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Birdball Weekend Recap - #1 Louisville

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Though the games on Saturday and Sunday were close, the Eagles couldn’t muster enough runs to take a game from the top-ranked Cardinals

Image courtesy of BCEagles.com
BCEagles.com

To win the weekend’s series at top-ranked Louisville would have been a tall order for any team, but for the injury-plagued and travel-worn Boston College Eagles, winning two of three on the road against the Cardinals would have required a Herculean effort. After dropping the series opener on Friday night 6-0, the Eagles responded by putting a scare into Louisville in the final two games, falling 6-4 in a ferocious ninth inning comeback Saturday and 5-3 in a hard-fought loss in the rubber match on Sunday. Let’s take a closer look at how each of this weekend’s game shook out down in Kentucky:

Friday: Louisville 6 Boston College 0:

As fans have come to expect, Boston College sophomore starter Jacob Stevens did all he could to keep the Eagles in the game against the Louisville Cardinals, but the BC bats could not figure out Louisville starting pitcher, and Player of the Year candidate, Brendan McKay as the lefty went seven complete innings, not allowing a run, while striking out 12.

Stevens was equally as impressive on Friday, throwing six complete innings, allowing only two runs and striking out four, against what many analysts consider to be one of the best lineups in college baseball. Unfortunately, two runs would be all the Cardinals would need on Friday night, as they cruised to a 6-0 win. The game was scoreless through five complete when, with two outs with the sixth, Louisville plated two runs on a pair of doubles and an infield single off Stevens. The Cardinals would add three more runs in the seventh, and another in the eighth before closing the door on the Eagles in the top of the ninth.

Offensively, BC was led by junior Mitch Bigras, who went 2 for 3 on the day. Freshman Brian Dempsey added a hit of his own in a 1 for 3 performance and senior Michael Strem extended his on-base streak to 14 games and hit-streak to six going 1 for 4 on the night.

Saturday: Louisville 6 Boston College 4:

Through seven complete innings on Saturday, it looked as though Boston College would suffer the same fate as Friday night, a shutout loss to the number-one ranked Cardinals. However, a run in the top of the eighth and a ferocious three-run comeback in the top of the ninth that fell just short, would curtail that notion.

Louisville got to BC’s freshman starter Matt Gill in the first inning, scoring a run with two outs on a single from Drew Ellis that plated leadoff man Logan Taylor, who had walked. The Cardinals scored three more runs in the bottom of the third off Gill, before he was relieved by junior Brian Rapp. Rapp pitched well, as he has since moving to the bullpen, throwing 5.1 innings of relief surrendering only two runs while striking out four. Down 6-0 in the top of the eighth, the Eagles got on the scoreboard as Johnny Adams singled to start the frame and advanced to third when freshman Jake Goodreau, making his first career start, doubled off the top of the centerfield wall. Anthony Maselli then grounded out to third base, scoring Adams. Louisville starter Kade McClure, who was still in the game, got out of the inning on a pair of strikeouts, stranding Goodreau on third. The Eagles would not go quietly in the ninth. Down 6-1, Michael Strem led off the inning with an infield single and junior Donovan Casey followed with a walk. Both would score as the next batter, Gian Martellini, singled through the right side, cutting the Cardinals lead to three. Junior Mitch Bigras then singled through the left side to put runners on the corners. Johnny Adams followed with an infield single of his own, scoring Martellini from third, making the score 6-4 Louisville. Unfortunately, that would be all the Eagles would muster in the ninth, as Louisville’s closer got the next two BC batters swinging and Bigras was caught trying to steal third to end the game.

Johnny Adams led the Eagles on Saturday, going 2 for 4 with an RBI. Martellini also had a good day at the plate going 1 for 3, driving in two of BC’s four runs. Senior Michael Strem extended his on-base streak to 15 games and hitting streak to seven games with his infield single in the ninth inning of the Eagles’ loss.

Sunday: Louisville 5 Boston College 3:

For the second straight game Boston College went toe-to-toe with the Louisville Cardinals but came up just shy of upsetting the number one team in the nation. BC got a great starting performance on the mound from sophomore Dan Metzdorf, but could not plate enough runs to earn the win.

The Eagles struck first on Sunday, scoring a run in the top of the second inning off Louisville starter Nick Bennett. With one out in the frame, junior Mitch Bigras doubled down the right field line and scored when freshman Brian Dempsey singled through the left side of the infield. The Cardinals would strike back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one. After a quick top of the third, Louisville would take the lead after a hit by pitch, balk, and two errors plated a run, giving the home team a 2-1 advantage. The Eagles would respond in the next half inning as Bigras smashed his second double of the afternoon with one out in the top of the fourth and was moved to third after Johnny Adams walked and both were moved up on a balk from Bennett. Anthony Maselli then hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Bigras, tying the game at two. The score remained tied until the bottom of the sixth when Louisville plated another run after a leadoff single and another pair of BC errors. They would add two insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh to make the score 5-2. In the top of the eighth, BC had the bases loaded with one out after Donovan Casey reached on an error, Gian Martellini singled, and Bigras walked. Adams then grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Casey from third and cutting the Cardinals’ lead to two. However, that would be all the Eagles could come up with in the game as the next batter struck out, and Louisville’s closer induced two groundouts and a foul out to end the game and give the home team the series sweep.

Bigas was the offensive leader again for BC on Sunday, going 2 for 3 with two doubles and a walk. Jake Alu also had a nice day at the plate from his DH spot, going 2 for 5 with a stolen base. On the mound, Metzdorf pitched as well as any coach could hope for against the Louisville lineup, going six innings, allowing only one earned run (three runs total) while striking out three with no walks. Of note, Michael Strem’s 15-game on-base streak, and seven-game hit streak, came to an end on Sunday as the senior was 0 for 5 on the day.

A few thoughts on the weekend at Louisville:

They say “close” only counts with horseshoes and hand-grenades and I tend to agree. In sports, especially high level collegiate sports, moral victories do little to alleviate the pain of losing. With that said, losing two of three games to the #1 team in the country by only two-runs should give fans some optimism moving forward. To give this series a little more clarity, I think it is only fair to take a look at this weekend within the context of the entire BC baseball season to date. First and foremost, it must be noted that this series, composed of BC’s 15th, 16th, and 17th games of the season, was again on the road. I don’t care that it happens every year and I do not care what outsiders will say about it, I can tell you, when it gets to this point in the season and it feels like, as a player, you’re living out of a travel bag, and getting most of your sleep on an airplane, it takes a toll on you mentally and physically. Was it the reason BC was swept this weekend? Probably not. Do I think if think this series was played in Chestnut Hill the Eagles would have had a better chance to take a game or two? Yes, I do (which is why the stadium needs to be built. Tired of hearing me say it? Too bad). Secondly, BC opened ACC play against the #1 and #2 teams in the nation, on the road, and have come out with a 1-5 record. Obviously, any fan would like to see a bigger number in the win column, but I think with the talent they have faced (both FSU and Louisville are currently projected to be National Title contenders) coming away with a win and two close games bodes well for the rest of the ACC slate. And finally, BC has gone through the meat-grinder of their first two ACC series with up to 11 players missing significant time due to injury or illness (more on this topic coming this week). When a team can only travel 27 players, if even three or four are missing time throughout a weekend, their absence will be felt in all three games. With all of that going on, BC heads home to take on Northeastern and #9 Clemson (at URI due to field conditions…BUILD THE STADIUM) at 6-11 still in the thick of things in the Atlantic Division. So, in short, it’s not time to hit the panic button. Instead, it’s time to relax, take care of the first midweek game against the Huskies, and prepare to take a series from Clemson.