After their lackluster defeat on Friday, I left a comment on the article that was written speaking volumes the way this year's Boston College baseball team made me feel. On one hand, this team really, at times, looks like it's turning a corner for the better, shows flashes of what they can be, and overall look like a baseball team miles ahead of last year's squad.. But then they'd put together a bad performance so bad, it would undo all the positives of the previous week's advancements and frustrate the hell out of a journalist.
After picking up wins in back-to-back games against UConn and UMass in thrilling fashion, the Eagles took to Shea Field on Friday and received a beating at the hands of the 30th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Mustering only three hits, the team looked like they'd rather be anywhere but on the diamond. I mused that they'd come out on Saturday and fight like hell or the weekend would get really ugly really fast.
Looks like they chose the former.
Trailing at different points during the game by four and five runs, BC tied the game with UNC in the eighth before Blake Butera singled in pinch runner Nick Colucci in the ninth, pushing the Eagles (10-19, 2-12 ACC) by the Tar Heels (17-13, 6-8 ACC), 10-9, to even their weekend series.
After the first three innings produced a scoreless result, both teams' offenses exploded in the fourth when Carolina tallied four and Boston College scored three. UNC wasted no time in the inning when Tom Zengel launched a 2-2 pitch towards the right field wall and outfielder Chris Shaw. Shaw originally made the catch up against the fence, but the ball popped out of his glove and Zengel advanced to second on a double. He moved to third on a passed ball, then scored when Landon Lassiter singled to center. Lassiter moved to second on second himself on a passed ball and was plated by an RBI double by Parks Jordan, making the game 2-0.
Starter Andrew Chin responded by striking out Adrian Chacon, but he walked Tyler Ramirez and allowed Jordan to score on an RBI base hit by Michael Russell. With the score, 3-0, Ramirez moved to third on another passed ball (the third of the inning), and scored when Joe Cronin's throw on a Wood Myers chop hit to short pulled John Hennessy off the base at first. With the score 4-0, Russell attempted to score on the same play, but Hennessy gunned him down at home to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning against UNC starter Benton Moss, Hennessy helped start a rally by singling to lead things off, then moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Butera. He scored when Shaw hit a single to center, cutting the lead to 4-1 and putting BC on the board. Cronin got a measure of revenge for his error by singling up the middle to score Butera, making the game 4-2 in favor of the Heels. With two on, Logan Hoggarth singled to load the bases with nobody out, but Tom Bourdon struck out and Tyler Hinchcliffe flew out on a 2-1 pitch to left that wasn't deep enough to score the runner. Facing a disaster of a choke in the inning, Nick Sciortino salvaged the situation with a Texas Leaguer that scored Shaw.
The game remained 4-3 into the sixth when UNC scored again in bunches. Chin induced Korey Dunbar into a grounder to start the inning on the first pitch, but then loaded the bases by walking Jordan and Chacon and allowing a single to Ramirez. With the bases loaded and one out, Mike Gambino summoned Luke Fernandes from the bullpen, but the redshirt freshman's 1-1 pitch to Russell was hit into center. That scored Jordan to increase the Tar Heel lead to 5-3, and the additional runners scored when the center fielder Bourdon overran the ball. Russell ended up on third, and he scored himself when Fernandes delivered a wild pitch. That made the game, 8-3, in favor of UNC, their largest lead of the ballgame.
The inning could've ended up a lot worse, but Tom Bourdon made a diving catch for the third out with two runners on after Fernandes walked Myers and Skye Bolt.
Trailing 8-3, BC got three back in the seventh to make it an 8-6 game. Moss walked Gabriel Hernandez to lead things off, forcing Mike Fox to go to his bullpen for Reilly Hovis. Hovis promptly walked Hennessy, then threw a wild pitch against Blake Butera that pushed the runners to second and third. On the very next pitch, Butera creamed one to right center to score both runners and cut the lead to five. Butera moved up to third on a wild pitch and scored when Shaw hit a sacrifice fly to center, and BC went so far as to get runners on the corners behind Cronin and Bourdon. But Hovis struck out pinch hitter Geoffrey Murphy to end the threat.
North Carolina got one run back on an RBI single by Zengel off reliever Steve Green, but BC tied the game at 9-9 in the bottom of the frame. After Sciortino grounded out on the first pitch he faced, Gabriel Hernandez drew a walk that chased Hovis from the game. Fox went back to his pen for Zach Rice, but Rice continued the merry-go-round with walks to Hennessy and Butera, loading the bases with one out.
That's when Shaw delivered in a big way. He took an 0-1 pitch up the middle to score both Hernandez and Hennessy and cut the lead to one. That chased Rice to the showers for Spencer Trayner, but Trayner walked Cronin to fill the bases again. This forced Mike Fox to go to his replacement closer, Henry Sisson. But Sisson walked Logan Hoggarth with the count full, scoring the tying run and making it a 9-9 game into the ninth.
Mike Gambino went to his bullpen again to replace Green with freshman Mike King, and the much heralded freshman out of Warwick, RI mowed down the Heels in order to send the game into the ninth. Nick Sciortino led off the bottom with another Tar Heel walk. Pinch runner Nick Colucci stole second, and after both Hernandez and Hennessy struck out, Butera smacked a 1-2 pitch to right center. Colucci turned the corner and never stopped, crossing the plate and giving the Eagles the dramatic win.
For BC, King picked up the win, the first of his career, to improve to 1-0 after pitching a perfect ninth. Chin lasted 5.1 innings and was charged with seven runs, of which six were earned. He struck out four, but he also walked four and threw two wild pitches. Fernandes threw two innings and allowed two runs, one of which was unearned, and struck out two while walking one. Green filled the last 0.2 innings of the BC pitching line with a walk and a strikeout.
UNC, meanwhile, struggled with command all day. They struck out nine batters, but they also walked nine, eight of which came after the sixth. Sisson was tagged with the loss to drop him to 0-1 on the season, and Moss completed six innings while giving up four runs (all earned) on eight hits. Reilly Hovis had three wild pitches in relief over 1.1 innings, and the UNC bullpen definitely looked incomplete without the services of junior Chris McCue, the team's flame-throwing closer.
For the hitters, Butera went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBI, while Hennessy scored three runs and Shaw knocked in four. Hernandez scored twice despite not having a hit. For UNC, Russell went 3-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI, while Ramirez scored three runs while going 2-for-3.
The teams will tangle in a rubber match on Sunday at Shea Field, and while BC looked terrible on Friday, they've now won three out of four and are starting to look like a baseball team capable of competing. It's not that I want to be Jekyll and Hyde about this team. It's not that one win is this team's rise and improvement and one loss is the end of the world. But every time they look so bad, the Eagles are showing they have the potential to respond. They just haven't quite figured out the way to be consistently good. But they're winning ballgames, and they'll look for their first ever series win against the Heels. Saturday's game was just the second ever win for a BC team against a Mike Fox-managed squad.
Game time is set for 1 PM. Postgame interviews with the Eagles are posted below: