In the morning hours on Wednesday, the forecast for the afternoon looked iffy at best for baseball. Boston College's Shea Field was soggy and moist. The afternoon looked grim, with a band of rain due to hit the Boston area some time around the evening commute. For a 3 PM game against Northeastern, the prospects of playing nine innings at home were, depending on your point of view, 50-50.
It necessitated change. The venue flipped, with the Eagles instead going to the Huskies' home at Parsons Field, and the start time moved back to 2:30 PM.
The Eagles and Huskies got in nine innings, but it was far from a picture perfect image of the game of baseball. Four lead changes in the first four innings ended with BC up by a 5-4 count, something they increased to 7-4 by the end of the sixth.
That's when that band of rain hit. Friedman Diamond turned sloppy, and the Huskies managed to get two runs with two outs in the ninth thanks in part to weather-aided errors by the BC defense. With the tying run 90 feet down the third base line, reliever Jesse Adams punched out Jake Farrell, giving the Eagles a wild, 7-6 victory for their 25th win of the year.
"The most important thing was to get the game in," said head coach Mike Gambino. "This morning, we knew the rain was coming, and our field was already a little wet. We didn't know when the rain would get here, and it was 50-50 that we would be able to get the game in at home. We couldn't take that chance."
The weather winds up being one of the bigger stamps on the game because of how quickly conditions broke down. A soft drizzle in the sixth and early seventh turned into a steady rain before a downpour in the eighth and ninth broke through.
In the eighth inning, Donovan Casey made his first appearance in four weeks for the Eagles, redebuting on the mound after missing time with a broken hand. He walked Nolan Lang and hit Max Burt to put two men on, then gave up a single to Farrell to load the bases with nobody out. Casey rebounded, striking out pinch hitter Zach Perry before inducing a grounder to pinch hitter Keith Kelly. Though the Kelly grounder brought home a run to cut the Eagle lead to two, he struck out a third pinch hitter in the form of Pat Madigan to end the inning.
Jesse Adams started the ninth, the first time he's started an inning since April 22nd against Louisville, and after walking Charlie McConnell to start the inning, he got two quick outs by inducing a grounder from Mason Koppens to Johnny Adams. The double play brought the Eagles to the brink of a win, but that's when the weather really broke down.
With a straight downpour drenching the artificial surface, Cam Walsh grounded to Jake Palomaki, who couldn't handle a sure fire inning-ending play. Nolan Lang then singled to put the tying run on base before another weather-related error bit the Eagles. Max Burt chopped one in front of the mound, but Adams couldn't field it cleanly, loading the bases. After a wild pitch scored Walsh from third with two strikes, Adams rallied to fire a strike by Farrell to end the game.
"It got a little funky there in the end," said Gambino. "We had the rain and the wind, and it got really ugly weather wise really quickly. All of a sudden, the mound started getting slippery, and it got a little sticky. But Jesse did a good job keeping his composure, getting a big grounder and a big punch out at the end."
The weather overshadowed exactly how the Eagles got to that point. In the top of the first, they scored with two outs when Joe Cronin walked, stole second, and scored on an RBI single by Scott Braren, giving them a 1-0 lead before Northeastern had their ups.
Once NU got their hacks, they put on a display of their own. With two outs against starting pitcher Thomas Lane, Walsh homered to left field, tying the game at 1-1. Lane then walked Lang in a nine-pitch at-bat before Burt homered to left as well, putting the Huskies up 3-1.
The Eagles tied it up in the third thanks in part, again, to base running. Palomaki drew a lead-off walk, then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. With a runner on third and one out, Joe Cronin and Scott Braren both walked to load the bases, allowing Gian Martellini to plate Palomaki with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Johnny Adams continued a surge with a poke single to center to score Cronin, knotting the game at 3-3.
But NU came back, retaking the lead a second time in weird fashion. Lane issued a one-out walk to Walsh, and after a fly ball from Lang, he stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Lane walked Burt, he had runners on the corners with two outs. That's when he faked to third and back to first, only to catch Burt running. Walsh broke for home, and Lane, who looked home, chose to make the move to the first baseman Mitch Bigras. Walsh scored before Bigras applied the tag, ending the inning but giving the Huskies a 4-3 lead.
A nearly identical exchange ended the fourth with BC taking a 5-4 lead. With bases full of Eagles, Braren singled to center to score both Logan Hoggarth and Jake Palomaki. Strem rounded second to head for third but instead found himself in a rundown. The pickle ended with a standard issue 8-4-5-6 out on a two-RBI single.
The game then settled into a more mundane pace, although the Eagles added two runs in the sixth, setting up the wild finish.
Before the weather intervened, the big story for the Eagles was going to come from two different areas. Northeastern's pitchers issued 11 walks in total,including four by starter Nate Borges. That enabled BC to come up in big spots with men on. The Eagles had 22 at-bats with men on base, and they went 5-17 with runners in scoring position. Nobody came up bigger than Braren, who went 2-4 on the day with three-RBI, a career high.
"Scott's been doing a great job," said Gambino. "Every time we give him a chance, he gives us a great at-bat, and that's what he did again for us today."
"I've been trying to just go up to the plate with an open mind," said Braren, "so I can find the right pitch to hit. (Northeastern) was leaving some fastballs up a little bit in a good spot to be able to drive up the middle."
The second piece of the Eagle game came from the base paths. Boston College stole 11 bags, including three each by Palomaki and Cronin. It fell one short of the ACC record, set by NC State back in 1990, and it was a performance that, despite the towering number, still left some room for improvement.
"The boys just did a good job picking their spots and getting bags," said Gambino, "and that's something we want to do. But we still made some base running mistakes that cost us three runs, so I was actually not totally thrilled about the way we ran the bases."
On the mound, Lane was charged with four runs in three innings on just two hits, walking three and striking out one. It was an outing where he hung the wrong pitch to the wrong guy in the first, then allowed a freakish run in the third, but otherwise was able to really come back and pound after hitters.
"It was just running away from his arm a touch," said Gambino. "He has a really heavy fastball that he pounds low, so when he was running away from his arm, the fastball gets left up a little bit. He'll be fine; it's part of being a freshman to have ups and downs. He showed flashes of being really, really good (against Northeastern), but he was just a little bit inconsistent. We still think he's going to be doing some great things, and he's going to be fine in his next couple of outings."
Lane handed the ball to Jack Nelson (2-0), who rolled into Dan Metzdorf and John Witkowski through the seventh inning, each throwing one frame apiece and combining for shutout performances. Adams was credited with his third save of the year.
For Northeastern, Nate Borges went three innings, giving up three runs on three hits with four walks and two strikeouts. Mike Piscopo (0-1) relieved him to start the fourth giving up two runs in two innings on two hits, followed by Brian Christian, who allowed two runs on one hit. Isaac Lippert pitched the eighth, then started the ninth before Will Jahn finished things out.
The Eagles (25-17) now head into their weekend, the final home conference weekend of the year, against Wake Forest on a three game winning streak. Next up is Friday's first game, scheduled for a 2:30 PM first pitch.