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Birdball Weekend Recap - NC State

The Eagles won an 8-3 contest on Saturday at Fenway Park in the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game and took both games of a doubleheader on Sunday to sweep the Wolfpack

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While the weather on Saturday afternoon was cold and rainy, the Eagles’ play on the field was anything but, as BC turned in an 8-3 win over NC State in front of 3,600 fans in the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park. The Eagles then turned around on Sunday and used dominant pitching performances to take both games of a doubleheader and sweep the Wolfpack in their second ACC series-win in as many weeks. Let’s take a closer look at all of this weekend’s action:

Saturday: Boston College 8 NC State 3:

Nearly four thousand people turned out on Saturday to support Pete Frates and NC State’s Chris Combs in the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park. Those who came out to watch BC did not leave disappointed, as Eagles’ starter Jacob Stevens threw 6.2 solid innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, while striking out four, en route to his fourth win of the season.

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first, scoring four runs off Wolfpack starter Sean Adler, chasing him from the game after only two-thirds of an inning pitched. Junior Donovan Casey led off the game with a single to centerfield and was followed by Jake Palomaki who walked. After a fly ball moved Casey to third on the tag-up, junior Mitch Bigras singled through the right side of the infield to score Casey. The next batter, sophomore Jake Alu, doubled to right field, plating Palomaki from third. Freshman Jacob Yish rounded out the scoring in the first inning when he singled, which scored Bigras and Alu and pushed the BC lead to four. At that point, NC State went to their bullpen and called on Johnny Piedmonte to replace Adler and stop the bleeding. He did just that, holding BC scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when, with the Wolfpack only trailing by one, the Eagles broke the game open. The home half of the sixth started well for BC, as senior Johnny Adams and freshman Brian Dempsey recorded back-to-back singles to put runners at first and third. After the Wolfpack again went to the bullpen, Casey hit a chopper in front of the mound that the NC State reliever fielded and threw home to try and nail the BC runner at the plate. However, his throw was offline and the run scored, making the game 5-3 in favor of the Eagles. Palomaki then laid down a sacrifice bunt which was fielded by the pitcher, but again the throw to first went wide, allowing Palomaki to reach safely, loading the bases for BC. Senior Michael Strem then singled to left field, scoring a pair of runs to push the Eagles’ lead to four. Catcher Gian Martellini capped the scoring for Boston College in the next at bat with a single to left to make the score 8-3 in favor of the home team. Great relief appearances by John Witkowski and Donovan Casey kept the score there for the remainder of the game and the Eagles took home their fourth conference win of the season on an emotional day at Fenway Park.

Jake Alu led BC at the plate by going 3 for 4 on the afternoon with two doubles and an RBI. Freshman Jacob Yish continued his recent hot streak, going 2 for 4 in the game, while driving in two BC runs. Michael Strem and Mitch Bigras each went 2 for 5 and combined for three RBI. The Eagles recorded 16 hits in the game with every player in the lineup recording at least one.

Sunday Game One: Boston College 2 NC State 1:

Rain moved Friday afternoon’s originally scheduled game to Sunday morning at 10:30am as part of a doubleheader to end the series between the Eagles and Wolfpack, but the quick turnaround from the end of Saturday’s game to Sunday morning didn’t seem to bother Eagle’s starter Dan Metzdorf, as the lefthander threw a career-high eight innings, while only giving up three hits and a single run en route to the win.

Runs were scarce throughout Sunday’s twin-billing, and the Eagles played small ball early to get on the board. With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Jake Alu and Jacob Yish hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners off NC State starter Brian Brown. The next BC batter, Johnny Adams, laid down a perfect safety squeeze down the first base line that scored Alu to give the Eagles an early 1-0 lead. That would be all the offense the Eagles would muster until late in the game as Brown and reliever Austin Staley combined to hold Boston College scoreless until the bottom of the eighth. In that frame, with the game now tied at one apiece thanks to a Brock Deathrage sacrifice fly, junior Jake Palomaki led off with a single to left field and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Michael Strem. After a wild pitch moved him to third, Palomaki was plated when Gian Martellini doubled just inside the third base line, to give the Eagles a 2-1 advantage heading into the ninth. Closer Donovan Casey recorded a perfect inning to shut the door on the Wolfpack in the ninth, giving Boston College their second series win in as many weeks.

The story of the game was Dan Metzdorf’s pitching. The eight innings he threw totaled the longest outing of his career and his command of the strike zone (he only issued a single walk) held the NC State lineup in check all afternoon. Offensively, the biggest hit of the day belonged to Martellini, as his double in the eighth was the difference in the game. He was 1 for 4 at the with the aforementioned RBI. Jake Alu and Jacob Yish each remained hot at the plate in 1 for 3 days, as were Strem and Palomaki who also each recorded a hit in three at bats.

Sunday Game Two: Boston College 1 NC State 0:

As mentioned above, runs came at a premium in Sunday’s doubleheader, and, believe it or not, game two of Sunday’s doubleheader had even less action than game one, thanks to one of the most dominating pitching performances of the season turned in by Boston College starter Brian Rapp.

