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Weekly First Pitch: Boston College Baseball Heads South For Season Opener

The 2015 Eagles baseball season hits the diamond at Spartanburg, SC for four games in three days.

Graham Beck

The last time Boston College baseball played a competitive game on a diamond, Andrew Chin spun a complete game shutout of the Clemson Tigers. That was nearly 10 months ago, and with a full summer and fall season behind them, the Eagles take the field this weekend for four games in three days with the attempt to climb the mountain and ascend into the ACC Tournament.

In most sports, you'll hear us as bloggers and journalists use the term "return to form" or "claw back to the postseason," but the fact remains that nobody on this Boston College team has any experience in postseason play. It's been a full recruiting cycle since the Eagles last played in the ACC Tournament, and as head coach/field manager Mike Gambino enters his fifth season at the helm, he'll now have a team assembled with all of his recruits trying to climb the hill and get into the postseason for the first time.

Despite negative feelings at the end of the year, this weekend resembles a fresh start. Boston College should be strong on the hill this season, and the lineup has a bonafide budding superstar in Chris Shaw. And while practice under a dome bubble on a football field is far from the desired start, the Eagles have a chance to start building the database with four games in three days down at Spartanburg, South Carolina and the campus of Wofford University.

The Eagles will take on the host Terriers on Friday at 5 PM before playing a double header with Xavier and USC Upstate on Saturday. They'll round out the weekend with a game on Sunday against the Musketeers on neutral ground at 11 AM, a short turnaround from the previous day's six to seven hour marathon.

On Paper

Wofford Terriers: 32-28 (12-14 SoCon)
USC Upstate Spartans: 17-38 (6-20 Atlantic Sun Conference)
Xavier Musketeers: 30-29 (8-10 Big East)

Around The Horn

It's next to impossible to game plan for three completely different teams over a weekend, so this weekend becomes the prototypical case of "play your game." That said, let's take a look at the opponents this weekend.

Wofford enters this season after winning 32 games a year ago. Going 12-14 in the Southern Conference, they tied Appalachian State for the sixth seed in advancing to the conference tournament. After losing to Samford in the first round of Bracket Two, they defeated The Citadel and second-seeded Davidson to advance to the conference semifinals. Once there, Samford pounded the Terriers, 12-3, to end the dream of going to the NCAA Tournament.

The Terriers lost a good chunk of offensive production with the departure of Seth Neely, but Alec Paradowski and James Plaisted return for their junior and senior years, respectively. Paradowski hit .280 last year with 25 RBI, while Plaisted blasted 11 homers and a team-high 42 RBI.

That said, Wofford's offense only hit .249 as a team, and their pitching allowed over five runs per game. Team ace Matthew Milburn returns after going 4-6 with a 3.95 ERA, but Jesse Morris, who won nine games, is gone.

Xavier also won 30 games last year, but where Wofford didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament, the Musketeers did. Getting hot at the right time, they overcame a loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament first game before rattling off three straight wins to hoist the trophy. In the championship game, freshman Trent Astle spun a complete-game, three-hit shutout of the same Jays team that defeated them in the opening round. In the NCAA Tournament Regional held at Vanderbilt, the Musketeers lost to the host Commodores in the first round before eliminating Clemson. Oregon defeated Xavier in the consolation second round to end their season.

The Musketeers return Astle, but that's about it from their rotation. Vinny Nittoli departed with an ERA under 3.00, and Scott Klevens is now the Director of Baseball Operations. Since the Musketeers play Army on Friday, it's likely BC will see an untested arm on Saturday. When they meet again on Sunday, it'll be after a doubleheader. That means both teams will be going deep into their roster for a fourth arm, something Boston College should have an advantage with.

As for USC Upstate, not much is known about the Spartans. They play in what was a well-known baseball league in the Atlantic Sun Conference, but they were pounded last year. Going 17-38 and only 6-20 in league play, only the Spartans and Northern Kentucky missed the 10-team postseason tournament. If John Gorman and Jeff Burke are the top two starters, someone new will fill this role with the chance to prove his worth as the new weekend starter for the Eagles.

Scoreboard Watching

Not a whole lot to take note of early in the season. Florida State is hosting Oakland on ESPN3 this weekend, which should provide three opportunities to watch a team get throttled in Tallahassee. And the next BC opponent, LSU, hosts Kansas, also on ESPN3.

On the local radar, Holy Cross heads to College Station to get killed by Texas A&M, and Rhode Island heads to Florida. That should be fun to watch.

Music To Listen To When You're Taking Hacks In The Cage

So it's cliche. Shoot me.

Prediction Time

This is not a weekend Boston College should split. The Eagles are playing four games against teams that finished well at most near the .500 mark. Only one of their opponents went to the tournament, and Xavier qualified by winning a subpar conference tournament in the Big East (four teams in an eight-team league playing double-elimination format). USC Upstate was really bad, and Wofford, although playing in a decent baseball conference, didn't set the world on fire.

I'm willing to bet BC loses one of those games against Xavier, especially after they have to get down into the latter parts of their rotation. Given that expectation, a 3-1 record isn't out of the question, a 2-2 would be simply meh, and anything under .500 would be a mess to start the season.