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Birdball Weekend Preview - #6/#7 Clemson

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The Eagles will face their third top-10 team in as many weeks

Image courtesy of BCEagles.com
BCEagles.com

After playing the first 18 games of their season away from home, BC finally gets the chance to host an opponent…at Rhode Island’s Bill Beck Field. That’s right, even this “home series” isn’t at home. This weekend’s series versus the number 6/7 ranked Clemson Tigers was moved to the Ocean State due to the condition of Shea Field after Winter Storm Stella ripped through Boston two weeks ago (a well-built stadium with field turf could solve this problem). The Tigers will be the third top-ten team the Eagles will face in as many weeks. Let’s take a closer look at this weekend’s ACC matchup:

Game Location:

Bill Beck Field, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, R.I.

Game Times:

Friday, March 24th @ 1pm ET vs. Clemson

Saturday, March 25th @ 1pm ET vs. Clemson

Sunday, March 26th @ 11:30am ET vs. Clemson

Projected Starters:

Friday: BC: So. RHP Jacob Stevens (2-1, 1.99 ERA) vs. CLEM: Jr. LHP Charlie Barnes (1-2, 1.05 ERA)

Saturday: BC: So. LHP Dan Metzdorf (1-3, 4.00 ERA) vs. CLEM: RSo. RHP Alex Eubanks (3-1, 2.87 ERA)

Sunday: BC: Jr. RHP Brian Rapp (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. CLEM: Sr. LHP Pat Krall (3-0, 4.18 ERA)

How to Watch/Listen:

All three of this weekend’s games will be covered on Gametracker, with Friday afternoon’s contest being broadcast on WZBZ Radio, and Saturday’s game on TUNEIN Radio, part of the “Game of the Week” series presented by the BC IMG Sports Network. Links to all three can be found on the schedule page of Boston College Baseball at BCEagles.com.

What you should know about the Clemson Tigers:

In only his second season at the helm of the Tigers’ baseball program, Monte Lee has picked up right where legendary coach Jack Leggett left off, as he has his Clemson team ranked as high as sixth in the national polls, and comes into this weekend’s series against Boston College with an overall record of 17-4. To date, the Tigers are 5-1 in the ACC, earning a series sweep over Notre Dame and taking a home series from Virginia last weekend, two games to one.

Offensively, the Tigers boast some of the most highly regarded players in the conference and in the nation. Leading the Clemson lineup is reigning ACC Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, and Dick Howser Trophy Winner, Seth Beer. Beer burst onto the scene as a true freshmen in 2016 winning virtually every award possible, in a season that saw him bat an otherworldly .369 with 18 homeruns and 70 RBIs. Although the seemingly-superhuman Beer is off to comparatively slow start at the plate the season, hitting only .250, he has still smashed six homeruns and collected 19 RBI in the early going. He is, without a doubt, one hitter the BC pitching staff will have to be very careful with all weekend long. While Beer may garner most of the Clemson headlines, junior infielder Chase Pinder has quietly put together an impressive start to the season. Pinder is currently leading the Tigers in hitting with a .359 average, and has driven in 16 runs. Behind Pinder, Clemson’s lineup also features Reed Rohlman and Andrew Cox, who are hitting .292 and .290, respectively, with a combined three homeruns and 15 RBI. While the Tigers are only hitting .271 as a team, they are a dangerous lineup and will capitalize off any BC mistakes.

On the mound, the Eagle batters will again face three quality arms over the course of the weekend in Charlie Barnes, Alex Eubanks, and Pat Krall. Barnes is the undisputed ace of the Clemson pitching staff, as the left hander has accumulated a 1-2 record (earning a hard-luck loss last weekend vs. Virginia) with a 1.05 ERA in 34.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .221 off him and have only managed five extra-base hits in 122 total at bats. Eubanks and Krall will be challenging for BC as well, as the pair has combined for a 6-1 record, while only issuing 13 walks in 59.1 innings pitched. Past the starting rotation, the Tigers’ bullpen is also stout, boasting a 2.95 team ERA, good for third in the ACC. The Eagles will need to be opportunistic at the plate this weekend and stay staunch in their approach of hunting fastballs if they want to win the series.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

While Mike Gambino’s team may not be ecstatic that their first “home” series of the year was moved to URI, rest assured, a short trip down interstate 95 is much better than a four-hour plane ride down south. With that said, the Eagles, who defeated Northeastern 10-7 on Tuesday, will still have to deal with some of the pains associated with travelling as they will stay in a hotel near URI’s campus, and not bus back-and-forth. But, then again, so will the Tigers, who will be playing their first games of the season outside the state of South Carolina, this weekend.

