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Birdball Weekend Recap - Virginia Tech

The Eagles got a great start from Brian Rapp on Sunday, but were walked off in 10 innings for the series sweep

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The trip to Blacksburg did not go as Boston College hoped, as the Eagles were swept in another ACC road series by the Virginia Tech Hokies. On the weekend, BC was outscored 30-13: 16-4 on Friday, 10-6 on Saturday, and 4-3 in 10 innings on Sunday. While the series outcome was not in the Eagles favor, they fought valiantly on Sunday and came up one out short of taking a game from the Hokies. Let’s take a closer look at the action from this weekend:

Friday: Virginia Tech 16 Boston College 4:

Boston College starting pitcher Jacob Stevens was tagged for five runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings on Friday night, and shouldered the loss for the Eagles. His stat line, however, is a bit misleading as he did strike out six Hokie batters during his outing, and two of the five runs the right hander gave up were solo home runs that were more than a little wind aided. Regardless, the Hokies broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning and never looked back.

Virginia Tech got the scoring going in the bottom of the second inning when JD Mundy lifted a fly ball high into the jet-stream that carried over the centerfield fence, giving the Hokies a one run lead. BC would respond in the top of the third after Anthony Maselli led off the inning with a single off the Virginia Tech pitcher’s glove and Donovan Casey walked, to put two on with no outs. The next batter, senior Johnny Adams, doubled to left field, scoring Maselli, and moving Casey to third. Michael Strem then grounded out to second base, scoring Casey, giving the Eagles the 2-1 advantage. The Hokies escaped the inning without further damage. Virginia Tech would again pull ahead in the bottom of the frame as a leadoff double, wild pitch, and sacrifice fly would give them a 3-2 lead. Still trailing by one in the top of the fifth, Casey led off with a single to left, and subsequently stole second base to move into scoring position. After a Johnny Adams groundout moved him to third, he was brought home with two outs as catcher Gian Martellini doubled to right-center, tying the game at three. However, the Hokies would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the fifth, and would not relinquish the advantage on Friday night. The only other offense the Eagles could muster came in the top of the seventh after VT’s relief pitcher, Joey Sullivan, walked the bases loaded and was replaced by Paul Hall Jr. who promptly recorded a strikeout, but walked the next BC batter, Jake Alu, pushing BC’s fourth run of the game across the plate. Unfortunately for the Eagles, at the time, that run made the score 12-4 in favor of the home team, who would then tally four more runs in the bottom of the eighth, giving them a 16-4 victory in the first game of the weekend series.

Offensively, the Eagles were led by Adams who enjoyed a 2 for 4 day at the plate with an RBI. Casey also had a nice night, as the junior was 1 for 3 with two walks, while scoring three times. Sophomore Jake Alu also drove in a run on the evening with his seventh inning walk in a 1 for 2 performance.

Saturday: Virginia Tech 10 Boston College 6:

Virginia Tech jumped out to a 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning and never trailed on Saturday, as they chased Boston College starter Dan Metzdorf from the game after five complete innings and six earned runs, en route to a 10-6 series-clinching win.

The Hokies used a leadoff walk, double, sacrifice fly, and RBI ground out to score two runs in the bottom of the first and added a solo homerun off the bat of Rahiem Cooper in the bottom of the second to take a 3-0 lead over BC into the top of the third inning. The Eagles got a pair of runs back in the third after Jack Cunningham led off the inning with a single to left, and advanced to second on a throwing error. The next batter, freshman Brian Dempsey, grounded to third, but a poor throw allowed him to advance to second base and Cunningham to advance to third. A wild pitch and ground out from Johnny Adams scored the pair to cut the Tech lead to one. The Hokies would respond in their half of the third, scoring a run to again push their lead to two. After a quiet fourth inning, BC chipped away at the VT lead once again, as Donovan Casey hit a one-out single to left and was moved to second after Adams walked. The next batter, Michael Strem, doubled to left center bringing in Casey, making the score 4-3. As was the trend on Saturday, the Hokies wouldn’t let the score get any closer, as they scored two more runs in the bottom of the frame on a two-run homerun from Sam Fragale, to make the score 6-3. In the top of the sixth, BC took advantage of a Virginia Tech pitching change, and tagged Hokie reliever Andrew McDonald for two runs, to again close the gap to one. After freshman Dante Baldelli led off the inning with a walk, Cunningham followed with his second hit of the day, and the pair was moved to second and third when Dempsey laid down a nice sacrifice bunt. Casey then singled through the left side to score Baldelli, and Adams laid down a perfect safety squeeze in the next at bat to plate Cunningham, making the score 6-5 in favor of the Hokies. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the bottom of the sixth proved to be the fatal blow, as VT scored four runs on only two hits in the inning, a solo homerun and a three-run shot, to push their lead to five runs. BC did add one more run in the game, as Gian Martellini hit his second homerun of the season, a solo shot to centerfield, in the top of the ninth, but the Eagles fell 10-6 on Saturday, giving Virginia Tech the series win.

