It’s finally here! Baseball season!
As we speak, the Boston College baseball team is en route to Daytona Beach, Florida where they will begin the 2017 season with a three-game series against the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats this weekend. Let’s take a look at what you need to know to prepare for the weekend:
Jackie Robinson Memorial Baseball Park, Daytona Beach, Florida
Friday, February 17th, @ 6pm
Saturday, February 18th, @ 1pm
Sunday, February 19th, @ 12pm
Projected Starters (2016 Stats):
Friday: BC: So. RHP Jacob Stevens (4-4, 2.54 ERA) vs. Bethune: Jr. RHP Tyler Norris (6-4, 4.52 ERA)
Saturday: BC: Jr. RHP Brian Rapp (3-2, 5.67 ERA) vs. Bethune: Sr. LHP Donte Lindsay
Sunday: BC: So. LHP Dan Metzdorf (0-0, 8.00 ERA) vs. Bethune: Fr. RHP Anthony Maldonado
How to Watch/Listen:
Though none of this weekend’s games will be televised or broadcast over the radio, you can follow the Eagles on Gametracker, which can be found under the baseball schedule section of both BCEagles.com and BCUathletics.com.
What you should know about the Wildcats:
Bethune-Cookman is coming off a successful 2016 campaign that saw them finish with a 29-27 overall record, while posting a 17-7 record in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Wildcats, led by Head Coach Jason Beverlin, captured the MEAC Tournament Championship in 2016 and earned their conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As the number four seed in the Gainesville Regional, BCU fell to regional-host Florida 9-3 and ACC-member Georgia Tech 12-3.
The Wildcats return a bevy of starters from last season’s regional team, and will look to lean on that experience throughout 2017. Headlining this year’s Bethune-Cookman squad are sophomore first baseman Danny Rodriguez and junior right handed pitcher Tyler Norris. Rodriguez, a 6’3 240 pound Pembroke Pines, FL native, was recently named the 2017 MEAC Preseason Player of the Year as well as to the Preseason All-MEAC First Team, after hitting .309 with 10 homeruns and 46 RBI in 2016, and winning the MEAC Rookie of the Year award. Norris joins Rodriguez on the Preseason All-MEAC First Team as well as being name the Preseason Pitcher of the Year. As a sophomore in 2016, Norris started 14 games for the Wildcats, compiling a 6-4 record and a 4.52 ERA in 69.2 innings pitched, and was named to the All-MEAC Second Team.
Also, keep an eye on shortstop Demetrius Sims, centerfielder Josten Heron, and relief pitcher Ivan Coutinho. Sims, a redshirt junior, was named to the All-MEAC Third Team in 2016 after batting .288 with three homeruns and 22 RBI. He is also a threat on the base paths, as he swiped a team-leading 14 stolen bases a year ago. He was also named to the Preseason All-MEAC First Team. Heron, only a sophomore, was named to the Preseason All-MEAC Second Team after starting 48 games in centerfield for the Wildcats in 2016. He batted .250 with 23 RBI for the year, and added three outfield assists. Junior Ivan Coutinho threw 22 innings for BCU in 2016, earning a 0-1 record and 7.36 ERA. Despite the modesty of those stats, the conference’s coaches believe he will have a bounce-back year in 2017, as he was named to the Preseason All-MEAC Second Team.
Bethune-Cookman will not be intimidated by an ACC opponent coming to their park to open the season. They are a talented team and have the pieces in place to win a lot of games this season. Boston College will need to play fundamentally sound baseball this weekend to come away with a series win.
What you should know about the Eagles:
A year ago, the Eagles tallied a 35-22 overall record, with a 13-15 mark in the ACC. They earned the program’s first trip the ACC tournament since 2010, first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2009, and first berth to the Super Regionals ever. However, while the 2016 season was amazing and record-setting, it is over. Such has been the message from Head Coach Mike Gambino to his team to begin the 2017 season. Gone are several key players and coaches from last season’s magical run, but the Eagles do return a majority of their lineup and bullpen, and look poised to continue the success they enjoyed a season ago.
