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First Pitch: Road Warriors Take On Northeastern/Holy Cross In Midweek Games

Big games on the local radar for the Eagles against the Huskies and Crusaders in the race for Massachusetts supremacy.

BC Athletics

Local college baseball games almost always bring out the best and worst of the casual observer.

Over the past couple of years, Boston College has struggled hard against local teams. There were losses to UMass, Dartmouth, Harvard, and St. John's. They've failed to pick up wins against teams like Northeastern. As a result, the argument against BC as a collegiate baseball team picked up traction and gained steam.

It seems, now, like the argument is shifting. With the rough weather situation and a second consecutive year of playing home games away from campus, the focus is shifting more and more on where the Eagles are playing. While that argument warrants discussion, the on-field talk needs to focus on maximizing chances and opportunities. And if BC can't play on Shea Field, then they might as well make the best of a bad situation by defeating local teams on their fields.

This week, Boston College will play Northeastern at the Friedman Diamond on Parsons Field. The former home of Northeastern football, the field is famous for having been built out on the turf lined for soccer and football. It's a multi-use facility, but it's far from the best. But it's turf, which makes it plowable and playable in the modern day.

On Wednesday, the Eagles renew their rivalry with Holy Cross. The Crusaders' Fitton Field is also underwater, which is why the game's been moved to the New England Baseball Complex—the same facility where they played Yale while BC was playing NC State. As I was told last week, Fitton Field is natural grass, which makes it more susceptible to the elements. Holy Cross won't have another home game until April; by then, they should be ready to play on the home field.

As a result, winning in Massachusetts becomes a big deal. These become big games. We don't know when BC will actually be able to play at home, so this makes these must-win games to establish the presence on the local baseball radar that the program's been lacking over the last couple of years.

One last point: the argument towards the stadium is one that isn't easily rectified. Even if BC builds a new baseball stadium, they still won't be able to host games this early in the year unless they build a turf field. By most accounts, turf is an immediate but short-term fix. The ball doesn't play naturally, and it changes the way the game is played. I could spend an entire post talking about this and maybe will in the future. I prefer natural grass, but as we see at Holy Cross, the quality of the facility doesn't matter if the grass is under two feet of melted snow. Your options are to deal with the weather or get turf—which is not the way baseball should be played.

On with the preview:

On Paper

Northeastern Record: 7-12 (0-3 CAA)
NU Last Time Out: Swept by UNC-Wilmington (10-5, 4-3, 15-1)
Holy Cross Record: 5-13 (0-0 Patriot)
HC Last Time Out: Split with St. John's (6-0, 2-5)

Around The Horn

Both teams hit the ball pretty well, coming into this week right around the .275 mark as a team. Holy Cross, though, is much better at scoring runs, having plated 101 runners compared to just 86 for the Huskies. In comparison, Boston College scored 84 runs but are hitting only .248 and playing arguably much tougher competition.

Looking within the numbers, of those 86 runs for the Huskies, 10 came in a single game against Chicago State and 15 came in a single game against Mt. St. Mary's. They've been incredibly inconsistent, scoring seven against La Salle but failing to build on their momentum and losing to both Wagner and St. Joe's. Last weekend against Wilmington, the bats did well in the first game, petered out in the second game, and disappeared in the third game. Michael Foster is .439, and Pat Madigan is hitting .342.

Translation: Boston College should be able to win the game if they allow three or fewer runs.

Holy Cross poses a different kind of challenge. Cam O'Neill is hitting .418 on the season with 28 hits. They have four guys capable of driving in runs with Evan Ocello, Anthony Critelli, and John Hassell. They scored 11 runs against Texas A&M, 10 against Presbyterian, and 11 against Western Carolina. In their five wins this year, they've scored six or more runs in four. The only "low scoring win" they had was a 3-1 win in extra innings against Richmond.

Translation: BC is in for a battle on the hill against this team.

On The Bump

Both of these teams have positively stunk on the hill. Holy Cross scored 101 runs but is only 5-13. How does that happen? Well you remember when I said they scored 11 against A&M? Well, they gave up 16...and that was a day after giving up 19. The 10 against Presbyterian? It was an 11-10 loss. The 11 against Western Carolina? That was part of a 22-11 loss.

Holy Cross has given up 10 or more runs six times this year. Their pitching staff is utterly brutal. Five pitchers have ERAs oover 10.00, and six more fall between 5.00-9.99. If the BC bats show up and are on, things could get very ugly very fast.

Northeastern, meanwhile, is substantially better as a pitching staff, even if the stats don't back it up. As a staff, they're at a 5.39 ERA, but that's inflated by three or four different guys who had rough outings. Nick Berger is 2-2 in six starts this year with a 3.82 ERA and 35.1 innings thrown. Nick Cubarney and Mike Fitzgerald are both very good out of the bullpen, with the latter recording two saves. Brian Christian has a start to his credit and a 1.69 ERA. They have good pitchers, but the gap is clearly evident from the numbers.

I think if the BC bats are on, they'll be able to really do some damage. Northeastern lost to teams like Brown this year, and Holy Cross' pitching staff is an unmitigated disaster. Based on the talent level and how BC competed with NC State and Florida State, I think the lack of travel and the ability to really do some damage has confidence high.

Scoreboard Watching

It's the middle of the week, so I'm way too lazy to check. The way I see it, there's nothing to see here that will have an impact on the end of the season. Let's just focus on the Eagles.

Music to Listen To When You're Not Sure If You're Running Down A Fly Ball Or A 40-Yard Dash

Okay so it's not an actual song, but it always drove me crazy that Northeastern plopped a baseball field in the middle of a football field. Baseball on turf is okay if you have a good implementation of it, but this is just ridiculous. Am I playing left or am I going for a touchdown? If you can throw a back shoulder fade to the stick, is the runner called out? These are the things I worry about with games at Northeastern.

Fun Fact of The Week

BC's last win against Northeastern came on April 20, 2011 in the Beanpot. It's their only win of the Mike Gambino era.

Prediction Time

You know what? I'm going to call Northeastern a loss because I just have a bad feeling about that game. BC returns the next day and destroys Holy Cross.