Watching Boston College baseball’s closer Andrew Roman dish in the first inning probably wasn’t a normal sight for “Birdball” fans. But that is exactly what BC head coach Mike Gambino had in store for the first game of the 2023 Tuscaloosa Regional Final against No. 16 Alabama.
After using starters John West, Chris Flynn, and Henry Leake in the first few games of the Regional, the Eagles’ rotation looked very thin. Roman was one of the only pitchers Gambino could mobilize in hopes of a lights out start.
But that is the opposite of what Gambino got. In less than a full inning, Roman allowed four runs on three walks, two hit-by-pitches, and only one hit en route to the Eagles’ 8–0 loss against the Crimson Tide (43–19, 16–14 SEC). After defeating Troy earlier in the day and waiting out a lengthy rain delay, BC’s (37–20, 16–14 Atlantic Coast) season finally came to an end.
After recording his first strikeout, Roman gave Alabama’s Andrew Pinckney the respect he deserved by throwing four straight balls—Pickney led the Crimson Tide with a .355 average and 17 home runs going into the affair. Things only deteriorated from there. Roman hit cleanup batter Drew Williamson, and then walked Dominic Tamez and hit Colby Shelton.
At 21 pitches, things only went more downhill. After another walk, Alabama went up 2–0 without a single hit on Roman. A Mac Guscette single scored two more to make it 4–0, all with two outs, and Roman went to bed—the game did start at 10:36 p.m. on the East Coast.
BC’s offense didn’t let the shaky start faze them. Three Eagles—Barry Walsh, Patrick Roche, and Joe Vetrano—loaded the bases with only one out and Nick Wang coming up to the plate. Wang grounded out into a double play, however, souring the mood of BC’s dugout.
Relief pitcher Mathew Nunan continued the pitching staff’s struggles in the top of the second inning. After walking Tommy Seidl, Nunan proceeded to give up a single and a double to increase the Crimson Tide’s lead to 5–0.
Seidl rang up another run in the top of the third inning with an RBI single, and Alabama went up 6–0 with the top of BC’s order on deck in the bottom of the inning. Ian Murphy was accredited with the earned the run in relief of Nunan.
After the Eagles’ offense went down 1-2-3 again, Charlie Coon—the fourth BC pitcher of the contest—was put in to relieve Murphy in the top of the fourth inning. Coon became the first pitcher to work through an inning without giving up a run, keeping the game at 6–0.
The Crimson Tide continued to cool off in the top of the fifth inning, as reliever Joey Ryan struck out two batters, including Pinckney, and left the bases loaded. Ryan utilized his forkball, which Gambino described as a pitch with a lot of life during his mid-fifth inning interview, and a “splange,” a mix between a splitter and a changeup.
Gambino also credited the success of Alabama starter Jacob McNairy, who posted a 4.08 ERA across 70.2 innings pitched this season. McNairy retired six batters in a row going into the top of the sixth inning with eight total strikeouts.
Despite getting two BC runners on base in the bottom of the sixth, McNairy induced a Wang popout to end the inning. Nevertheless, BC reliever Julian Tonghini extended Alabama’s scoreless streak to four innings in the top of the seventh.
Ultimately, McNairy recorded another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh and tallied his 10th of 11 strikeouts on the night—a season high. McNairy then followed that by earning a quick two outs in the bottom of the eighth, finishing with 108 pitches—also a season high—as the cold Eagles’ offense only dampened more and more in the 8–0 loss.
The Eagles ended their year just as they started it—by getting shut out. But both of the losses didn’t tell the tale of their season. In what is arguably one of the greatest BC baseball seasons of all time, the Eagles matched an all-time record in wins, notched the all-time record for conference wins, and earned the all-time high program ranking. BC even scored 28 total runs in the first three games of the Regional leading up to its final game.
One thing is likely certain: Gambino and his squad will probably never forget the 2023 season.