Sports, Spring, Baseball

Cimini Walks Off in Ninth as No. 16 BC Captures First Home Win

Leading up to Wednesday afternoon’s home opener against Sacred Heart, No. 16 Boston College baseball had used an average of six pitchers in all of its midweek games this season. In those games, BC’s starters didn’t last more than three innings. 

But while the formula for mid-week pitching lacks a specific identity—unlike most Saturdays, in which BC typically goes with its right-hander ace Chris Flynn—the Eagles were still 2–1 in those games. 

And on Wednesday—with a barrage of five pitchers this time, three of which earned zero runs in the last five innings of the game—BC (15–4, 4–2 Atlantic Coast) silenced the Pioneers (9–8, 5–1 Northeast Conference) 8–7 on its home turf, and improved to a 3–1 mid-week game record. Infielder Vince Cimini posted a walkoff single in the ninth inning to score the winning run and send the Eagles’ dugout into a frenzy on their home turf. 

“Sean Hard came in—his stuff looked great today, his stuff is electric—and did a great job, and [Ian Murphy] came in and did a great job,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said of the late pitching rotation. “Once we started putting up zeros, it was like here we go, like we can start going.”

But while the Eagles’ final three pitchers in the game performed nearly flawlessly—giving up just one hit, three walks, zero runs, and notching six combined strikeouts, four of which from Hard—BC’s starter, right-hander Luke Delongchamp, did not execute with similar success.  

In the top of the first inning, an error and a single put Sacred Heart’s first two batters—Sam Mongelli and Justin Jordan—onto first and second base to catapult the Pioneers into scoring position, and Ryan Donnelly softly tapped a bunt down the left side to load the bases with no outs.  

Robert Farru piped a sacrifice fly to left field to kick off the scoring for the Pioneers, allowing Mongelli to fly home, and Delongchamp hit the next batter—Tim McGuire—to load the bases again. 

Zack Kovalchik then singled through the left side, bringing in two more runners to put Sacred Heart up 3–0. 

“I wanna give credit where credit’s due,” Gambino said. “They attacked with confidence all the way through. They executed a bunch of, I mean, one of those bunts I thought we had a chance to get an out and we fumbled it there, but they had like six perfectly executed bunts that they guys were looking at and I’m like, ‘that’s what happens, they executed a good bunt.’”

Delongchamp recorded his first two strikeouts of the game on Sacred Heart’s Gino Manicchio and Joe Cilea after the run loss, both on inside sinkers.

The Eagles bounced back in the bottom of the first inning with three runs of their own, as Cohl Mercado and Joe Vetrano both got on base with singles. Patrick Roche hit a gapper to score Mercado, and Cameron Leary followed with a sac fly to right field, scoring Vetrano. 

Peter Burns and Cimini walked back-to-back, and Guzman drilled a single through the left side to tie the game at 3–3. 

In the second inning—Delongchamp’s last inning—Sacred Heart added two more runs to make it 5–3, and then two more runs were scored on left-handed pitcher Charlie Coon in the top of the fourth to make it 7–3. 

But the Pioneers would not score for the rest of the game.

“We didn’t really play well in any one facet of the game,” Gambino said. “But I saw leadership. I saw the pitchers step up and figure out a way to get out of here with a W. And I’d rather our pitchers take lessons after a W. When you’re stern with your guys after a loss, the message is the message. But when you win, sometimes the message can resonate a little bit.”

In the sixth inning, Sacred Heart reliever Jacob Wiberg replaced David Aufiero—who didn’t allow a single hit in two innings—and BC got to work. 

Cimini reached first on a hit by pitch, and Daniel Baruch chopped a single to advance Cimini to second base. After Guzman flew out, third baseman Owen Deshazo knocked in his second RBI of the year, planting a ground ball single and rounding Cimini home to make it 7–4. 

Mercado struck out next, but Vetrano safely reached first, running to the bag on a strike call that was dropped. Roche—who finished the day with four hits in five at-bats—hooked a single out to left field to bring in Baruch and Deshazo, and another pitch was dropped by the Pioneers at the plate to let Vetrano lightly trot home to tie the game back up at 7–7. 

“He seems to be swinging it better than his numbers are showing,” Gambino said of Roche. “Barreling balls and RBI’s, you’re driving in runs and today you get ‘em to fall. We’re still early enough in the season where a 4-for-5 is hard to come by. He’s doing a great job, quality-wise.”

Still a tie game in the ninth inning, BC closer Andrew Roman swiped right through the Pioneers’ batters, handing an opportunity on a platter to the Eagles’ offense.

And with Roche on third base and only one out, Cimini delivered to capture the 8–7 victory.

“The fight, the fight, the fight, the fight,” Gambino said. “That’s a big win right there. I didn’t even see it, did the kid catch the ball at the end of the game?”

Through Brighton’s chilly night sky, Cimini pummeled a single over the center fielder’s head. The ball did in fact hit the ground.

March 22, 2023