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Birdball Weekend Recap - Duke

The Eagles earned their first ACC series-win of the season this weekend at Duke

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After coming from behind on Tuesday afternoon to take down the Harvard Crimson, the Boston College Eagles looked to carry over the momentum from that win into their weekend series at ACC-foe Duke. And, that’s exactly what they did, as BC took their first conference series of the season, two games to one, over the Blue Devils. The series win puts the Eagles back into the hunt for a spot in the ACC tournament, though they will still need some wins and some help down the stretch to reach Louisville in late May. Let’s take a look at each of this weekend’s contests:

Friday: Boston College 3 Duke 1:

After three weeks of uncharacteristic starts, sophomore Jacob Stevens returned to his normal dominant form on Friday night, shutting down the Blue Devils in a seven inning start that saw him strike out three and allow only a single run. He and junior Donovan Casey, who threw perfect eighth and ninth innings, combined to hold Duke to a single hit on the night in one of the most dominant pitching performances in recent BC history.

The Blue Devils scored their only run of the game in bottom of the third on double, sacrifice bunt, and sacrifice fly. That would be all the offense they would muster the entire game, and their lead would be short lived, as BC took control of the contest the following inning. Donovan Casey and Jake Palomaki led off the inning with back to back singles, and moved to second and third, respectively, on a throwing error by Duke’s third baseman. Senior Michael Strem then hit a grounder to third, scoring Casey to tie the game. Then, with two outs, junior Mitch Bigras doubled to left-center to drive in Palomaki, giving BC the 2-1 lead. Boston College would add an insurance run in the fifth, as Johnny Adams led off the inning with a single, and moved to third base on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from freshman Jacob Yish. On the relay throw into the infield from Yish’s sac fly, Duke’s shortstop neglected to cut the ball off, allowing Adams to sneak home, push the Eagles’ lead to 3-1. That would be the finally tally as Stevens and Casey dominated the Blue Devils in the final four innings of the game.

Aside from the outstanding performance on the mound, BC was led by Palomaki at the plate, as the junior was 2 for 4 on the night in his first full game back from an injury he sustained more than two weeks ago. Mitch Bigras also had a nice night, going 1 for 4 with a double and the would-be game winning RBI.

Saturday: Boston College 15 Duke 6:

What started out looking like a game that Duke was controlling, quickly turned into a blow out that saw Boston College post its best offensive day of the season, scoring 15 runs on 20 hits en route to a series clinching win over the Blue Devils.

Duke jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a pair of singles and a three-run homerun from Griffin Conine. Boston College would get a run back in the top of the second as junior Donovan Casey ripped a double with runners on the corners, making the score 3-1 in favor of Duke. However, the Blue Devils would answer right back in the bottom half of the second, scoring two more to push their lead to four. Momentum quickly shifted in the top of the fourth when, trialing by the score of 5-1, freshman Jacob Yish singled to centerfield. He was moved to third when Brian Dempsey laced a single of his own, though he was thrown out trying to advance to second base. After Duke made a pitching change, Casey singled to score Yish, making the score 5-3, and was moved to third on back-to-back walks. With the bases loaded, sophomore Gian Martellini stepped into the batter’s box and promptly crushed his first career grand slam well over the left field fence, giving the Eagles a 6-5 advantage. After a quiet fifth inning, BC returned to bat in the top of the sixth and blew the game open, scoring nine runs on six hits and two Duke errors. Though there was a ton of offense in the inning, the two biggest blows came when Johnny Adams and Jacob Yish smashed back-to-back doubles to plate a combined four runs. After that display of power, the Eagles cruised through the final three frames, only giving up one more run to make the final score 15-6.

Offensively, the Eagles crushed the baseball all game. Martellini went 2 for 6 on the afternoon with his monstrous grand slam and five RBI. Brian Dempsey and Jake Alu both had four hits on the afternoon, as Alu went 4 for 6 with a run scored and Dempsey went 4 for 5. Donovan Casey and Jacob Yish each tallied 3 for 5 days, with Yish recording the first double of his young career. John Witkowski recorded the win on the mound for the Eagles after throwing one and a third innings of scoreless relief.

Sunday: Duke 9 Boston College 2:

After two games in which the BC dominated their opponent, it seemed as though the Eagles ran out of steam on Sunday, as they fell to the Blue Devils in the series finale 9-2. The game was never really in doubt, as Duke jumped out to a 9-0 lead through six innings, with BC only able to muster a pair of runs late in the game.

In the top of the seventh, trialing by nine, the Eagles loaded the bases on a leadoff single by Jacob Yish, a hit by pitch to Brian Dempsey, and a single by Donovan Casey. Two groundouts from Michael Strem and Jake Palomaki plated two BC runs to cut the lead to seven, but that would be all she wrote for Boston College during the game.

Offensively, junior Donovan Casey paced the Eagles, going 2 for 3 on the day with a walk. Mitch Bigras was 1 for 3 at the plate and Brian Dempsey was 1 for 2, both working a walk. Brian Rapp shouldered the loss for the Eagles, throwing four innings and giving up five earned runs.

Some thoughts on the weekend:

Now that’s more like it! Though it would’ve been great to see a series sweep today, getting an ACC series-win (on the road, to boot) is a giant step in the right direction for this team. Not only does it put BC back into the picture for one of the final spots in Louisville (we’ll talk about this more in a minute), it also gets the team feeling good going into one of the most emotional, and important, weeks of the season with the Beanpot Championship on Wednesday and the Annual ALS Awareness game on Saturday. The UNC series and subsequent come from behind win at Harvard really seem to have refocused this group (today not withstanding), putting them on the right track moving forward. Now, as for the postseason, obviously, barring an improbable finish, the NCAA Tournament is out of the question. However, the ACC Tournament is still within this team’s grasp. More than likely, the final team to get into the field of 12 will have anywhere between 8-10 ACC wins which means, as it stands now, the Eagles will need between 5-7 more wins, plus some help with teams in front of them (GT, VT, ND, Duke, and Pitt) losing down the stretch, to get in. With series remaining against a vulnerable NC State team (which includes the aforementioned ALS Game) and Notre Dame, plus a home series against a down-year Miami, 5-7 wins is not out of the realm of possibility. Will BC get the help it needs down the stretch? Who knows. Will they finish at .500 or possible above? Maybe. maybe not. But, one thing is certain, this weekend’s series win has given this team new life, which seemed almost impossible after last week’s drubbing by UNC. However, before the Eagles can think about NC State and getting more ACC wins, they first need to focus on beating Dartmouth on Tuesday in Hanover (a team and place that has given them trouble in the past) and Harvard on Wednesday in the Beanpot Championship at Fenway Park.