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Birdball Weekend Recap - #2/#3 Florida State

The Eagles drop a doubleheader to FSU on Saturday, after taking game one on Friday night

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Usually, with our weekend recap posts, I like to start with a game-by-game break down of the weekend’s action and close with some analysis of the Eagles’ performance, before previewing the week to come. However, given the disconnect between BC’s game Friday night, which they won 8-5, and the doubleheader on Saturday, which they lost by a combined score of 24-1, I’ve decided to forego the game capsules and focus entirely on an analysis of the weekend, highlighting the positives and negatives of the Eagle’s three games at Florida State. First up, the positives:

The Positives:

Jacob Stevens – Once again, the sophomore right hander was outstanding. Bear went 6 innings against one of the best lineups in the nation, scattering four hits and giving up only two runs (both came on a homerun in the third) while striking out five. We knew he’d battle against the Seminoles, it’s what he does, but I’m not sure many people foresaw him dominating that lineup the way he did. I’ll double-down on what I said during my season preview of the pitching staff: with Stevens on the mound every Friday, BC has a chance to win at least one ACC game in every series, which is key to making it to the postseason in this conference; he is that good. The only area that Steven’s could have been better in this weekend was walks (as could the entire staff, but more on that later). He issued a season-high five free passes on Friday night, but, to his credit, when runners did reach base off him, aside from one pitch, he kept them from scoring. Also, this weekend, Stevens reached the minimum number of innings pitched required to be eligible for the BC record books (100) and, as it stands now, is in first place all-time with a career ERA of 2.34.

Michael Strem – Strem was the only Eagle to record a hit in all three games this weekend, with a 2 for 4 performance on Friday, and a 1 for 4 outing in each game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The 4 for 12 weekend boosted the senior’s average to .276 for season and his two RBI on Friday pushed his season total to nine, good for third on the team. However, what I thought was impressive about Strem’s performance this weekend, outside of leading the team in hits, was his approach at the plate. It was clear to see he went into each at bat with a plan, looking for a certain pitch, and when he got it, he took a hack at it. Now, as it happens so often in baseball, just because you get the pitch you want and swing at it, does not guarantee you a hit. Such was the case for Strem, but the approach he employed this weekend is one that needs to be carried out for the rest of the season by him and the entire team.

Eagles’ Friday Night Offense – On Friday night, the BC bats came ready to play. Eight of nine starters recorded at least one hit, with five starters enjoying two. Three players drove in multiple runs, and the entire offense combined for 13 hits on the night, including three doubles. BC is now 3-0 on the season when recording 10 or more hits. As was mentioned previously, in reference to Michael Strem, it was great to see an aggressive approach at the plate from every BC hitter. When facing an elite pitching staff like that of Florida State, it’s important to realize, as a hitter, you’re not going to get many fastballs down the middle. Instead, with pitchers as talented as FSU’s, you’re more than likely going to get fastballs on the outer half or inner half of the plate, sliders down in the zone, and changeups low and away, and you must be ready to go with those pitches and “hit them where they’re pitched,” or face the very real possibility of routinely getting down 0-2 or 1-2 in counts, and find yourself at the mercy of the man on the mound, or worse, the umpire. Friday night, the BC hitters did a great job of being selectively aggressive, taking what starter Cole Sands gave them, and driving the ball where it was pitched. Unfortunately, that approach did not carry over into Saturday for most of the hitters.

The Negatives:

Eagles’ Saturday Offense – As good as the BC bats looked on Friday night, they looked equally as, if not more, passive on Saturday. Instead of continuing the aggressive approach at the plate that scored eight runs on Friday, the Eagles looked timid on Saturday facing FSU’s pitchers. Granted, the Seminole’s game one starter, Tyler Holton, is one of the best starting pitchers in the nation, but the BC batters routinely found themselves down in the count before taking the bat off their shoulders. Too many times Holton would start batters with a fastball on the outer half of the plate that the BC hitter would let go, falling into a 0-1 hole. Any hitting coach worth his salt will tell you, when facing a quality arm like Holton, you have to jump on the first fastball in the zone you see because, more than likely, you will not see another one that at bat. Unfortunately, the Eagles fell into this trap on Saturday, and found themselves having to fight off 0-2 sliders from Holton, something that rarely leads to success. Obviously, it is easier to sit on a couch and pick apart at bats than it is to be the one at the plate hitting, but there is no denying there was a shift in approach from Friday night to Saturday that did not turn out will for the Eagles.

Free Bases – 26 walks issued, five hit batters, and four errors combined to give Florida State 35 free bases in three games this weekend. This was the single biggest reason for BC’s losses on Saturday. With that many free bases, it is astounding the Eagles are leaving Tallahassee with a win. Head Coach Mike Gambino said it in his postgame interview, and it cannot be overstated: you absolutely cannot give a team as good as Florida State, or any team for that matter, that many free bases and expect to win. It just won’t happen. Now, having watched all three games this weekend, I can attest to the fact that the home plate umpires on Saturday did seem to squeeze the BC pitchers a little more than they did Florida State’s Tyler Holton and Drew Parrish, but, honestly, that is no excuse. The Eagles’ pitchers, except for Stevens, did not do a good job of attacking the Florida State hitters with their fastball. Too many times, it seemed as though the BC pitchers “overthought” the at bats in front of them, thinking they needed to be more careful with the location of their pitches, resulting in balls off the plate, and timidly thrown breaking pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone. As a former coach of mine once said, “I’d rather lose 10-0 with the other team having 20 hits, than lose 5-0 with ten walks,” meaning that, at least from a frustration standpoint, it’s better to lose by having the opposing team earn it by putting the ball in play, than giving them the game with free bases. To his credit, as the games were on TV, viewers could see pitching coach Alex Trezza mouthing the words “attack them” over and over to his pitchers every time he came out for a mound visit on Saturday, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. I think moving forward fans will see a concerted effort on the part of the pitching staff to force more contact from opposing teams’ lineups, as this weekend hopefully served as a wakeup call to the Eagles’ pitchers.

Where do we go from here:

Believe it or not, even with Saturday’s disappointing results, the Eagles are in pretty good shape coming out of their first ACC series. Tallahassee is one of the hardest places to win in the country for visiting teams, and it would have been very easy for BC to come out of there with no wins. Instead, they come out with one, and, if they can win a game at Louisville, and possibly take the series from Clemson at home in two weeks, you’ll be looking at a BC team at either 4-5 or 3-6 in the ACC, having gotten past, arguably, the three best teams in conference, right in the thick of things in the Atlantic Division race. However, before the Eagles can worry about Louisville or Clemson, they have their first true midweek game of the season on Tuesday evening in Worcester, versus Holy Cross, though, with the forecast calling for almost blizzard-like conditions in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the game may be cancelled. However, if it is not cancelled, the Eagles will have their hands full as the Crusaders, although only 2-9 on the season, always play BC tough. We’ll have a more in-depth look at the matchup early next week, given the game is still on at that time.