Somewhere, the sports gods have a cruel sense of humor. In baseball, the seventh inning stretch represents a happy time, a time to stand up, stretch those legs, relax, enjoy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and get ready for the later innings of a game. If the game's a blowout, it's time to enjoy the game easing to completion. If it's close, it's the last moments before the intensity ratchets back up.
This weekend, the sports gods chose to make the seventh inning stretch the harbinger of doom for Boston College's baseball squad against Notre Dame. On Friday, right after the Eagles scored a run to halve the Fighting Irish lead from two to one, ND scored two, putting distance between them and BC in a 4-1 victory.
On Saturday, with BC scoring a run in the sixth to get on the board, still trailing 3-1 into the stretch, Notre Dame scored an extra insurance run, putting the game back out of reach for the Eagles in another 4-1 victory.
On Sunday, the stretch really got its licks in. With the Eagles leading 9-4 into the bottom of the seventh, Notre Dame scored five runs to tie the game at nine aside. They added two in the bottom of the eighth, then sat the Eagles down with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth to erase a five run deficit with a two-run victory, sweeping BC with an 11-9 victory.
It was a game where BC got on the board early and often, scoring seven runs in the game's first two innings. In the top of the first, a pair of walks, a wild pitch and an HBP loaded the bases with nobody out against starting pitcher Ryan Smoyer. After he rallied to strike out Joe Cronin, Smoyer walked Gian Martellini, giving BC a 1-0 lead and keeping the bases loaded. His day ended immediately after, with five batters only in the books, as Mik Aoki brought in David Hearne.
Hearne retired Logan Hoggarth for the second out, then allowed an RBI single to Johnny Adams, making it a 2-0 game. It was impressive that this was the only runs scored since Hearne struck out Anthony Maselli, ending the inning with only the two-run deficit.
But BC crushed and chased Hearne in the next inning. After Notre Dame rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first, Dominic Hardaway laced the first pitch he saw to left center for a double, then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Palomaki. Hearne proceeded to walk the next three men he faced, however, including Joe Cronin on four straight pitches, scoring BC's third run with one out. After Martellini popped up, Hearne walked another, this time giving Hoggarth a free pass to score another run.
Now 4-3, Hearne departed in favor of Connor Hale, who gave up a two-RBI single to Johnny Adams and an RBI single to Anthony Maselli. With BC now having batted around and holding a 7-3 lead, Hardaway struck out looking, ending a huge inning for the Birdballers.
Notre Dame scored one in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 7-4, but runs by BC in the sixth and seventh gave them a five run lead at 9-4. Starting pitcher Mike King was charged with the four runs, relieved after 4.1 innings and 95 pitches weighing on his arm. John Nicklas had pitched 1.2 innings to that point, having brought the Eagles to the seventh. He started the inning against the Fighting Irish.
Ricky Sanchez led off the inning with a double to right center, and after Nicklas struck out the first out, Kyle Fiala singled him to third with a base hit to left. Nicklas rebounded again for a strike out for the second out, but a walk to Ryan Lidge drew Mike Gambino out of the dugout to bring in converted starting pitcher Jesse Adams, who was 2-0 with a save since heading into the bullpen.
Adams worked to 2-2 against Cavan Biggio, but a single to right brought home the lead runners, cutting the BC lead to 9-6. A single by the next batter, Jake Shepski, scored Lidge, making it 9-7. With Biggio on third, a wild pitch advanced Shepski to second, and a double by Zak Kutsulis brought both runners home, tying the game on back-to-back-to-back hits by the Fighting Irish.
The Eagles advanced a runner to third in the top of the eighth but stranded him there with two outs, giving Notre Dame the opportunity and opening to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. After Sanchez led off with a single against Adams, Thomas Lane entered the game to pitch. After recording an out, pinch runner Torii Hunter, Jr. flashed the wheels that comes with his namesake, stealing second and advancing to third when Sciortino's throw was off line. Kyle Fiala singled him home, giving ND a one-run lead at 10-9.
Lane Richards then strode to the plate, and after Fiala stole second, he singled to center, scoring the runner. Centerfielder Michael Strem had tried to throw home, but Sciortino wound up uncorking a throw to Johnny Adams when Richards broke for second. Adams tagged out the runner for the second out, but the run counted, giving the Irish an 11-9 leead. Ryan Lidge then grounded to first on the first pitch he saw to end the threat.
In the top of the ninth, BC loaded the bases with one out against relief pitcher Brad Bass when Adams and pinch hitter Scott Braren singled, followed by a walk to pinch hitter Chris Balogh. But Bass rallied to retire the top of the order, setting down Palomaki and Sciortino to end the game and give Notre Dame the sweep.
It was a heartbreaking loss for BC, who tagged early Notre Dame pitching for a bunch of runs. After Smoyer faced only five batters, David Hearne and Connor Hale combined for the next five outs, facing 13 batters along the way. Hearne was credited with five runs allowed, walking four and only striking out one.
Jim Orwick relieved Hale and went 2.1 innings, stabilizing the Notre Dame pitching staff by allowing only one hit with four strikeouts and no walks. Charlie Vorsheck came in for him and was charged with a run. With the pitching staff running out of arms, Aoki went for Jake Shepski, his right fielder, for two innings. Shepski struck out one and allowed a run on two hits. Matt Vierling pitching a single out in the eighth before Bass (1-0) came on for the final fiveouts and the win.
BC's Jesse Adams (4-4) took the loss, charged with three runs in his performance. Mike King went the aforementioned 4.1 innings in the start, giving up nine hits and four runs with 3 K's and two walks. Nicklas went 2.1 innings, striking out three with three walks, credited with three runs allowed and only two hits. Thomas Lane allowed only the one run on two hits in pitching the Notre Dame eighth inning.
At the dish, Johnny Adams had a monster day for the Eagles, going 4-for-5 with four RBI and a run scored. He was the only Eagle with multiple hits, though Sciortino earned three walks and scored three runs on the day. Martellini had a couple of runs batted in as the middle of the order accounted for eight RBI.
For Notre Dame, Sanchez, Biggio, and Faiala had big days at the plate, garnering four, three, and three hit days, respectively. Sanchez matched Adams hit-for-hit at the plate, going 4-for-5, though he only had three RBI. He scored twice.
Biggio went 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Faiala went 3-for-5 with three runs scored. The top of the order for Notre Dame, including Biggio, Shepski, and Kutsulis, accounted for six RBI, while the bottom of the order accounted for four runs scored.
The wins were a nice rebound for the Golden Domers, who went over the 20-win mark and moved up the ACC table. They're now 21-12 with a 9-7 conference record. For BC, the damaging losses dropped them to four games over .500 at 18-14 with a 5-11 conference mark.
BC returns to midweek action on Wednesday when they travel to the New England Baseball Complex for the Beanpot Championship against Northeastern. Game time will be immediately following the conclusion of the Harvard-UMass consolation game, which begins at 2:30 PM.