Sports, Spring, Baseball

Eagles Blanked 9–0 at Pepperdine in First Game of 2023 Season 

Pitching was at the root of Boston College baseball’s woes in the 2022 season. But up until the fourth inning of the Eagles’ opening day contest against Pepperdine, it didn’t look like much of the same could be said. With sun beaming against a backdrop of palm trees and calm, California skies, right-handed pitcher Henry Leake looked at ease in his first start of the year, tossing an array of pitches with a poise. 

Leake—who registered a 6.27 ERA and totaled 54 strikeouts last season—tossed three scoreless innings before earning four runs in the fourth inning and a fifth run in the fifth inning. What started initially as a lights out performance soon transitioned into a bloodbath—an all-too-common theme for the Eagles last season. 

“He’s one pitch away from making that one-run,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said of Leake’s performance in the fourth inning.

And despite recording eight strikeouts in five innings, the bats of Pepperdine’s Ryan Johnson and Connor Bradshaw alone outperformed the entire BC roster. Johnson and Bradshaw tallied seven hits while the Eagles registered only three.

Behind a lackluster offense and inconsistent relief pitching, BC (0–1) dropped its first game of the season to the fittingly-named Waves (1–0) of Malibu, Calif. by a final score of 9–0.

“Look, you’re not going to go 56–0, as much as we would like to,” Gambino said of what he told the team after the game. “But we played well defensively. … I didn’t like how the eighth played out, but it came down really to a couple of pitches in the fourth and we all think Henry’s gonna be all fine and will be great for us.” 

The new 20-second pitch clock rule—which was instituted this season in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s news rules—played a silent factor in the swift pace of the game. But lock-down starts by both starting pitchers accelerated the rate of play simultaneously. 

Pepperdine’s Shane Telfer—who plucked off 50 batters in 2022 with a 2.45 ERA—retired the Eagles quickly in the first and didn’t show signs of slowing down until the fifth inning.

Cameron Leary notched BC’s first hit of the game in the top of the second inning with a double out to right field, but Daniel Baruch was unable to advance Leary to second, and Peter Burns—who was up next—stranded the runner on base with a ground out. 

Telfer surrendered just one more hit—a Vince Cimini chopper over the shortstop’s head in the third—in six innings pitched. 

“That’s not how we want to play but that’s not taking anything away from Telfer,” Gambino said. “He threw it well, left hander that can let it mix, he did really well.” 

Leake, on the other hand, racked up strikeout after strikeout—six total through three innings—until his massive fallout in the fourth, when Greg Mehlhaff catapulted the Waves into the front seat.

Mehlhaff’s layup single to center field was just the beginning of a seven-hitter rally in which Pepperdine’s Devon Walczykowski, Quintt Landis, and Charles Masino—all-together—scored four runners and left a blank stare on Leake’s once-confident demeanor. 

Pepperdine fired off another rally that heated up when Luke Pemberton’s bloop single snuck through the Eagles’ infield and put a man on first in the fifth inning.

“I thought, offensively, it was kind of a touch of feeling poor instead of just letting everything go,” Gambino said. “It was a couple of bad swings early. … we were just a touch on our heels and that’s not how we want to play.”

Pemberton advanced to second base stealing, and was rounded home by Johnson, who nailed a deep shot to center field on a 1–2 count after being fooled by the prior pitch—a Leake slider. 

Leake stayed the course and remained on the mound through the end of the inning but was replaced in the sixth by right hander Eric Schroeder. 

The Eagles’ relief system only further cemented Pepperdine’s offensive choke-hold, however, as BC’s next four pitchers—Charlie Coon, Brian McMonagle, Bobby Chicoine, and Travis Lane—earned four combined runs and conceded five hits, although Chicoine’s palette was clean. 

Nonetheless, a pair of home runs from Bradshaw and John Peck in the bottom of the eighth inning dug the Eagles’ grave. With a nine-run deficit, Joe Vetrano and Parker Landwehr recorded the final two outs for BC in the blow out. 

“Curveball, Curveball, Slider, Fastball,” Gambino said of Pepperdine’s relief pitcher Brandon Llewellyn. “It was just a good mix, a lot of soft, soft soft, but he kept us off balance and did a good job.” 

February 17, 2023