The aforementioned game at NU on Tuesday was BC’s largest offensive output since late February against Villanova, and the Eagles will look for that production to carry over to this weekend. Junior Mitch Bigras leads Boston College at the plate, hitting .283 with the Eagles’ only homerun and 12 RBI. Right behind Bigras is sophomore catcher Gian Martellini who provides much of the pop in the middle of the BC order, as he leads the team with six doubles while batting .281 with 12 RBI. Senior Michael Strem, who missed Tuesday’s contest with the flu, is a threat at the top of the Eagles’ order, hitting .254 with three doubles and nine RBI. He is also a perfect four-for-four on stolen bases for the year. Also, keep an eye on Captain Johnny Adams. Although the senior is only hitting .190 through the first 18 games of the season, he is a notoriously slow-starter who has been getting hot as of late with a multi-hit game at Louisville and another against Northeastern.

The Eagles are making some changes to their rotation this weekend as they face the Tigers. As usual, sophomore Jacob Stevens will start on Friday and will look to match Clemson’s Charlie Barnes pitch-for-pitch. But, moving into Saturday role will be sophomore left hander Dan Metzdorf, the usual Sunday starter. Taking Metzdorf’s place on Sunday will be junior right-hander Brian Rapp, who has pitched very well in long relief this season, after starting a game opening weekend at Bethune-Cookman. Gambino and Trezza are hoping Rapp’s success going five-plus innings out of the bullpen will translate well to the ultra-important starting role in this weekend’s rubber match. Freshman Matt Gill will be available out of the pen, as will Tuesday’s starter Jack Nelson, who threw very well in four shutout innings against the Huskies. Also, look for Bobby Skogsbergh, Zach Stromberg, Jake Alu, and Donovan Casey to get some time on the mound this weekend.

Prediction:

As much as I like to point out the difficulties facing the Boston College baseball team during the early part of their season each year, there is one advantage that playing in the northeast in March affords the Eagles: the temperature. As noted above, Clemson has played all 21 of their games this season in the Palmetto State. Now, I’m sure some of their night games dipped down into the low 50’s, maybe even the upper 40’s, but they have not played in the conditions they’ll face this weekend in Kingston, RI. The forecasts for this weekend’s game times go like this: Friday at 1pm, 41 degrees and cloudy with wind, Saturday at 1pm, 51 degrees and rainy (yikes), and Sunday at 11:30am, 39 degrees and cloudy with wind. I’m not suggesting that the Tigers will go into hibernation and this will be a series sweep for the Eagles. I’m only implying that, as much as athletes and coaches claim that weather doesn’t affect their teams, the temperature may be harder for Clemson to handle than BC, and therefore may work in the Eagles’ favor. With that said, it won’t matter if it’s -10 degrees outside and the Clemson pitchers can’t feel their fingers, if the BC offense doesn’t score some runs. That will be the story of the weekend. I actually think Boston College’s rotation, with the addition of Rapp, matches up well with Clemson. The question will be, can BC employ the approach at the plate that scored them 10 runs on Tuesday: being selectively aggressive, letting the pitcher get himself into trouble, and jumping on mistakes? Or, will they fall into the same trap as Saturday at FSU, letting good fastballs go by them, and subsequently having to fight off nasty off-speed pitches with two strikes? To this point in the season, with the exception of opening weekend (whoops) and one game at the Snowbird Classic and at Louisville, I have been pretty spot on with my predictive powers. Today, I’m going out on a limb. I think BC takes the series from Clemson this weekend, two games to one. I think Bear throws a great game on Friday and the Eagles take a 4-3 or 5-4 decision over Charlie Barnes. I also think that the addition of Rapp to the rotation on Sunday is a good one, and the junior will lead his team to a win on a cold and windy New England morning to give the Eagles the series win, and really set them up well heading to Virginia Tech next week. Let’s do this.