Sophomore right-hander Jacob Stevens returns to anchor the BC pitching staff after a brilliant freshmen season that saw him post a 4-4 record with a 2.54 ERA, earning ACC All-Freshmen and Freshman All-American honors. “Bear,” as he is known, enters the season as the Eagles Friday night starter and the only remaining member of BC’s weekend rotation from a season ago. Joining Stevens in the weekend rotation to start 2017 are junior right hander Brian Rapp and sophomore left hander Dan Metzdorf, both of whom were used almost exclusively out of the bullpen a year ago. Rapp, a Mendham, N.J. native, will look to transition from being one of the Eagles’ most used relievers a year ago, into a starter in 2017. Gambino and his staff have confidence that Rapp has the makeup and stuff to be an effective starter in the ACC. The same can be said of Metzdorf who, as a freshman, only totaled nine innings pitched in 17 appearances a year ago, mainly in matchup situations. Moving from only having to get one or two situational outs to having to throw (hopefully) six to seven innings is no easy task, so, it will interesting to watch how Metzdorf responds to the challenge this weekend.
Shoring up the Eagles bullpen will be redshirt junior captain Bobby Skogsbergh and redshirt senior Luke Fernandes. Skogsbergh was one of BC’s most reliable relievers in 2016, bouncing between long relief and the closer role. The big righty out of Illinois will again be counted on during the back end of games to shut the door on opposing teams. Fernandes is finally back to one hundred percent health after battling injury most of his career. While it is yet to be determined what role and how many innings Fernandes will see this season, having the kind of senior leadership he brings in the bullpen is irreplaceable.
The Eagles lineup, for the most part, will look the same as a year ago, with, perhaps, the addition of one or two new faces. Senior captain Johnny Adams returns for his third full season as the Eagles starting shortstop. The hero of last season’s Oxford Regional, Adams hit .284 a with one home run and 26 RBI in 2016. Joining him up the middle will be junior second baseman Jake Palomaki. Palomaki, who started every game for the Eagles in 2016, hit .258 with 25 RBI while drawing a team leading 42 walks out of the leadoff spot. In the outfield Michael Strem returns to centerfield for his senior season after leading all everyday players with a .301 average in 2016. Alongside Strem in the outfield will likely be junior Donovan Casey and freshman Dante Baldelli. Casey, a two-way player, battled through a broken hand a season ago and managed to hit .273 with a homerun when healthy. Baldelli, a heralded recruit from Rhode Island’s Bishop Hendricken, was recently named the 96th best freshman in the nation by D1Baseball.com and will be looking to start his career in the right foot this weekend. Sophomore Gian Martellini moves into the starting catcher’s role as last season’s co-captain and every day catcher, Nick Sciortino, was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in June’s Amateur Draft. Martellini gained valuable experience as a freshman in the DH spot, hitting .224 with two home runs and 14 RBI for the season and will be looking to build off of that this season.
While the Eagles do return much of their roster from last season, it will be interesting to see how this year’s team will compete without the leadership of Justin Dunn, Mike King, Joe Cronin and Nick Sciortino. They are not facing a push-over in Bethune-Cookman, either. The Wildcats present a good test for BC to open the season.
This is an intriguing matchup. On one side you have Bethune-Cookman, a perennial frontrunner in the MEAC, loaded with preseason all-conference picks, coming off a regional appearance and conference championship. On the other you have Boston College, the once lowly inhabitant of the ACC, coming off the best season in program history, with the majority of their lineup intact. It should be a good one. However, I’m going to give the edge in this series to the Eagles, for two reasons. The first being that, while Bethune-Cookman is a good program within the MEAC, they struggle outside of their conference. For example, last season the Wildcats were 29-27 overall, and 17-7 in the MEAC, which means that in their out of conference play, their record was a paltry 12-20. The second reason I’m going with BC this weekend is that in the last ten years, Boston College is 23-11 in opening weekend series, including a 15-6 mark under Gambino. Whether it’s the fact that practicing in the bubble is so hard it makes finally playing outside that much easier, or whether it’s simply because the guys are fired up to finally be playing outside against an actual opponent, there is no denying that the Eagles usually come out of the gate hot.
BC with the series sweep to start the season: BC 3-0.