Sports, Spring, Baseball

No. 20 Eagles Notch First ACC Series Sweep Since 2017 With Wins Over No. 18 North Carolina 

It’s usually been bad news for Boston College baseball when the team across the diamond is wearing Carolina blue. Entering this weekend’s series at No. 18 North Carolina, the Eagles had not won a game in Chapel Hill in 17 contests, and the Tar Heels were 31–3 in the all-time series.

But in a season of records and firsts, No. 20 BC (27–12, 12–9 Atlantic Coast) found a way to pull through. The Eagles left the state of North Carolina with not only their first win in Chapel Hill, but a series sweep, punctuating a program-defining season. BC followed up Friday’s series-opening victory in extra innings with a 9–4 win on Saturday, and a 6–2 win on Sunday against the Tar Heels (25–15, 9–10). 

The three consecutive wins marks the first ACC road series sweep for the Eagles since 2010, and first ACC series sweep since 2017.  

After posting six runs in the first inning of Friday’s series opener, the Tar Heels would score a combined eight runs over the next 27 innings. After the six-run inning, which featured five consecutive North Carolina hits and two home runs, it would be all BC for the rest of the series. The Eagles settled in, muting the potent Tar Heels’ offense, and outscored North Carolina by 14 for the remainder of the weekend. 

“This team has shown over and over that they thrive in those times when things don’t go well, or there’s a chance to respond positively, or there’s some adversity,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “This team seems to thrive on that.” 

The first six innings of Sunday’s game were reminiscent of Saturday’s low-scoring start. After six innings, the game was tied at two apiece. BC starter John West and North Carolina starter Jake Knapp each pitched four quality innings, and the bullpen kept the score tied until the seventh inning. 

In the top of the seventh inning, the Tar Heels’ bullpen crumbled. Joe Vetrano led off with a line drive to right center that didn’t go more than 15 feet off the ground. Vetrano finished the game with three hits in four at-bats. 

“It was awesome … when you’re Joe, he’s a guy you’ve gotta gameplan against,” Gambino said. “He’s a guy where you do what you can to make sure he doesn’t beat you, and that’s how he gets pitched [to].” 

Patrick Roche followed Vetrano’s hit with a walk, and Cameron Leary singled to right field. The table was set for freshman catcher Adonys Guzman, getting the start while captain Peter Burns got a game off to rest. 

Guzman lined a single into right field on a 3-1 count, scoring Vetrano from third base and giving the Eagles the 3–2 lead. Vince Cimini followed Guzman with a run-scoring single, and Cohl Mercado scored a third run on a sacrifice fly to center to make it 5–2 to close the top of the seventh inning.

Travis Honeyman added one insurance run in the eighth inning, homering on a 2-0 pitch off the scoreboard into left field, putting BC ahead 6–2. Relievers Eric Schroeder, Andrew Roman and Julian Tonghini posted consecutive scoreless innings to secure BC the sweep.

Since joining the ACC in 2005, BC has swept only four series on the road in a conference widely considered to be in the top two in the sport with the SEC. 

“Sweeps in this league are hard to come by,” Gambino said. “Sweeps on the road are even harder. So, anytime you get a chance [to sweep] … it’s a great weekend.” 

Saturday’s game was a pitcher’s duel by all accounts. 

Going into the eighth inning of the contest, North Carolina starter Connor Bovair had held the Eagles to one run through seven innings, while BC starter Chris Flynn and relievers Ian Murphy and Charlie Coon combined for seven innings of two-run ball. 

Bovair, a junior transfer from Siena College, had only pitched in the eighth inning once this season. And with one out, an errant pitch from Bovair hit Honeyman in the back. North Carolina head coach Scott Forbes inserted reliever Nelson Berkwich to stop the bleeding. 

But Vetrano singled, and Forbes called his bullpen again, putting in Nik Pry. Pry walked Patrick Roche on five pitches, inducing another pitching change. Facing Cameron Padgett––North Carolina’s fourth pitcher of the inning––Leary stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.

Leary belted a high fastball straight back up the middle for a go-ahead grand slam to put BC up 5–2, and watched the flyball sail over the wall. 

In the ninth inning, Honeyman added a two-RBI double, and Sam McNulty added to the lead with a two-RBI double of his own, putting the Eagles up 9–2. While Vance Honeycutt would add a homer in the bottom of the ninth inning for North Carolina, the Eagles clinched the series win with a 9–4 win on Saturday.

April 23, 2023