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Birdball Midweek Preview - UMass

The game was moved to the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, MA due to poor field conditions on Shea.

Image courtesy of BCEagles.com
BCEagles.com

After a disappointing weekend at “home” versus the Clemson Tigers, BC will begin a stretch of 9 games in the next 14 days as they take on the UMass Minutemen on Wednesday. The Eagles will look to get back into the win column against their regional foe and build some momentum heading into this weekend’s road series at Virginia Tech. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s midweek matchup:

Game Location:

New England Baseball Complex, Northborough, Mass.

Game Time:

Wednesday, March 29th @ 1pm ET vs. UMass

Projected Starters:

Wednesday: BC: So. RHP Jack Nelson (1-0, 2.38 ERA) vs. UMASS: So. RHP Connor Donahue (0-1, 4.38 ERA)

How to Watch/Listen:

Wednesday’s game versus UMass will be covered on Gametracker and broadcast on WZBZ Radio. Also, fans can keep track of the Eagles by following @BCBirdBall on Twitter.

What you should know about the UMass Minutemen:

UMass head coach Mike Stone has his Minutemen squad heading in the right direction entering Wednesday’s contest in Northborough. After starting the season 0-4, UMass has won six of their last 11 games, most recently taking a series from A-10 foe George Washington this past weekend, two games to one, in DC. UMass will play at home versus Northeastern on Tuesday, before heading to Northborough on Wednesday to face BC. In 2016, the Eagles got the best of the Minutemen in both of their meetings, beating them 11-5 in Amherst on March 30th, and 2-1 on April 13th in Chestnut Hill, in the first round of last year’s Beanpot Tournament.

Offensively, UMass has been solid in the early going, hitting .268 as a team, featuring an everyday player hitting over .400. Freshman Nolan Kessinger is batting an eye-popping .408 in 14 starts on the season, recording five doubles in 49 at bats, and has knocked in nine Minutemen baserunners on the year. Sophomore infielder Cooper Mrowka is hitting .333 for the season with two homeruns and leads UMass with 12 RBI. Junior Brett Evangelista and sophomore Ryan Lever are hitting .298 and .296, respectively, for the Minutemen, with each driving in seven runs so far this season.

The UMass pitching staff has left something to be desired for Minutemen fans so far this season, as they sport a 5.33 team-ERA, allowing opponents to bat .288 off them as a whole. Through 15 games, UMass pitchers have allowed 41 extra-base hits, including 11 homeruns, and given up 85 total runs, 74 of which have been earned. The Eagles will be facing right hander Connor Donahue on Wednesday afternoon. The sophomore is 0-1 on the season in four appearances (two starts) with a 4.38 ERA. Donahue is third on the Minutemen staff with 17 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched and is holding opposing batters to a .227 average, meaning the BC hitters will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday afternoon.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

The Eagles finished the first full month of the season with an overall record of 7-14, with a 1-8 mark in the ACC. The good news for the Eagles and head coach Mike Gambino is that the early season gauntlet of ACC foes is now behind them (@ #2 FSU, @ #1 Louisville, and “home” vs. #6 Clemson) and they can maybe start to find a rhythm as they play nine games in the next 14 days.

On the year, the Eagles are hitting .222 as a team, but have face a litany of top-arms in their first 21 games of 2017. Leading all everyday players is sophomore catcher Gian Martellini, who is batting .267 on the season with six doubles and 12 RBI. Behind him, senior outfielder Michael Strem is batting .256 with three doubles and nine RBI. He is also a perfect four-for-four on stolen base attempts this season. Juniors Mitch Bigras and Donovan Casey are hitting .250 and .244, respectively, and have combined to drive in 20 Eagles’ baserunners. Also, senior Captain Johnny Adams is starting to heat up, after a 4 for 11 weekend versus Clemson raised his average nearly 30 points to .216. Perhaps facing the midweek staff of UMass will give the Eagles’ hitters the shot in the arm they need to get going as they enter the meat of their season.

On the mound, BC has been pretty good, amassing a 4.43 team-ERA, and holding opposing batters to a .244 average. Where BC pitchers have gotten into trouble, however, is in the amount of walks they have issued through 21 games: 103. That amount of free bases will always come back to haunt a team, so the Eagles’ arms really need to focus on pounding the strike zone early and often in their games this week if they want to be successful. Sophomore Jack Nelson will get the ball on Wednesday versus UMass. The right hander was great in his only other start of the season last week at Northeastern, throwing four shutout innings en route to earning the win. On the season, Nelson has compiled a 2.38 ERA in six appearances, mostly out of the bullpen, and his holding the opposition to a .179 batting average.

Prediction:

Sorry about this past weekend, everyone. I picked BC to take two of three from Clemson, and I was wrong. As I watched the games on Saturday and Sunday unfold, however, I thought surely, with the outstanding performances of Dan Metzdorf and Brian Rapp, the Eagles would come away with at least one win versus the Tigers. But, again, I was wrong. I apologize. With the series sweep at the hands of Clemson as a backdrop, the Eagles enter an important nine-game stretch in their season: “home” vs. UMass, at Virginia Tech, at Holy Cross, vs. Northeastern (Beanpot), and vs. North Carolina. Nine games in 14 days is a lot, but I feel that this will be the portion of the season we will look back on this summer and be able to say, “Ah, that’s where they were able to get it going,” or, “Well, that’s where their fate was sealed.” I’m not implying BC needs to go 9-0 during this stretch or the season is over; far from it, actually. What I am saying is the Eagles need to pick up some wins during the midweek and in the ACC during these two weeks to keep their postseason goals within reach, and it starts on Wednesday versus UMass. Nelson was outstanding last week in his start versus NU, pitching four-scoreless innings, and, equally as important, he issued only one walk. I think he continues that level of play against the Minutemen and BC picks up a big in-state win. On paper, this matchup seems to favor the Eagles. UMass has some talent on their roster, but they have not faced the level of competition that BC has so far this season. I think that experience bodes well for Boston College in this matchup, and they come away with some momentum heading to Blacksburg on high note, ready to climb back into the ACC race.