anybody in the country,” Gambino said. “Especially with those two guys in prime spots. Their maturation process both on and off the field has been awesome. And part of that is struggling. But their struggles have allowed them to go on and handle leadership roles.”

Vetrano—who pitched in addition to playing first base his freshman season—took a massive leap as the cleanup hitter as a sophomore last season, starting and playing in all 52 games while recording a .386 on-base percentage (OBP) and .572 slugging percentage (SLG) with 13 home runs. Vetrano totaled 50 RBIs last season and 45 runs.

Honeyman is one of the most compact, all-around athletes on the team, as he hit .329 with a .402 OBP as the leadoff hitter in 2022, playing primarily at left field. 

BC’s supporting cast includes outfielder Leary, who recorded a .545 SLG with 16 home runs last season and catcher Peter Burns, the heart and soul behind the plate who sustained a season-ending injury against Wake Forest on April 3, 2022. 

According to Gambino, infielder Patrick Roche, catcher Parker Landwehr, and incoming sophomore infielder Nick Wang, who earned Patriot League Rookie of the Year honors in 2022 with Holy Cross, will look to make contributions as the core of BC’s order. 

“We’ve got a middle of the order,” Gambino said. “Wang, Roche, Landwehr, Leary—it could be a really, really, really good lineup.”

Infielder Patrick Roche, pictured above. (Leo Wang / Heights Staff)

Burns will play an essential role in mentoring rookie catcher Guzman, Gambino said. 

“Adonys we’re really, really excited about, and he’s got a chance to be special special,” Gambino said. “It’s pretty cool to see that relationship with him and Peter and what Peter’s doing, the time and energy that Peter’s spending. … Everything Adonys is doing Pete’s with him and working with him.”

Being a leader on the team—Burns was BC’s captain last season—Burns will do everything in his power to see Guzman’s talent translate to success at the collegiate level, according to Gambino.

“We talked about, like, kind of the difference between talent and skills,” Gambino said. “[Guzman] came in and is tremendously talented. He can throw, he can hit, he can receive, but now how does that translate to actually playing the game at this level is a whole ‘nother speed. So I mean what Peter does for him is super impactful.”

Schedule

After the Eagles open their season with a weekend series against Pepperdine from Feb. 17–19, notable matchups for BC in the first half of the season include series against Virginia Tech—who the Eagles faced off with at Fenway Park in 2022—from March 10–12 and Florida State from March 17–19. The Eagles make a rare trip to Nashville, Tenn. on March 7 to play a powerhouse Tennessee program and play Massachusetts foes such as Holy Cross on March 14 and Northeastern on March 21. 

The latter half of the season is loaded with ACC series—most of which are at Harrington Village. BC will compete against NC State from March 24–26, Georgia Tech from March 31 to April 2, Duke from April 14–16, North Carolina from April 21–23, and Clemson from April 28–30. The Eagles will take on Wake Forest—who comes into the season as D1Baseball’s No. 6 team in the country—from May 5–7, and rival Notre Dame from May 18–20 before the ACC Tournament begins on May 23. 

February 16, 2023