Sports, Spring, Baseball

Looking Into BC Baseball’s Hot Start: Eagles Ranked No. 18 After Finishing 4–1 Over Spring Break

For the first time in two years, Boston College baseball is back in Baseball America’s Top 25, checking in at No. 18 after finishing  4–1 over Spring Break with road wins against then-No. 3 Tennessee, North Carolina Asheville, and then-No. 10 Virginia Tech.

“We say this is our thing,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “What we mean by that is we don’t care what anybody else is saying, right? Whether we’re picked first or picked last, whether we’re ranked higher or not ranked, like, we just care about who we are and what we’re doing. We care about the standards.”

And despite not being ranked heading into the first of those five games against the Volunteers (14–3) in a rowdy environment, BC stayed its course, throwing seven pitchers in a 7–6, extra innings victory. 

After pulling off their upset in Knoxville on Tuesday, the Eagles (12–2, 2–1 Atlantic Coast) knocked out the Bulldogs (11–4) with 11 runs on Wednesday, and then captured a series win over the Hokies (12–4, 1–2) over the weekend, winning two games of the three-game series. By improving to 12–2, BC achieved its best start to a season in program history. 

“The thing that I like about it is if you look at our lineup as a whole, right, [we’re] hitting .273,” Gambino said. “You know, if we were hitting .373 right now, I’d be like, ‘man, this is not sustainable.’ But we’re hitting .273. … I love hitting home runs, but we don’t need, we don’t need the home runs.” 

Throughout the five-game stretch, the Eagles hit a combined 11 home runs as a team, and seven individual players registered at least one home run. Two of BC’s batters—first baseman Joe Vetrano and outfielder Cameron Leary—already have six home runs on the year.

“Going into the year, you know, we thought they’d both have a chance to hit 20,” Gambino said. “I mean, that’s kind of what they’re on pace for. … We have the ability to steal bases, right. But the rest of those runs, it was situational hitting, and, you know, driving in runs a lot, especially in two-out RBI situations.”

Two different batters—outfielder Barry Walsh and catcher Peter Burns—currently hold a batting average of over .350. 

“Peter’s settling in,” Gambino said. “I don’t know if he’ll hit .360, but he’s going to be able to give us those types of bats. And again, I don’t know that Barry’s gonna hit .380, but I think Barry’s going to continue to give us good at-bats.”

Players in the heart of BC’s order, like outfielder Travis Honeyman, infielder Nick Wang, infielder Vince Cimini, and outfielder Cohl Mercado, all boast an on-base percentage of over .330, but have lower batting averages. The only player on the team who falls below those averages is infielder Patrick Roche, who has 51 at-bats this season.  

“Patrick is not swinging it, but I also don’t see that we have as a lineup gotten hot,” Gambino said. “We haven’t as a lineup started to really go. I think Adonys [Guzman] is gonna continue to give us good at-bats, I think Parker Landwehr is going to come back and help us. I think Patrick will raise his average, I think Vin will raise his average, I think Nick will raise his average, I think Travis will raise his average.” 

Guzman—BC’s rookie catcher who has shuffled into the lineup for Burns on several occasions—has turned the jets on when the opportunity for him has arised, batting .316 in 19 at-bats.

“Catching every other day with those guys,” Gambino said of the rotation between Guzman and Burns. “Peter on Friday, Adonys on Saturday, Peter on Sunday, and then split the mid-weeks. You know, Adonys, I believe he’s going to be a superstar, but he’s also a freshman in college.”

On Saturday in the Eagles’ 8–5 win over Virginia Tech, Guzman filled in and posted a hit, an RBI, and two strikeouts in three at-bats. Gambino said he still has a lot to learn, and mentioned that his camaraderie with Burns will spark his growth. 

“When Adonys was in high school, the value of the close-edge pitch on an 0–0 count or a 1–1 count wasn’t even a thing,” Gambino said. “Whereas if you see what Peter’s doing on the edges right now, and on the edges of the strike zone, you know, he’s changing games. And Adonys has that ability and he will have that ability, but he’s just learning and growing and getting them there.”

Part of BC’s formula for success—rotating the lineup and looking for players deeper in the clubhouse—is reflected in Guzman’s rotation with Burns behind the plate, according to Gambino.

“I kind of like the thing we have going on with playing some hot hand,” Gambino said. “I mean obviously, you know, Travis and Cam and Joe are gonna be in the middle, and you know, moving some of those guys around them, I think that’s gonna continue to happen. The combination of Barry and Cole, and then Sam [McNulty] is coming back and he’s almost healthy. We have good pieces.” 

And as for BC’s pitching corps, Gambino is opting to do the same—look to guys from deeper within the rotation on a more frequent basis—unless he doesn’t have to. 

“Pretty fun watching him pitch, isn’t it?” Gambino said of right-hander Chris Flynn, who silenced the Hokies’ lineup in the first of Saturday’s two games. “I think a lot of success is coming from him. … It’s hard to have the depth of confidence that you need to be high level and have that swag that he has.”

But except for that game in which Flynn—BC’s top pitcher who went into the week with a 0.00 ERA—notched his fourth win of the season by striking out five batters and earning only two runs in 5.2 innings, the Eagles used at least four pitchers on the mound in each of the other four games. Right-hander John West was BC’s only pitcher in that stretch to earn more than three runs. 

“You’re trying to win every baseball game, but also make sure your arms are fresh and healthy and ready to go,” Gambino said. “A.J. [Colarusso’s] a great example of like, he was great against Tennessee, even better against Virginia Tech. We do not see a doubleheader win on Saturday if A.J. doesn’t do what he did on Friday—in a loss, he gave us five innings.”

March 14, 2023