Birdball Comeback Falls Short Against Sox B Team, 5-2

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Wave Him In Wendell now applying for BC managerial position after 3rd out thrown out at the plate during exciting ninth in Fort Myers.

Let's start this game at its end.

Trailing 5-0 in the top of the seventh (in a seven inning game), Boston College rallied for two runs and four hits against the Boston Red Sox in the 24th edition of their annual spring training exhibition.  With Geoffrey Murphy on second and two out, Nick Sciortino lined a base hit through the left side.  Murphy was inexplicably sent home, where he was gunned down by Keury De La Cruz, ending the game and the threat of a BC comeback.

Conventional wisdom says the following - BC broke the cardinal rule of baseball by committing the last out of any inning at third.  Making it especially egregious is the fact that it would have put the tying run on base, loading them up with the top of the order due after the nine hitter.  Making it even more egregious on top of that is that the ball was hit to the left side, making it a generally easier play to throw the runner out anyways.  The fact that it happened against a team wearing the Boston Red Sox colors made it that much worse.

As much as I've been told by coach after coach that you never send a guy unless his Strat-o-Matic card had Running 1-17, it was a gutsy call that will probably not be made in a "real" game.  Number one - it's an exhibition.  Number two - it's a seven-inning exhibition.  And number three - it was against a bunch of guys who will probably be riding a bus through the Carolina League by April.  I don't like the move, but I don't hate it.  Let's just move on.

At the end of the day, we have to go back to what we were looking for out of the Birdballers in this game.  The outcome didn't matter, especially given that the Red Sox sent a number of guys hoping to breakthrough for substantial Triple-AAA time or maybe a cup of coffee with the MLB club.  They played the Future Sox, and for that, we need to look at what we wanted out of this game.

Hitting

We wanted to see BC manufacture some runs and get some more pep in their running game.  Okay - they got more aggressive and it got the third run thrown out at the plate with two out in the seventh.  Fair enough.  But the BC bats were quiet.  Tom Bourdon singled in the second inning off Rubby De La Rosa, but the Eagles mustered nothing until the seventh.  They struggled with the quick adjustment to the wood bats, and it showed.  They hit into 10 ground outs.  Hitting with aluminum, there's a certain amount of forgiveness that turns groundballs into line drives or fly balls.  I'm a big proponent of wood, which forces a hitter to see the ball better and drive through it.  Being able to work with wood, even for a couple of days, can only serve as a reality check.

In terms of run production, BC did some things differently on the bases in that 7th inning.  My only problem is that they stupidly got a guy thrown out at the plate with two out, which might make them less hesitant to try that play in a regular season game.  Other than that, there wasn't a huge sample to go on.  The number of strikeouts in the order went up, but that's to be expected when facing guys who are challenging for spots on a big league roster.

Pitching

I caught most of the game on WEEI AM850 in Boston, listening to a substantial part of the early innings.  I kept a close attention on the way BC pitchers handled themselves, since that was my biggest concern.  Being intimidated by a 7,000-person crowd, playing in JetBlue Park with Fenway dimensions, and facing the Red Sox is something that shows who wants to be on the mound.  Having played with guys down the Cape, there was a certain element to a player who craved that type of spotlight.  He wanted to step on the bump, challenge hitters, and go after them.  He really wanted that moment.  Some guys in college lived for the MLB exhibition because it meant they'd have a moment to prove themselves against the very best.  Other guys who were more intimidated flamed out in the minors or never made it because they didn't have that certain edge.  Hearing if a guy went after and challenged a hitter?  That's a compliment to the guy's tenacity, and it's something I really wanted to hear about, especially the younger guys.

For the most part, BC pitchers did go after the Sox hitters.  Eric Stevens threw his one inning, but he hit the story of his life when he pitched well enough to pick up another loss (granted, it doesn't count, but this guy can't buy a break).  The guy I was impressed with was Steve Green.  Green hasn't thrown at all this year, but he worked the zone and pounded Red Sox hitters in two innings of work.  He didn't strike anybody out, but the radio talked about how he was coming after hitters.  Of course that also meant he beaned one of the Sox prospects, who left the game with a hand injury.  But you get the idea.

The BC pitchers, for the most part, pitched very well, which is a great sign.  Green might've earned some innings this week, and Mike King pitched a near perfect sixth.  The only guy who ran into trouble was Bobby Skogsbergh, but he's a freshman, and he'll have plenty of time to get over a bad outing against minor leaguers as the season moves along.

In terms of what we were looking for, BC pitchers pitched well.  They certainly, for the most part, pitched well enough to win the game save for one inning.  I think it's a good sign moving forward.

The thing to remember is that it's an exhibition, so I don't put a ton of stock on it.  That said, BC played well enough to build momentum.  From yesterday, it's onto Port Charlotte, the spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, and a game with Central Michigan.  They'll take on Villanova on Saturday at noon and Western Michigan on Sunday at 3 pm in the Snowbird Classic.

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