Just like that, the entire complexion of the 2014 Boston College baseball season changed.
Heading into this weekend, the Eagles were a team that had the ability to compete but hadn't proven they could do it consistently. They lacked depth, and it always seemed like they were one step away from disaster at any given point in time. They were the 13th place team in the league, barely better (and having been beaten by) last place Notre Dame.
Just like that, they're a team in the hunt for a tournament spot.
The Eagles swept the Maryland Terrapins, 5-1 and 7-4, yesterday on Shea Field, taking a doubleheader to improve to 7-16 in ACC conference play. They're now two games back of the Terps for the final spot for the ACC Tournament, virtually tied with NC State and Virginia Tech for 11th place in the league. BC beat NC State last weekend and do not play the Hokies this season.
BC was aided by a big day offensively. Gabriel Hernandez went 4-for-6 across the two games with an RBI, two runs scored, and an extra base hit. Chris Shaw and Blake Butera respectively bettered their hitting streaks, with Shaw extending his to nine and Butera to 12. Shaw was a monster in particular, going 4-for-7 with three runs scored, five RBIs, and two homers.
The Eagles got a 4-0 lead in the first inning of the first game when Shaw helped lead a huge inning. Maryland starter Jake Stinnett ran into immediate problems when he hit Gabriel Hernandez to lead off the inning and gave up a double to Butera. That set up Shaw, who with one out drilled a 1-1 pitch over the right field fence to give BC an immediate lead. They got their extra run when Michael Strem scored on a wild pitch.
John Gorman and Mike King combined to shut down Maryland bats on the bump. Gorman earned his third win of the year by throwing 5.2 innings, surrendering the one run on two hits. He struck out six but struggled with his command in walking five. King relieved him and received a three-inning save, allowing two hits over 3.1 innings, striking out one and not walking anyone.
That set up the second game, a back and forth affair that the Eagles never trailed in after scoring four in the first once again. In that inning, Hernandez led off against Mike Shawaryn by doubling to left, and Blake Butera singled to put runners on the corners. Joe Cronin singled up the middle to score Hernandez, advancing Butera to second and making it a 1-0 game with nobody out.
That brought up Shaw again, who singled to left. Butera turned third to score and did, allowing the runners to advance another bag, putting runners on second and third with a 2-0 lead and still nobody out. Strem followed with a double to center to score both runners. BC would not score but would get four runs on five hits. Combined in the first inning across both games, BC scored eight runs on nine hits and left just three on base, a beautiful accomplishment given the problems they've had in that regard.
Shaw would hit his second homer of the day in the third after the Terps cut the lead in half to put BC up 5-2, and they responded again in the sixth to two Maryland run with two of their own.
The Terps did load the bases in the ninth, but John Nicklas pitched out of a jam to pick up the save.
Andrew Chin threw five innings to pick up his fourth win of the year. He gave up two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four. Shawaryn likewise threw five, striking out eight and only walking one. But he had a tough day in giving up five runs on seven hits. He would take the loss to fall to 7-3.
Jesse Adams threw two-thirds of an inning for the Eagles, running into problems by giving up two runs on two hits, but only one of the runs was earned. He was relieved by Luke Fernandes who pitched through the eighth to set up Nicklas, who picked up the three-out save despite giving up two hits and an HBP.
The Eagles now head to Sunday with what might be the biggest game of their season. Battling criticism all year (including from me) that they were an inconsistent team capable of competing but never realizing their potential, they now have a chance to pull within a game of the final playoff spot. Next weekend, the Eagles will play Pittsburgh, a team one-half game up on Maryland in 9th in the ACC. That means BC has a chance, if they can hang through this weekend, to at least factor into the ACC Tournament.
Sunday's game is the Wounded Warrior Project game to honor military personnel. First pitch is at 1 PM.
Postgame interviews and shenanigans are posted below: