Sports, Spring, Baseball

Despite Extra-Innings Victory in Game Two, No. 19 Eagles Drop Series at No. 2 Wake Forest

Many baseball fans are familiar with the short porch in Yankee Stadium and the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park. But only devout college baseball fans can tell you about a right-field fence shorter than both of those. At David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Wake Forest plays, the right-field fence sits just 300 feet away from home plate, a dream scenario for left-handed hitters. 

In Saturday’s matchup between No. 19 Boston College baseball and the No. 2 Demon Deacons—the only game in the series that BC won—balls flew out of the ballpark regularly, including a crucial game-tying ninth inning shot from Peter Burns. 

“Obviously, it plays a touch small, right, but, you know, you still got to play the game the same way and it’s gonna be the same ballpark for both teams,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. 

But despite BC’s six total home runs in game two of the series, the Eagles (30–16, 14–13 Atlantic Coast) took only one game out of the three-game series at Wake Forest (39–7, 18–5). BC lost the first game 6–0, won the second game 11–9 in 12 innings, and fell 4–2 in the rubber match. 

“We had some kind of baseball game yesterday [Saturday], and I love the way we came out today, I mean, just a great baseball game,” Gambino said. “I mean, all in all, it was a great series. And you know, I kind of thought it was a flip a coin series. Yeah, coming in, I mean, I said to the boys, I really believe, like, I didn’t know what the order was, but they were gonna win one, we were gonna win one, and then there was gonna be a couple close ballgames and you have to flip a coin and see what happens.” 

Even though the ninth inning from Saturday’s game was filled with drama, Sunday’s ninth inning rally just might have topped it. 

Leading up to that inning, Wake was up 4–1 courtesy of two solo shots from Nick Kurtz and Danny Corona, respectively, and a short rally in the seventh inning. BC’s one run came off the bat of the scorching hot Joe Vetrano, hitting his third home run of the series to left field. 

“I think you gotta pitch very carefully to Joe Vetrano,” Gambino said. “Every time he steps to the plate, he’s one of the best power hitters in the country, one of the best left-handed hitters in the country. Joe obviously has huge, full power, but he’s got enough power to leave the other way. You know, like, he did twice this weekend.” 

Vince Cimini started off the ninth inning with a single, and the drama started when Adonys Guzman hit a ball into the gap in right field. Guzman stayed at second, not wanting to risk an out on an advance while still being down three runs. 

Cimini, however, attempted to score on the play and got beat at home by roughly ten feet, striking a massive blow to the Eagles’ hopes of another ninth-inning comeback. 

Instead of having runners on the corners with one out, BC had just Guzman on first base with two outs.

Nevertheless, a Sam McNulty walk and Cohl Mercado walk would bring up Barry Walsh, who singled to score pinch runner Chris Markovitch and give the Eagles runners on the corners with two outs. 

This brought up Burns, the previous night’s hero, facing yet another right-handed pitcher as a left-handed batter.

Instead of adding another chapter to his hero saga, Burns hit a speedy grounder to the shortstop, who threw out Walsh, a much faster runner than Burns, at second base.  

Walsh slid into second looking like he had beaten the throw, however. The play immediately went to video review, which lasted several minutes. But unfortunately for BC, the second base umpire was standing in front of the play on both the angles shown, and there was not enough evidence to overturn the play, and those comeback hopes were ended.  

“I can tell you one thing: I’m not worried about this club is how they respond to things,” Gambino said. “They’ve shown it all year.” 

Gambino continued to state that he was pleased with the result of the series. 

“I’m saying this with all due respect for Wake Forest, I think they’re really good,” Gambino said. “I think they have a chance to win the national championship. You know, there’s a reason they’re [No.] 1 or 2 all year, and, you know, I’m looking forward to facing them again. I hope it’s in Omaha.” 

On Saturday, starting pitcher Chris Flynn put together one of his best performances of the season, allowing just two hits to Wake’s explosive offense and keeping them off the scoreboard in five innings of work. 

But before he would have faced the monstrous top of the Demon Deacons’ order for a third time with BC holding a 2–0 lead thanks to an RBI single from Vetrano and a solo shot from Barry Walsh, Gambino pulled him and put in Joey Ryan in the top of the sixth. 

Ryan struggled to throw strikes, walking two batters and allowing a single, loading the bases for Pierce Bennett. All it took was a single to end Ryan’s day after facing five batters and recording just one out.

Regular closer Andrew Roman tried to stop the bleeding, but he would allow both Brock Wilken and Pierce Bennett—two MLB prospects—to score in addition to allowing a run of his own, going into the seventh inning with Wake up 5–2. 

In the next inning, however, an unlikely source would tie the game up. 

Freshman Mercado, who hadn’t hit a home run in his college career with only two extra-base hits, sent a fly ball to right center that cleared the short wall and scored McNulty and Kyle Wolff to tie the game back up. 

Roman retired the Demon Deacons in order in the bottom half of the frame, and Vetrano sent a homer over the right field fence to give BC the lead in the top of the eighth. But Wake Forest responded with a long rally that sent eight of their nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four runs on Roman and taking a 9–6 lead.

With their backs to the wall, the Eagles needed something special to happen to get back in the game. And they got it with Burns’ three-run game-tying homer, good for just the eighth home run in his five-year career as an Eagle.

Needing a win over the No. 2 team in the country to have a chance at the series and a major boost for their RPI, Gambino turned to his probable Sunday starter John West to give BC a chance to win it in extras.

West delivered, shutting down Wake Forest in the ninth inning as well as the 10th and 11th frames, both in which BC failed to score.

“We were TBD on Sunday, with a spot to possibly use him out of the bullpen to close out a lead, you know,” Gambino said. “Honestly, the reason we went TBD is exactly something like the way it came up to give us a, you know, to give us a chance.”

The Eagles offense gave him the support he needed in the top of the 12th, with Vetrano and Wolff hitting homers to left center, respectively, not even needing the short porch in right.

West got a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the frame to finish off his dominant performance and send the game home for BC. 

Friday’s affair featured Rhett Lowder,’s ninth-ranked prospect and third ranked right-handed pitcher, and nothing else, as the right-handed pitcher shut down the Eagles’ offense the entire game, taking ahold of the series with a 6–0 opening statement victory. His seven shutout innings helped the Demon Deacons hold BC to zero runs—the Eagles first time being shutout since the first game of the season against Pepperdine.

BC got seven runners on base in the first matchup, but the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position didn’t give the Eagles much of a chance to win after starter Henry Leake gave up four earned runs. 

In contrast to game’s two and three of the series which turned out to be a rollercoaster series of events, respectively, game one proved to be stagnant on BC’s end.

May 8, 2023