When Julian Tonghini struck out Harvard baseball’s Jordan Kang with the bases loaded for the third out in the top of the ninth inning, fans at Harrington Athletics Village knew what they were possibly in for. On a night in which temperatures were well into the 60s, another potential Boston College walk-off win was on the horizon.
After swiping through the first two batters, Tonghini proceeded to walk Ben Rounds, give up a single to Logan Bravo, and walk Jake Berger. But in dire need of a punchback, Tonghini did exactly what he was called on to do—hand the Eagles a chance in the bottom of the ninth inning to make another special memory on home turf and boast Baseball Beanpot glory for the second year in a row.
“Pitch yourself into trouble, pitch yourself out of trouble,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “But yeah, [Tonghini] made a couple of really big pitches in the end, in the ninth there.”
On the flip side, just three pitches into the bottom of the ninth inning, Holy Cross transfer and former Patriot League Rookie of the Year Nick Wang delivered.
Deep into Brighton’s hazy night sky, Wang pummeled a solo home run—his sixth of the year—to lift No. 11 BC (22–9, 8–7 Atlantic Coast) over the Crimson (11–17, 7–2 Ivy) by a final score of 5–4 and claim the 2023 Baseball Beanpot trophy.
“The boys did what they’ve been doing all year,” Gambino said. “We’ve talked all year about respond when we ask. They responded. And they tied it up—Patrick Roche, really good situational at-bat—and then Wang did what he did.”
The only thing that could be heard after Wang’s shot was the Eagles’ bench erupting.
“He’s got really good bounce at the plate,” Gambino said. “He swung the bat early, see that [he] came out of his legs a touch, but when he stays balanced, he can cover a fastball.”
For the most part, however, the Eagles’ situational hitting came up empty all night long—BC stranded a total of 13 runners on the base path. The backbone of BC’s victory came from its pitchers, who posted scoreless innings in all but one.
“I wasn’t thrilled with our approaches in the middle of the game,” Gambino said. “And this is not taking anything away from hardware—I don’t mean that—but we had plenty of chances with some situational at-bats to make, to go from three to four to five to six. … I’m proud for how they responded, but I think we could have situationally hit better.”
With lights out performances by starting pitcher Eric Schroeder and reliever Charlie Coon in the first four innings—each pitcher recorded three strikeouts and allowed only one hit—and a high-leverage, fifth-inning bail out by Andrew Roman, the Eagles garnered just enough wiggle room to get back in the game and secure the come-from-behind victory.
“That spot has been talked about all year,” Gambino said. “That spot has the feel, that’s the leverage spot right there. Let’s go there, let’s get out of here with the lead and stop ‘em here.”
Joey Ryan—who pitched two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth with one strikeout—was just as noteworthy from the pitching staff, but the same could not be said of Mathew Nunan. Nunan failed to record an out and earned all four Harvard runs in the game in the top of the fifth inning.
“Yeah, you know, every once in a while, you know [Chris Flynn] on Saturday was just okay, [Roman] today was just okay, but your guys are still gonna be your guys,” Gambino said of BC’s bullpen. “They can’t be perfect.”
After three innings and two back-to-back homers from Joe Vetrano and Roche in the bottom of the third inning, the Eagles were up 3–0.
But things turned around drastically after Nunan came in to pitch for Coon in the top of the fifth inning. Harvard’s Rounds, Berger, and Kang all recorded RBIs in the inning to put the Crimson up 4–3 going into the bottom of the fifth.
Harvard’s lead didn’t last for long, however, as the Eagles chipped away in the bottom of the sixth inning with Roche scoring Peter Burns to tie the game at 4–4.
“It’s important, it’s built into our DNA,” Gambino said of BC’s approach to coming back after facing a deficit. “Because we’re gonna have to. Northeast team, playing our conference, the amount of times we’re on the road, the weather—if we don’t deal with adversity well, we’re just not gonna have a chance.”
With the most fans in recent memory showing up to Brighton campus to watch BC, according to Gambino, Wang put the exclamation point on what turned out to be a spectacle for fans, parents, and students alike with his one-run shot in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“You know, I got a million text messages from a million alumni the last couple of days saying, you know, ‘You don’t let the Beanpot leave,’” Gambino said. “This place was banged out today. I’ll tell you what, the students have been awesome, you know, in the stands, up on the hill. I will tell you this—the boys feel the love and appreciate it a lot.”