Sports, Spring, Baseball

Eagles Ninth-Inning Rally Falls Short, Drop Series Opener to Louisville 6–4

Series openers haven’t been kind to Boston College baseball this season. 

Winners of each of its six series so far this season, BC had lost four series openers entering Thursday’s road game.

And on Thursday, the Eagles (21–7, 8–5 Atlantic Coast) lost their fifth series opener, falling to Louisville (22–7, 5–5) by a final score of 6–4 despite scoring three runs in a furious ninth-inning rally. 

“You can’t win them all,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said after the game. “Couple of them got away from us. And I think there’s also so much confidence with [Chris] Flynny going tomorrow. It’s not something I worry about.”

Louisville starter Ryan Hawks was dealing all night, tossing 106 pitches over eight innings of one-run ball. The right-handed senior fanned eight Eagles and allowed only four hits—a tour-de force pitching performance that BC just couldn’t overcome. 

“We barreled a ton of balls today right at people,” Gambino said. “But then there was also a bunch of balls that [Hawks] just got just enough carry on the fastball to get it just off the barrel and hit some fly balls.”

Despite Hawks’ stellar start, the Eagles struck first, as Travis Honeyman scorched a double into left-center in the top of the first inning. Joe Vetrano followed up two at-bats later and drove in Honeyman with a single to left field. Louisville, however, caught Patrick Roche—who had reached base via a walk in the previous at-bat—at third base to limit the Eagles’ first-inning damage to one run. 

Though BC starter Henry Leake stranded a Cardinals’ runner in the bottom of the first inning, Louisville evened the score in the second inning with a series of singles. Leake eventually escaped the inning with an inning-ending double play. 

Facing a first-and-third, one-out jam in the bottom of the third inning, Leake again forced another inning-ending double, this one by the skin of his teeth. 

“The play that [Leake] made on the 1-6-3 double play—there’s not many pitchers in the country that make that play,” Gambino said. “That was beautiful, that was a really hard play. … Those were huge, man, and kept us in that baseball game.”

In the fourth inning, however, Leake wasn’t as fortunate. 

A hit-by-pitch and a Brandon Anderson single set up another first-and-third situation. Eddie King Jr. capitalized, picking up his second RBI of the game to push Louisville ahead by a run. After Leake struck out Logan Beard with an upstairs fastball, Christian Knapczyk threaded the gap up the middle with a ground ball to tack on two more Louisville runs. 

Catcher Peter Burns then nailed Knapczyk trying to steal second to end the inning and send the Eagles into the fifth inning down 4–1. 

The fifth inning featured some controversy after umpires rang up Burns on a pitch-clock violation, sending an enraged Gambino onto the field. 

“I understand the rule,” Gambino said. “But I felt that it was an incorrect application of the rule the way that happened.”

Louisville added another run in the bottom half of the inning, with Gavin Kilen just barely slipping by Burns’ tag at home plate following a Will Cook single—ending Leake’s night.

Right-hander Eric Schroeder cleaned up Leake’s jam by recording a pair of flyouts to keep BC’s deficit at four runs. 

The Cardinals secured some more breathing room in the bottom of the eighth inning after Beard logged an RBI single to go ahead 6–1.

But the Eagles still had three outs remaining, and—just as they have all season—refused to go down quietly. 

With the help of a few Louisville defensive miscues, BC quickly loaded the bases, plated three runs, and sent the go-ahead run Burns to the batter’s box. 

Burns, however, tipped a weak ground ball to the Cardinals’ catcher Jack Payton, who completed the routine ground out at first to end the ballgame.  

“They did tonight what they’ve been doing all year,” Gambino said. “This team fights. They never quit. So I think what we’re gonna see tomorrow is what we have seen from this ballclub all year. It’s why they’re so fun to be around.”

April 7, 2023