After being swept at Virginia Tech over the weekend, the Boston College baseball team returns to the Bay State to take on Holy Cross and Northeastern during the midweek, before hosting the University of North Carolina this weekend in what should be their first home conference series of the 2017 season. The matchup on Tuesday between the Crusaders and Eagles is the rescheduled date of the March 14th game that was postponed due to inclement weather, and Wednesday’s contest against Northeastern is the first round of the 2017 Baseball Beanpot. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s midweek action:
Tuesday: Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
Wednesday: Pellagrini Diamond at Shea Field, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Tuesday, April 4th @ 4:35pm ET vs. Holy Cross
Wednesday, April 5th @ 3pm ET vs. Northeastern
Tuesday: BC: TBA vs. HC: TBA
Wednesday: BC: So. RHP Jack Nelson (2-0, 1.76 ERA) vs. NU: TBA
How to Watch/Listen:
Both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s contests can be streamed via WZBC on the TUNEIN Radio app, with Wednesday’s game versus Northeastern also being covered on Gametracker. All links to follow the action can be found on the baseball schedule page of BCEagles.com.
What you should know about the Holy Cross Crusaders:
Holy Cross and head coach Greg DiCenzo enter Tuesday’s contest 6-16 overall, with a 1-1 mark in the Patriot League (they have a double header on Monday vs. Navy). After starting the season with seven-straight losses, the Crusaders have rebounded somewhat as of late, winning six of their last 15. Much like Boston College, Holy Cross has yet to play a game on their home field, as Tuesday is slated to be their first game at Hanover Insurance Park.
Through 22 games this spring, Holy Cross is batting .248 as a team, and boasts two everyday players hitting over the .300 mark. Senior first baseman Anthony Critelli leads the Crusaders’ offense with a .328 batting average, four doubles, four homeruns, and 12 RBI. Behind Critelli is freshman outfielder Austin Masel who is batting .318 with two homeruns and 12 RBI in the early going of his collegiate career. Also, keep an eye on Cam O’Neill. The junior infielder is only hitting .200 for the season, but he has already launched four homeruns and leads his team in RBI with 16, so, it appears to be either feast or famine for the BB&N graduate.
On the mound, the pitching staff of Holy Cross has been shaky to start the season, as they have compiled a team-ERA of nearly six, and have allowed opposing batters to hit .301 against them as a unit. While Tuesday’s starting pitcher has yet to be announced, candidates for the role include, right-hander Zach Fox, right-hander Pat McGowan, and right-hander Justin Finan. All three have earned run averages well above five, and could help the BC offense carry over some of their offensive success at Virginia Tech to this week.
What you should know about the Northeastern Huskies:
Two weeks ago, Boston College downed Northeastern, and head coach Mike Glavine, 10-7 in Brookline. Since that game, the Huskies have gone 4-3, most recently sweeping a CAA road-series against Towson. They will play at UConn on Tuesday afternoon, before heading to Chestnut Hill on Wednesday for the first-round of the 2017 Baseball Beanpot Tournament.
Offensively, the Huskies are led by junior shortstop Max Burt, who is hitting a solid .362 on the season with three homeruns and 19 RBI. In the March 21st meeting between the two teams, Burt went 1 for 3 with a walk, as NU’s number five hitter. Following Burt is senior third baseman Cam Hanley who is batting and even .350 on the year with a pair of homeruns and 19 runs batted in. The Eagles pitching staff held Hanley to a 1 for 5 performance earlier this season, but the Walpole native did drive in one of NU’s seven runs. After missing time earlier in the year, senior Nick Fanneron has come on strong as of late, batting .342 with four homeruns and 15 RBI in only nine starts. In the March meeting between BC and NU, Fanneron smacked a pitch-hit homerun in the bottom of the ninth to pull Northeastern within three. As evidenced by their ferocious comeback two weeks ago, the Northeastern lineup is not to be taken lightly, as they possess the power necessary to put up a lot of runs very quickly.
After giving up 10 runs to BC in their first meeting, the NU pitching staff has not fared too well, as their team-ERA still stands at 6.63 with opponents hitting .288 off of them. The last time out, the Eagles beat up on freshman left-hander Sean Mellen, so, although the Huskies have not announced their starter for Wednesday, do not expect to see him take the ball again. Possible candidates to start on the hill for NU include, right-hander Kyle Murphy, left-hander Andrew Misiaszek, and right-hander Tom Githens. All three have ERA’s above eight in limited starts on the season, so, those numbers may be misleading, and, as we saw in March, BC must continually pound Northeastern’s pitching staff, as even a double-digit lead can slip away if the Eagles become complacent at the plate.
