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Birdball Weekend Preview - Virginia Tech

Once again, the Eagles will hit the road for an ACC series, this time to Blacksburg, VA to face the Hokies.

Image courtesy of BCEagles.com
BCEagles.com

After steamrolling UMass on Wednesday afternoon in Northborough, Massachusetts, the Boston College baseball team will look to keep the momentum going this weekend as they, once again, hit the road for an ACC series, this time in Blacksburg, Virginia, where they’ll face Virginia Tech. This looks to be the most evenly matched conference series of the season so far for BC, as the Eagles began ACC play with consecutive weekends at #2 Florida State, #1 Louisville, and “home” versus #5 Clemson. It should be really fun to watch. Let’s dive a little deeper into this matchup with the Hokies:

Game Location:

English Field at Union Park, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Game Times:

Friday, March 31st @ 5:30pm ET vs. Virginia Tech

Saturday, April 1st @1pm ET vs. Virginia Tech

Sunday, April 2nd @ 1pm ET vs. Virginia Tech

Projected Starters:

Friday: BC: So. RHP Jacob Stevens (2-2, 3.12 ERA) vs. VT: Jr. RHP Connor Coward (4-0, 1.60 ERA)

Saturday: BC: So. LHP Dan Metzdorf (1-3, 3.27 ERA) vs. VT: r-Jr. RHP Nick Anderson (4-2, 3.00 ERA)

Sunday: BC: Jr. RHP Brian Rapp (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. VT: r-Sr. LHP Kit Scheetz (3-0, 3.33 ERA)

How to Watch/Listen:

All three of this weekend’s games will be covered on Gametracker, with audio commentary of Friday and Sunday’s contests also being streamed online via Hokiesports.com. Friday night’s matchup will also be aired on ACCN Extra via WatchESPN. Saturday’s game will be covered on the TUNEIN Radio app and Fans in the Blacksburg area can also listen to the action on WBNW 102.9 FM and 1120 AM. Links to all of these outlets can be found on the schedule page of Boston College baseball at BCEagles.com.

What you should know about the Virginia Tech Hokies:

Head coach Pat Mason and his Virginia Tech baseball team, to this point, have endured a season filled with highs and lows. At its peak, this year has seen the Hokies take an ACC series from national power Florida State, two games to one, and at its lowest, has seen VT get swept by Pitt and Binghamton University, and, on Tuesday, beaten by Campbell University, 15-8. Despite their recent struggles, rest assured the Hokies will come ready to play this weekend in Blacksburg.

Offensively, Virginia Tech has been decent throughout the year, hitting .289 as a team coming into this weekend’s action. Their lineup boasts four everyday players hitting above .320, and, as a team, VT has smashed an astounding 49 homeruns through 27 games on the season. Redshirt sophomore Jack Owens and senior Ryan Tufts, a BC High graduate, lead the Hokies with .383 and .337 averages, respectively, and have combined to drive in 33 runs and belt nine homers. Behind the pair is redshirt junior Sam Fragale, who may be one of the most dangerous hitters in the ACC, as the infielder is hitting .336 with nine homeruns and 34 RBI. Fragale also has speed to go along with his power as he leads the ACC in triples with three. Outfielder Tom Stoffel is dangerous at the plate as well, as the redshirt junior is hitting .324 with four homeruns and 27 RBI. Also, keep an eye on two-way player Nick Anderson. Not only will the right hander start on Saturday versus the Eagles, he is likely to hit for himself from the DH spot, as the sometime-outfielder is hitting .348 on the season with four homeruns and 15 RBI in 18 total starts.

On the mound, the Eagles will face a Virginia Tech staff that has struggled as a unit so far this season. While the starters for this weekend’s series are fairly strong, Connor Coward, Nick Anderson, and Kit Scheetz all boast sub-four ERAs, the majority of pitchers the Hokies have sent to the mound this season have compiled earned run averages north of six. This presents a great opportunity for BC: knock Virginia Tech’s starter out of the game early, and (hopefully) take advantage of the Hokies beleaguered bullpen. It will be especially important for the Eagles to score plenty of runs this weekend, as we have already covered the power-prowess Virginia Tech possesses.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

After being shut out by Clemson on Saturday and Sunday a week ago, Mike Gambino’s squad came to life in spectacular fashion during the midweek, as they ran over UMass 13-1. In the game, BC got another great pitching performance from Jack Nelson and bullpen, and junior Donovan Casey hit for the cycle in his first four at bats. While the dominance displayed over UMass was impressive, the Eagles will need to regroup and refocus as they head south, if they want to take this all-important ACC series from Virginia Tech on the road.