Jake Alu led all BC hitters on the day, going 3 for 5 in the game. Cunningham, in only his second career start, had a great day at the plate, going 2 for 4 and scoring two runs. Casey and Martellini were both 2 for 5 on the day, and both drove in a run and scored a run to help the Eagles’ cause. Also, Michael Strem’s double in the fifth was the 52nd of his career, tying him for second all-time in the BC record books.

Sunday: Virginia Tech 4 Boston College 3 (10 innings):

Boston College got another great start out of Brian Rapp and took a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, but with two outs in the inning, Virginia Tech scored to tie the game and eventually walked-off the Eagles in the tenth, 4-3.

It looked like it was going to be another rocky day for BC as Virginia Tech jumped out to a 2-0 through the first two innings of Sunday’s contest, but Brian Rapp settled in and held the Hokies scoreless for the rest of his outing. Boston College got on the board in the top of the fourth when Jake Alu sent a double to centerfield, scoring Michael Strem who had doubled to lead off the inning, cutting the VT lead in half. After three more scoreless innings from each team, the Eagles would tie the game in the top of the eighth in the most unconventional of ways. Gian Martellini singled with one out and was moved to second base when Mitch Bigras grounded to first base. Martellini was then pinch run for by Dominic Hardaway. With the runner on second base, Jake Alu worked a full count at the plate. The payoff pitch was low and bounced by VT catcher Joe Freiday Jr. giving Alu first base. However, the ball go far enough away from Freiday Jr. that Alu took off for second, prompting a throw from the catcher. Hardaway, who had advanced to third on the passed ball, took off for home on the throw and scored easily. Alu was then caught in a rundown between first and second and was illegally contacted by a VT infielder, giving him second base. For all the hoopla, nothing else came from the inning, and the two teams headed to the top of the ninth locked at two runs apiece. In the top of ninth, BC took the lead after Jack Cunningham singled to start the frame, and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Dempsey. Donovan Casey, who at that point had come in to pitch in relief of Rapp, singled to leftfield, scoring Cunningham and giving the Eagles a 3-2 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth. In the home half of the frame, Casey got two quick outs, but a single, walk and a double, plated one Virginia Tech run, and pushed the game to extra innings. In the top of the tenth, BC went in order, and in the bottom of the frame, VT loaded the bases and walked off with a 4-3 victory on a Jack Owens single, giving the Hokies the series sweep.

As mentioned above, Brian Rapp did everything he could to earn a victory for his team, going seven strong innings, scattering five hits and allowing two runs, while striking out eight Hokie batters. Offensively, Casey led the team, going 3 for 5 on the afternoon with an RBI. Strem added to his career doubles total by smacking a pair of two-baggers on a 2 for 5 day while scoring a run. Jake Alu remained arguably the hottest hitter in the BC lineup going 2 for 3 with an RBI and a ‘heads-up’ base running play that allowed the tying run to score for BC in the eighth.

Some thoughts on the weekend:

The math is pretty simple. 30 runs in three games averages out to 10 runs a game. Not many teams, if any, can be successful giving up that kind of offense weekend after weekend. The Hokies hit seven homeruns in the series. I will go on record as saying that a majority of those were wind aided and a product of paying at English Field, but the fact remains, as a pitching staff, BC has to know that when playing in those known conditions, regardless of whether or not you actually believe their power stats, you have to keep the baseball down in the zone. Anything up could result in runs for the opposition. The scoreboard doesn’t care that the homerun was really a pop-up with some wind. It’s a homerun. So, understand that going in, and do a much better job of executing throughout the weekend. While this sweep puts BC in a precarious position moving forward, and the results do not sit well with yours truly, as always, I do want to highlight some individual efforts that we saw throughout the weekend. First and foremost, Brian Rapp has turned himself into one heck of a starting pitcher. It’s the third week in a row (5.1 inning relief appearance at Louisville two weeks ago) that the right-handed junior has taken the ball and put his team on his back to try and give them the opportunity to win, and it’s been fun to watch. Every staff needs that one guy who, no matter the surrounding circumstances, will give everything they have, to win, and I think Rapp is becoming one of those guys. Donovan Casey had himself a nice weekend at the plate, going a combined 6 for 13 on the weekend with four runs scored and two RBI. Also, Jake Alu has made the most of his time in the lineup, after being thrust into action due to multiple injuries, by becoming perhaps the most reliable hitter on this Boston College team. The do-it-all Alu was 6 for 10 on the weekend, while driving in a pair of runs. His performance since becoming an everyday starter has cemented his spot in the lineup moving forward. As it pertains to the post season, BC has put themselves in a very difficult position. Next weekend’s series versus UNC will mark the half-way point in the conference schedule and without a win or two against the Tar Heels at home (fingers crossed) the Eagles will find themselves with too much ground too make up in too little time. Now, is that to say, it can’t be done? No, of course not. This is baseball, a sport where teams go on incredible streaks all the time, but in the ultra-competitive ACC, and with the amount of injuries suffered by the Eagles to date, it will be extremely difficult. Before Boston College can focus on the visiting Heels, they’ll need to regroup for a pair of midweek games against Holy Cross, and the first round of the Beanpot Tournament on Wednesday versus Northeastern.