Baseball, Spring, Sports

No. 20 Eagles Capture First-Ever Win in Chapel Hill, Defeat No. 18 North Carolina 9–8

Entering Friday night’s matchup in Chapel Hill, N.C., No. 20 Boston College baseball had lost two straight games, its most recent loss coming against No. 15 Connecticut in a 12–1 seven-inning blowout

Even with its recent struggles, BC held the second-best away record in the country at 14–7 heading into Friday’s contest against No. 18 North Carolina and looked to end its two-game losing streak. The odds were not in their favor, however, as the Eagles had gone winless in all 17 of their all-time matchups in Chapel Hill up to that point. 

“It’s a good ballclub, they’re a consistently good program with always a great atmosphere,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “You know, it’s one of the great places to play in college baseball.” 

Despite the Eagles (25–12, 10–9 Atlantic Coast) holding only a 1–5 record in ACC series openers this season, they broke their cold streak, capturing the series opener against North Carolina (25–13, 9–8) in 10 innings by a final score of 9–8. BC’s offensive firepower pulled through in extra innings as its season-long trend of responding to adversity continued. 

“Things are not always gonna go smoothly through the course of a season, but these guys, they never stop,” Gambino said. “They never quit.” 

BC got off to a lightning fast start in the top of the first inning, with Patrick Roche roping an RBI double to score Travis Honeyman and give the Eagles an early 1–0 lead. Roche scored on a wild pitch by Max Carlson to establish a two-run lead just two batters later. 

That cushion would be short-lived though, as the Tar Heels responded with a ferocious hitting spree against starting pitcher Henry Leake in the bottom of the first inning. Jackson Van De Brake ignited the scoring for North Carolina with an RBI single to center field that cut BC’s lead to 2–1.  

The Tar Heels leapfrogged BC and took their first lead of the game as a result of a three-run home run by Vance Honeycutt. Alberto Osuna struck the final blow of the inning with a two-run home run to give North Carolina a commanding 6–2 lead. 

But the Eagles, once again, did not let adversity get the best of them. Leake settled into a nice groove in the next two innings, allowing no more earned runs to keep the game in reach for BC. 

“It wasn’t a great first inning, but that kid never quit on his teammates,” Gambino said. “So what he did tonight was unbelievable.” 

The Eagles’ offense did not look fazed, however, as it chipped away at the deficit in the top of the third inning. An RBI single by Vince Cimini and a two-RBI single from Cohl Mercado cut North Carolina’s lead to 6–5. 

In the top of the fifth inning, Cimini came up big for the Eagles again, crushing an RBI single to right field to tie up the game 6–6, erasing the four run-deficit from the first inning.

BC’s pitching continued its strong showing with Eric Schroeder holding down the fort for 2.2 innings, allowing zero runs and only two hits. Joey Ryan pitched an inning of scoreless ball in the bottom of the seventh, allowing only one hit. 

“Yeah, I think that bullpen group is really the core of this club right now,” Gambino said. “Our starters, they know they don’t have to do too much. You don’t have to carry too much of a load. They just kind of worry about getting us back in the dugout as many times as they can and will turn it over to that bullpen. Those guys are doing a great job.” 

In the top of the ninth inning, left fielder Cameron Leary piped a no-doubt home run to left field to put the Eagles back on top 7–6. Even after relinquishing a four-run lead, North Carolina did not back down just yet. In the bottom of the ninth, Van De Brake hit an RBI single up the middle to tie the game 7–7 and send it to extras.  

With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning it looked like North Carolina was on its way to another victory against BC in Chapel Hill. But the Eagles turned a crucial double play to end the inning. 

In the top of the 10th inning with two outs, the Eagles delivered the clincher by virtue of a Sam McNulty two-RBI single to establish a 9–7 lead. The Tar Heels’ sole run in the bottom of the 10th was not enough to stop BC from securing its first-ever win at North Carolina. 

“It was a huge win,” Gambino said. “They’re all huge in our conference. But I think getting thumped by UConn the other night, I really think snapped these boys out of where they were.”

April 22, 2023