The junior righthander battled NC State freshman starter Michael Bienlien all afternoon, and it was the older Rapp who walked away with the 1-0 win in a complete-game shutout performance that saw him scatter three hits and strikeout six batters, while only issuing two walks. The game’s lone run came in the bottom of the seventh inning when freshman Jacob Yish led off with a hit-by-pitch and was replaced on the base paths by speedy sophomore Dominic Hardway. The next batter, Johnny Adams, did his job and moved Hardaway to second with a sacrifice bunt down the first base line. Brian Dempsey then grounded out to the pitcher, moving Hardaway to third. A wild pitch from NC State Pitcher Dalton Feeney, who had come on in relief of Bienlien, scored Hardaway and gave the Eagles a 1-0 advantage. It would be all they would need as Rapp, at that point, was locked in, facing only two batters over the minimum in the final two innings to secure the win and series sweep for the Eagles.

Much like in game one, the story of game two was the dominance of Brian Rapp. After a shaky outing at Duke a weekend ago, the righthander found a groove on Sunday and needed only 120 pitches to close out the ‘Pack. Jake Alu was BC’s leading hitter in game two, going 2 for 3 and extending his current hitting streak to seven games. Gian Martellini was 1 for 3 on the afternoon with a double and a walk. Jake Palomaki and Johnny Adams were the only other two Eagles to record hits in the game, as Palomaki was 1 for 4 and Adams 1 for 2.

Some thoughts on the weekend’s series against NC State:

First and foremost, what an amazing day on Saturday. The weather wasn’t the best, but thousands of fans, both for BC and NC State, still poured into Fenway Park to support Pete Frates and Chris Combs and their mission to strike out ALS. Just awesome to see. And, on top of that, the Eagles got the win. Check that; they got ALL the wins. This weekend’s series against the Wolfpack was the second ACC series-win of the season for BC and their first series sweep. Before we talk about the implication these three wins have on the rest of the season, I want to highlight the BC pitching staff from this weekend. All three starters and the two relievers (yes only two relievers were used on the weekend, Witkowski and Casey) were outstanding. Jacob Stevens with a great outing at Fenway, and Metzdorf and Rapp with spectacular outings today, held the NC State lineup to four total runs on the weekend. That kind of production is phenomenal and something that the Eagles will need moving into their final three ACC series. I also really liked that BC went back to the basics this weekend when the situation called for it, namely, playing small ball when it was apparent that one or two runs would be enough to win a game. The fact that a few sacrifice bunts and a safety squeeze were perfectly executed is a testament to coaching, as those are things that can be lost along the way during the course of the season, and can go unpracticed. The flawless execution this late in the season, when they haven’t been utilized that much to-date, shows me that it’s something the Eagles work on daily, which will be important down the stretch. OK, now for the good stuff. A few weeks ago, in my Midseason Review, I wrote that BC was not out of the hunt for the ACC tournament even though they sat at 1-14 in conference. I could hear the laughter from readers of the site through my computer. Now, after going 5-1 in their last six conference games, BC sits at 6-15 in the ACC and is tied with Georgia Tech two games outside of the final spot in Louisville. There is good news and bad news with BC’s current position. Let’s start with the bad news: BC doesn’t play either Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh this season, two teams who are very vulnerable and are right around them in the standings. Those would be really good series to play down the stretch to pick up a few wins to push ahead in the race for the tournament. Unfortunately, the Eagles close with series against Miami, at Wake Forest, and against Notre Dame, which leads into the good news. Notre Dame is one of the four teams sitting at 8-13 in conference and would be one of the team’s BC would need to jump to get into the field of 12. The Fighting Irish play at home versus Duke and Louisville before finishing up ACC play at BC. That schedule for ND, to me, looks like it has some losses still on it. I think it’s foolish to believe that BC will run the table in their last nine conference games, but because ND has some probable losses still remaining, BC does have a little wiggle room to work with if they need it. It is possible that the final series of the year against Notre Dame will be a win-and-in type situation for BC, especially since the Eagles hold the tiebreaker over two teams currently ahead of them, NC State and Duke, should they end up with identical conference records. Again, the Eagles do need some help. Notre Dame being swept by Louisville in a couple of weeks would be very advantageous, as would the Eagles stealing a game or two from a very good Wake Forest team on the road. One thing is certain, though: Boston College cannot afford to be swept in any of its final three series. They need to continue taking games to keep pace. No matter what happens, I think these past two weekends show where this team actually is right now. The further we get away from the first half of the conference slate (FSU, Louisville, Clemson, VT, and UNC) the more it becomes apparent that those teams (minus VT) are the cream of the crop in the country which sheds a different light on the Eagles 1-14 mark against them. We’ll give updates on the ACC postseason picture as the weeks roll on, but this series sweep is just what the Eagles needed to actually get themselves back in the hunt.