Nine-Run Ninth Downs Birdball

USA TODAY Sports

I tried to ford the river with Birdball, but my oxen died.

Due to weather constraints and inclement forecasts, the three-game series between the Boston College Eagles and #1-ranked Florida State Seminoles became a Friday doubleheader and Saturday afternoon special at the University of Rhode Island.

In the first game, Luke Weaver started and threw a complete game, allowing one hit.  He struck out four and induced 17 groundouts.  Makes my scouting report look genius, doesn't it?

John Gorman went just three innings and gave up four runs before giving way to a yeoman's effort out of the bullpen.  Mike King threw three innings, Nick Poore hurled two, and Tyler Hinchcliffe threw the ninth in a two-run, six inning effort.

Weaver had a no-no going into the seventh when Chris Shaw broke it up.  John Nogowski had a couple of hits for the Seminoles, and Casey Smit went 2-for-4 to lead FSU.

We'll hear from Nogowski in a bit.

With impending dark clouds rolling in over Beck Field, BC jumped on Florida State starter Mike Compton over 5.2 innings thrown.  They took a 4-2 lead down the stretch in chasing Compton in the sixth after the teams traded two leads.

In the bottom of the second, Joe Cronin walked and John Hennessy reached via a sacrifice bunt with an errant throw.  With runners at the corners, Logan Hoggarth executed a sacrifice bunt to score Cronin from third - officially a fielder's choice because Hennessy was thrown out with the force at second.

Florida State responded and took the lead in the top of the third off a two-RBI double by Justin Gonzalez, but BC tied the game in the bottom half of the frame.  Gabriel Hernandez led off with a base hit, then advanced to third as Blake Butera bunted for a hit and Tom Bourdon reached via an error.  In a bases loaded, nobody out situation, not even BC could throw this one away (well, maybe they could), as Cronin hit a sacrifice fly with one out that scored the runner from the third.

BC opened up a 4-2 lead in the sixth on RBI singles by Hoggarth and Nick Sciortino, then scored three in the seventh to extend the lead to five at 7-2.  BC also hit well with men on base in that inning, going three runs on three hits and zero men left on.  Cronin recorded an RBI single, and Hoggarth scored two more RBI to extend the lead to where it would sit into the ninth.

Chin, meanwhile, staked his team on the mound, pitching into the eighth.  He finished the game in position to pick up a win after playing the role of stopper.  He struck out eight and walked only two, lifted in the eighth after allowing a one-out single.  He allowed just three hits over his time of work, facing 28 men and inducing eight ground outs with an astounding 109 pitches.  Luke Fernandes pitched out of the inning without damage, setting down two outs in order to set up Jesse Adams for the easy ninth inning.

And that, my friends, is where the game began.

John Nogowski led off with a single to right, then delivered a base on ball to Jose Brizuela after Brizuela worked a full count.  With two on, Adams walked John Sansone to load the bases and walked in a run when he put Casey Smit on first with a base on balls to make the score 7-3.

Mike Gambino immediately went to his bullpen and brought in John Nicklas, but the Eagle incumbent closer struggled in his outing as well.  Gage West pinch hit and hit a sacrifice fly to score Brizuela and cut the lead to 7-4.  Resetting the situation with runners on first and second and one out, Danny De La Calle scored Sansone with an RBI double to right.  Smit moved up to third, putting the tying run in scoring position with the score 7-5.

Like Ron Burgundy after the man punted Baxter, everyone kind of knew what was coming at this point.

Nicklas tied the game by walking Josh Delph on a full count, payoff pitch, beaning Gonzalez, and walking Brett Knief.  With John Nogowski, one of the power hitters in the most powerful lineup in the nation coming up, Gambino again summoned his bullpen and brought in Steve Green.  Green's first pitch was a ball.  The second pitch was hit a long way in a short amount of time.

The grand slam made it 11-7.

Brizuela singled, but Green got out of the inning by recording the next two outs.  It really didn't matter at that point.  Gage Smith gave up a leadoff single to Chris Shaw, but Cronin grounded into a double play and Hennessy struck out to end the game.

The good news is that these teams get to do it allllll over again tomorrow down at URI.  Game time is moved again due to inclement weather, and first pitch in the third game will be at 11 AM.  Even if BC (7-17, 1-10 ACC) beats the top-ranked Noles (21-5, 9-2 ACC), I stand reason to believe it won't really matter to us at this point.

There has been major damage dealt to the credibility for this season in the way they've lost the last couple of weeks.  BC threw everything it could at Florida State and lost in the two worst conceivable ways possible.  In the first game, they were flat out dominated by a great pitcher.  In the second game, they gave up nine runs on four hits and five walks in the ninth inning.

I still don't understand why Luke Fernandes came out of the game after pitching two-thirds of sterling baseball.

They threw everything they could, yet the wagon wheels collapsed and the convoy blew apart.  Even if they win on Saturday, they're coming out of the weekend with a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and they're already nearing the dangerous 20 loss mark, well out of the ACC playoff race.  The division winners automatically receive the top two seeds, with the remainder of the 10 seeds determined by overall conference record.

At 1-10, BC entered the weekend tied for dead last with Notre Dame (both were 1-8 when we woke up this morning).  The 10th seeded team right now would be either Duke or Pittsburgh, entering the weekend at 4-5.  In between the schools is NC State at 3-6.  Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Maryland are all 5-4.  Clemson is 6-3.  And Virginia and FSU are in the lead.  All ACC schools overall are above .500 except for the Eagles and Irish, with Notre Dame holding a slight edge in the overall race.

Bottom line, if BC doesn't figure this out fast, we can talk about how there's still plenty of time to turn it around; the greater body of work will convince nobody.  Again, I'm not taking away from the effort of the players; I think they left it all out there.  But it is what it is.  I can't defend what happened, nor will I even attempt to try.  Florida State just replaced Birdball as Rhode Island's College Team.

If you wish, here's Mike Gambino following the losses.

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