Offensively, Boston College got a huge shot in the arm on Wednesday, as they pounded out 11 hits, eight of which went for extra bases. Even with that output during the midweek, the Eagles are still hitting only .226 as a team, while slugging .282. The lineup is led by the aforementioned Casey, who sports a .277 batting average with three doubles, a triple, and one homerun, while knocking in nine BC baserunners. Behind Casey is sophomore catcher Gian Martellini who is batting .273 with a homerun and a team-leading 14 RBI. Michael Strem and Mitch Bigras are also vital parts of the lineup, as the pair is hitting .265 and .250, respectively, with a combined 25 runs batted in on the season. After a 2 for 3 performance on Wednesday that saw him lace a pair of doubles, sophomore utility man Jake Alu is now batting .228 and looks to be trending in the right direction.

On the bump, the Eagles will roll out the same rotation of Stevens, Metzdorf, and Rapp, that they featured a week ago versus Clemson. While the usually steady Jacob Stevens faltered a little against the Tigers, Dan Metzdorf and Brian Rapp were electric, combining for 13 innings of shutout baseball and 11 strikeouts. The trio will need to be at their best once again this weekend to slow down the potent Virginia Tech offense, as will the bullpen whose members have been very good over the last few weeks, lowering BC’s team ERA to 4.27. Look for Nelson, Bobby Skogsbergh, Carmen Giampetruzzi, John Witkowski, and Donovan Casey to get some time on the mound this weekend and help tame the Hokies’ bats.

Prediction:

I have a good number of thoughts on this weekend’s series. First, I want to point out that BC and VT are almost polar opposites. While Virginia Tech relies on the long ball and extra base hits to outslug their opponent and make up for their lack of pitching, Boston College relies on exceptional pitching and defense, paired with timely hitting, to win games. And, because of this dichotomy, I think this will be a really entertaining series to watch. Second, the two teams are trending in opposite directions: BC is coming off their most forceful win of the season, and VT has dropped their last four contests to less-than-stellar competition. So, who will be more motivated this weekend: the team on a hot “streak” (I’m counting the final two games versus Clemson as “hot” due to the pitching performances in each) or the team looking to get off the L-Train? Third, the wind will have a lot to say about the outcome of this weekend’s series. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Hokies’ hitters, but 49 homeruns in only 27 games in a little ridiculous. Now, English Field isn’t tiny, but when the wind blows, the ball has the tendency to fly out of there. Again, I’m not saying that 49 homeruns as a team is a fluke, but I will go on record and say that some of them, if not a lot of them, would’ve been outs in other ballparks. The forecast for Blacksburg looks alright, minus the possibility of a thunderstorm on Friday afternoon, but there is a chance it will be breezy on Friday and Saturday, something BC pitchers will need to be aware of throughout the weekend and make sure they keep the ball down in the zone. Fourth, there is a connection between these two clubs, as Mike Gambino was an assistant at VT from 2007-2010. The players presently at Tech were never recruited or coached by Gambino, but, hey, we’re all human and even if it never affected you personally, there will always be that extra desire to win against the guy who left your program. Do I think this is a big factor this weekend that will have an impact on the outcome of series? No, not really. I just think it’s something interesting to keep an eye on throughout the weekend. So, with all of that said, what is my prediction? Honestly, this series is the most evenly matched of the year so far. It could go either way. If it turns into a slugfest, BC will be at a disadvantage, as the Eagles have only sent three balls over the fence all year to the Hokies 49. However, I don’t think it will come to that. I think Jacob Stevens returns to form this weekend and takes care of the Hokies on Friday, and Metzdorf and Rapp keep enough balls in the yard on Saturday and Sunday to allow the BC offense to bully the VT bullpen, en route to a 2-1 series win in Blacksburg. Taking an ACC series on the road is always tough, but taking this one would be extra-sweet as it would pull Boston College back into the Atlantic Division race and give them a ton of momentum heading into the midweek and next weekend’s ACC series at home (let’s pray) against UNC.