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First Pitch: Time For Some Crimson Colored Payback

Eagles enter Wednesday with golden opportunity to earn revenge for last year's defeat to Harvard.

Courtesy BC Athletics

It was perhaps one of the most deflating losses of the 2014 season.

Up 4-0 in the first inning, Boston College watched the Harvard Crimson chip slowly away at their early, large lead. They scored one in the third, one in the fourth, and one in the sixth to draw within a run of the Eagles in the Beanpot First Round.

That's when disaster struck. Harvard scored three runs in the eighth off Tyler Hinchcliffe and John Nicklas to roar in front of BC, 6-4. And although the Eagles got one back in the ninth, it wasn't enough, and they lost to the Crimson by a 6-5 count. The loss dropped BC to the Beanpot consolation game, where they lost to finish outright in fourth for the first time in program history.

The loss carried with the Eagles through a three-game series against Notre Dame, where they lost two of three. And although they made a run at the postseason tournament by taking two out of three from NC State and sweeping Maryland, it was way too much to overcome. At 10-22 at that point, the season was what it was and many observers believed it was the final straw - coming much too early to make the rest of the season overly relevant.

That leads us to this year. BC will avoid Harvard in the Beanpot by virtue of the UMass victory over the Crimson, making Wednesday's game at BC the only time the teams will meet. BC is within a game of a .500 record, but to get to that mark, they'll have to go through a .500 Harvard team.

For the guys in uniform, now's the time to gain a measure of revenge for the way last season's game went, and it's time to assert BC as, once and for all, Boston's college baseball team.

On Paper

Record: 16-16 (5-7 Ivy League)
Last Time Out: Lost at UMass on Monday in the Beanpot, 6-5

Around The Horn

Harvard's offense is sneaky good; they scored double digit runs in three of their last four victories by beating Princeton (11-8), Cornell (14-2), and Brown (21-7). Prior to their loss to the Minutemen on Monday, the Crimson previously defeated UMass by 11-8 and 9-2 counts in March. They split a four-game series with Wofford, winning a couple of low-scoring ball games - the same Wofford team that beat BC, 8-4.

That means this is a team that can beat BC. The Crimson are more of a trap game than the majority of opponents because they can win one-run, low-scoring games or play the slugfest style if pitching is off its game. They're hitting .295 as a team with 189 runs scored.

A number of Harvard hitters are putting up solid numbers. Jake McGuiggan hasn't missed a beat in hitting .371 this year; neither has Ethan Ferreira with a .364 average. The duo combined for six homers, three triples, and 19 doubles. They have 82 hits between the two of them, and they've combined for 48 RBI. They form the middle core of a lineup that is capable of mashing opposing pitching.

By the same token, Harvard is doing a good job of developing young talent. John Fallon's been a surprise - in 18 games, he's hitting .383 - and he's gone 3-for-8 in his last couple of games. Against UMass, he went 2-for-5 with an RBI.

Additionally, Matt Rothenberg is a good hitting freshman who went 2-for-7 with a couple of runs scored in the 21-7 rout of Brown, then followed it up with a 1-for-3 performance in an 8-7 loss. He didn't play against UMass, but with a .302 average in 21 games, his name will last in the Harvard lineup for the next few years.

There are a few Harvard juniors who bat around these guys, including Mitch Klug (.292) and DJ Link (.324).

The problem for Harvard is that there are a number of guys playing meaningful innings aren't hitting great. They're not hitting poorly - .270, .265, and .263 aren't anything to sniff a shake at - but there's a difference between going 2-for-5 against UMass or 2-for-3 against Cornell and 0-for-9 in two games against Army.

Harvard's bats, quite honestly, haven't been challenged. Their soft schedule featured four games against Wofford and four games against Stetson but little other tough teams. With the lesser amount of non-conference games available because of their Ivy status, BC serves as their toughest test.

What's that mean? It means BC's pitching better show up and perform as it should. A poor outing would be devastating in the court of public opinion, even against a good-hitting statistical team if that team hasn't played anybody.

On The Bump

If Harvard's going to lose this game, it's because their pitching staff, quite honestly, stinks. The majority of the Crimson's pitching staff's been roughed up badly this year, and only three pitchers have ERAs under 3.00. Kevin Rex has 13 innings on his arm in six appearances, and his 2-0 record, 0.69 ERA is impressive considering his limited work. After him, Joey Sliepka and Shaun (No Relation) Rubin haven't allowed a run, but they've combined for three innings of work.

There's a lot of bloated numbers on this staff, which is a problem. Also a problem is the Ivy League schedule - because the weekend involves four seven-inning games, the Crimson have to have four starters. That shortens the back end of the bullpen. That the pitching staff struggles and lacks the middle relief is going to be something that plays into a strong BC lineup.

Without Chris Shaw in the regular lineup, we maybe shouldn't expect BC to cream the ball the way they could clear bases before. But expect a fine showing regardless. This Eagle lineup, top to bottom, might be among the best at the dish in comparison to some of the ones we've seen. I believe they're starting to adjust to life without Shaw, and this will go a long way to building that on-the-fly foundation.

Scoreboard Watching

UCF is at Miami in a game between ranked Florida-based teams. I'd keep an eye on that one.

Charlotte is at NC State in what might be a trap game, and UNC-Asheville heads to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels.

Music To Listen To As You Sip Brandy For The Harvard Game

Sixx A.M. - This Is Gonna Hurt.

I hate losing to Harvard. So either lower some hurt on them or face the pain yourself.

Fun Fact Of The Week

Back when the regionals were played out with Districts in the 60s and 70s, Harvard went to four College World Series between 1968 and 1974. That included back-to-back appearances in '73 and '74.

In 1968, their coach infamously threatened to accelerate his retirement if the NCAA didn't reschedule around the Harvard exam schedule. The NCAA relented (I have no idea why), and Harvard went onto win their regional.

Harvard - always changing the rules to what best suits them because they're goddamned Harvard and do what they want, that's why.

Prediction Time

I hate losing to Harvard. Did I mention that already?

I think the Crimson's pitching staff is bad enough to allow the Eagles a good shot to really do some damage. This one gets ugly, but BC pulls away with a win.