Season Preview: 2014 BC Baseball

USA TODAY Sports

First pitch is a week away, so we run down the Birdball names and faces you'll need to know!

Look, we all know the Boston College baseball team was flat out bad last season. We know they were bad the last couple of seasons, and we know that they haven't really been competitive since 2010, when they finished 4th in the Atlantic Division of the ACC and qualified for the conference tournament. I don't think any of us are breaking any new ground in that regard.

Mike Gambino will start year three of a building campaign at BC that he began when he took over for Coach Aoki. A former Birdballer, he's talked about how the results aren't acceptable, and while the BC universe was patient through his first two seasons, there's a growing impatience with his vision, the school's vision for baseball, and the possibility that this team can be competitive in the northeast, let alone in the ACC.

For all of the well-documented and well-debated struggles, it's time for BC to build where it belongs - between the lines. Last year's team was exactly where they should've been based on Pythagorean performance. Using the Pythagorean expectancy, BC should've won 22% of their games. That's exactly what they did, as the formula stated they should've won 11.75 games; they won 12. That means that this year's team can look at their performance last year, look at their statistics, and be able to identify exactly where they need to improve.

The Eagles season kicks off next week when they head west to California for a multi-game series with Nevada and Santa Clara with the hopes that two strong recruiting classes will bely inexperience and a lack of upperclass talent. They'll have good chances to show what team they hope to be when they play a Wolfpack squad that just finished 2013 below .500 and a Bronco squad that went 1-23 in the West Coast Conference a year ago.

Chris Shaw leads the way for BC in the heart of the order as just a sophomore; at 6'3", 248 pounds, he's built to crush the ball, and the summer season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League served as a wakeup call for how to bat out of a slump. A pure left-handed power hitter with strength, Shaw has the perfect inside-out style swing that made him a draft choice out of high school. Providing the cornerstone in the middle of the order, BC is able to build around him with a number of dirt dog style players, including senior captain Tom Bourdon.

While the team is young with just five seniors, Coach Gambino is thrilled with the way initial practice has gone, as he indicated in an interview last month. He's talked about the leadership those five bring, including Eric Stevens, the lone senior on his pitching staff who struggled through tough results over the past couple of seasons. The hope is that the pitching will be lifted by better defense and fundamentals, building on their one-run losses and close victories to close last year. Andrew Chin should start the year as the front-of-the-rotation guy, and he's likely to be joined by a gamut of players who will battle for starters by committee. That type of competition should breed some breakout players likely to come out of the freshmen recruiting class.

Yes, it's true that BC has to open up by playing a good chunk of games on the road, but they won't be playing totally elite teams. They'll have good chances to get their legs under them out west, and Stetson is a good-not-great team standing between the Eagles and the annual exhibition with the Boston Red Sox. They'll play a number of northeast programs when they head south, and the opportunity is there for them to pick up some momentum before heading into the thick of a tough ACC schedule. After they play teams like Central Michigan and Villanova in Florida, BC returns home on March 18th for 14 straight games and the chance to redeem themselves as a player in the northeast.

Roster breakdown (freshmen/sophomores/juniors/seniors): 8/12/5/5

Closest to Home: Andrew Chin (Newton MA)

Furthest from Home: Michael Strem (Burlingame, CA)

US States Represented: 15 (California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee)

Notable series:

February 14th-16th at Santa Clara University (Nevada, Santa Clara/Nevada, Santa Clara)

February 27th at JetBlue Park, Fort Myers (exhibition vs. Boston Red Sox)

March 18th vs. Holy Cross (First home game)

March 21st-23rd vs. Wake Forest (First home ACC series)

April 4th-6th vs. North Carolina (defending ACC champion)

April 9th at Harvard (Beanpot first round game)

April 11th-13th at Notre Dame (first series vs. Mik Aoki)

April 21st vs. Northeastern/UMass (Beanpot championship/consolation round)

May 3rd vs. Pittsburgh (ALS Awareness Game)

May 13th at Hadlock Field, Portland (Maine)

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