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First Pitch: Eagles Head Back To Sunshine State To Start Spring Break

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It's back to Florida for BC as Eagles take part in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte.

BC Athletics

On Paper

Records:

Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks: 4-3 (0-0 Summit League)
North Dakota State Bison: 0-5 (0-0 Summit League)
Kansas Jayhawks: 2-5 (0-0 Big XII)
Villanova Wildcats: 1-5 (0-0 Big East)

Last Times Out:

UNO: Defeated Wichita State, 6-4
ND State: Lost two game series at Arizona (2-7, 1-11)
Kansas: Lost to Oregon State, 15-5 (2-2 as part of Big 12/Pac 12 Challenge)
Villanova: Lost to Northwestern 7-5

Around The Horn

Everyone's coming into the Snowbird Classic with some serious struggles. Only UNO is coming in off a win, and virtually every team is really sub-.500. A good showing by anyone is only going to pull them out of the doldrums, and if the season ended today, there's not a single team here that would even remotely come close to consideration for an NIT, if such a thing existed.

That's good news for BC, who start their spring break trip to Florida with five games in five days. None of the games this weekend start later than 2:30 PM, and two games start during breakfast hours (10 AM on Sunday against Kansas and 11 AM on Monday against Villanova). That leads into a road trip from Port Charlotte to Fort Myers for the annual exhibition game against the Red Sox. After that, it's a couple of days off and the start of ACC play against Florida State. So opening up play against some struggling teams is a blessing.

These four games are going to be key for the Eagles, who look to right the ship after getting destroyed in the third game of their series against LSU. Opening up against the O-Mavs, they'll play a team that's 4-3 but hasn't played anyone noteworthy. A win over Wichita State is nice, but for a team based in the heartland of college baseball (the College World Series is annually played in Omaha), they're extremely beatable.

As a team, they've hit only .229. As a pitching staff, their bullpen has really struggled. And defensively, they've committed nine errors in seven games. There's no reason why BC can't go out and beat this team.

That's followed up with a 2 PM start against North Dakota State. The Bison are a terrible baseball team; they'll enter the weekend 0-5 with their closest loss being a one-run loss in a non-conference game against fellow Summit League member Omaha (who we just established isn't very good). NDSU took Bradley to extra innings and still lost 8-3. Against Arizona, they gave up 18 runs in two games.

Kansas and Villanova will present challenges for the Eagles because they're power conference teams capable of playing very well. Kansas opens up the tournament against Chicago State, then plays both North Dakota State and BC's travel buddy Northeastern. That at least means BC will face the back end of the rotation—the same back end that really struggled against LSU and in the Big 12/Pac12 Challenge. The only problem here is that BC's back end of the rotation also struggled in the same scenarios.

Villanova, meanwhile, is the definition of a team in the same boat as BC. They haven't really finished well in conference play in the Big East (a sneaky good baseball league) since about the 2007 or 2008 seasons, and they're coming off back-to-back 30-loss seasons. This should remain competitive even if there's a threat to become high scoring.

With Florida State looming at the end of the week, the coaching staff has to be careful to save its athletes through the Snowbird Classic. They can't risk mortgaging conference play for a couple of non-conference tight games. This week should clearly be a case of every man ready and "next man up."

On The Bump

Every pitcher will be available and rightly so for the Eagles this week. While that holds true for the Boston College pitching staff, the lineup will need to be hitting its stride through the Red Sox game and into the end of the week.

So far this year, the Eagles are fostering an intimidating lineup that needs to continue to see the ball exceptionally well. Four BC hitters are at .300 or better, led by Blake Butera's .393. Michael Strem has 11 hits, good enough for a .379 average, and half of his hits are for doubles, slotting him at .586 for a slugging percentage. Logan Hoggarth is hitting .360, and Gabe Hernandez and Jake Palomaki are hitting around the .300 mark (Hernandez at .333, Palomaki right at .300). Couple that with Chris Shaw's power (two homers, 10 RBI despite hitting .250), and all of a sudden, the Eagles have one of the most fearsome lineups in the ACC.

Here's the problem: the bottom drops WAY off for the team when they get past those guys. While five or six guys can kill the ball, they have to be better with men in scoring position. They've scored just 36 runs on the season, and while the numbers are skewed because of the LSU game, they have to be able to elevate the runs scored a little bit better. Right now, they're averaging just over five runs per game, yet they're only 2-5.

I made an estimation at the beginning of the year that BC would need anywhere from 490-500 hits and 625-650 bases this year in order to get to the 30 win mark. Through the first two weekends, the Eagles have 36 runs on 67 hits. They have 88 total bases. That averages to just over five runs per game on just under nine hits. They're averaging 12.5 bases per game.

Using extrapolation, BC is on pace for 288 runs on 536 hits and 700 total bases. That puts them ahead of the curve. Given the natural fluctuation of opponents—for every 16 run, 20-plus hit performance put out by an opponent, there should be an offsetting bad performance—they should be right on pace for 30 wins. But the lineup needs to keep up what's been a solid pace to this point.

Scoreboard Watching

Next up for the Eagles is their ACC opening series with the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles. The 'Noles play a weekend set with UNC-Wilmington before taking on South Florida in the midweek. Friday starts the BC series so we're keeping an eye on their performance against those two other teams.

As for some other out-of-town notes, Northeastern is in town with the Eagles for the Snowbird Classic. They won't play each other (that honor is reserved for later in the year when the snow melts in Boston), but they're coming off a three-game series loss at South Carolina. They'll play Kansas to open up their weekend before taking on Kentucky, Chicago State, and Mount St. Mary's. Kentucky is actually a replacement for a game canceled against Omaha, so good luck guys.

The Red Sox host both the Huskies and Eagles in split squad on Tuesday.

Music To Listen To When You're Playing Morning Baseball

I don't know about you guys but I love morning baseball. The air is cooler and sweeter, and there's nothing like playing nine before coffee hits the bloodstream. There's probably an added benefit of playing early games against teams like Kansas, who have a one to two hour time change. It'll feel like 9 AM for those guys. Then again, 9 AM baseball in Florida sounds amazing to me.

Fun Fact Of The Week

Nebraska-Omaha won The Summit League regular season championship last season with a 15-9 conference record but was unable to participate in the conference tournament because it hadn't fully transitioned to Division I. The four remaining teams faced off in double elimination format to send a team to the NCAA Tournament with its automatic bid.

Because the Mavericks were out, the top seed was South Dakota State (11-11 in conference). They lost in the first round to North Dakota State (fourth seed at 10-12), with Western Illinois and IPFW (11-13) playing the 2-vs-3 game. The Bison ended up going a perfect 3-0 with two straight wins over second-seeded Western Illinois (who, in between, eliminated SD State) to clinch the automatic bid.

The lowest seed in the tournament, the Bison were eliminated by their regional's top two seeds, one of which was the host school and #1 overall seed, Oregon State. But North Dakota State only lost a pair of one-run games in Corvallis, first to the Beavers and then in an elimination game to UNLV.

In a "curse of teams who played North Dakota State," the team that advanced to the Super Regionals was UC-Irvine—the only team not to play the Bison.

Prediction Time

Honestly, I think the Eagles can go 4-0 this weekend. UNO and North Dakota State shouldn't be a challenge, and I think this BC team has the potential to really rough one of them up. If they can, I wouldn't ease up; they should assert some type of dominance this weekend. Kansas and Villanova present interesting challenges, but neither team is particularly powerful. I'll give a loss due to the struggles of the rotation later in weekends, and call this a 3-1 record for the Eagles.