What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:
While the first four weekends in the ACC have not treated BC kindly, to the tune of a 1-11 conference record, the midweek contests so far this season have actually gone in the Eagles favor, as they are 3-1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so far this year. Granted, those games were played against Ball State, Toledo, Northeastern, and UMass, but, hey, you can only play the team across from you, and in those contests BC has done well.
Thanks to a 6 for 13 weekend in Blacksburg, Donovan Casey now leads the Eagles’ offense with a .302 batting average, and has become the first everyday player to climb over the .300 mark on the season. The junior has also added a homerun and 11 RBI in 25 games this year. Behind Casey are Gian Martellini and Jake Alu, the two hottest hitters in the Boston College lineup. Martellini provides much of the power in the middle of the BC order, as the sophomore is hitting .287 with a team-leading two homeruns and 16 RBI. Alu had a nice weekend at Virginia Tech, going 6 for 10 with two RBI, raising his season average to .284 and his runs batted in total to 10. Michael Strem also seems to finding his old self, as the senior crushed three doubles in the series at VT, bringing his team-leading total to seven two-baggers on the year.
On the mound, the Eagles pitching staff took step back this past weekend as their team-ERA climbed to 4.98, though opposing batters are still only hitting .258 against them. As always, limiting walks will be key for the BC staff during the midweek, as free bases will always spell trouble for teams facing inferior competition, either perceived or real. BC has yet to announce a starter for Tuesday’s game at Holy Cross, but has tentatively slotted right-hander Jack Nelson to start on Wednesday versus Northeastern. Nelson got the ball against the Huskies two weeks ago and turned in an impressive performance, throwing four shutout innings and allowing only a single hit, en route to the win. On the year, the sophomore is 2-0 with a team-leading 1.76 ERA in seven appearances.
Stop me if this sounds familiar. The forecast for Tuesday does not look great. Neither does the one for Thursday, but more on that in a minute. What that means is that there is a better than average chance that yet another BC midweek game will be postponed or, since the game versus Holy Cross was already rescheduled once, cancelled. What worries me more than the game in Worcester on Tuesday, is the implication it will have on Wednesday’s game. If it rains hard enough on Tuesday to cancel the Holy Cross game, I have to believe at the very least, given the beating Shea Field has already taken this spring, Wednesday’s contest will be moved to Brookline, and that sucks. If that happens, it will mark the 26th game to start the season that Boston College will have played on the road. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again here: playing away from home for elongated periods of time, even if it’s just 15 minutes up the road, sucks the life out of a team. It’s hard enough to start the season with a 15 game road trip down south, but now BC is facing the very real possibility of having to nearly double that number before playing its first game on campus. It’s ridiculous. Now, as for Thursday’s forecast, The Weather Channel is calling for a high of 45 degrees with a 100 percent chance of rain. Yes, 100. Granted, it is only Monday and the forecast could change, but that number is not encouraging. I have to believe that Matty Hayes and the guys are going to do literally anything and everything in their power to have Shea ready for this weekend, but at some point Mother Nature always wins. I am hoping and praying it does not happen, but if the forecast holds true, at the very least, Friday’s game against UNC may be moved to somewhere with field turf, like the New England Baseball Complex, before returning to Shea for a very soggy Saturday and Sunday, if not all three games moved. There is also the possibility of playing a doubleheader on Saturday or Sunday to keep the games on Shea, but field conditions and the ACC’s travel curfew will have a say in that decision as well. Again, I hope I’m wrong and the forecast clears up and the Eagles are able to play four games at home this week in the Birdcage, but I’m preparing myself for the worst. All this entire situation does for me is reinforce the notion that the athletic administration needs to listen to Mike Gambino and others around the baseball team regarding the absolute necessities of the program in the new stadium (field turf, indoor cages and mounds, locker rooms, etc.) to prevent this awful situation from occurring in future seasons. Though, I fear that with Fr. Leahy still in power, and Brad Bates on his way out, any pleading to change the stadium plans at this point will be met with an ambivalent shrug of the shoulders, if not an outstretched middle-finger. Now that I’ve rambled on about the weather and stadium for five minutes, let me speak quickly about this week’s action: I think BC takes both games. In a wildly inconsistent year for the Eagles, there has been one constant: they have taken advantage of midweek pitching, and I think that trend continues against Holy Cross and Northeastern. Also, even though the Baseball Beanpot is not nearly as visible or highly-regarded as its hockey counterpart, I can tell you, it means something to the players. You never want to be thought of as the second, third, or fourth-best team in the Boston-area, especially if you’re BC and play in the best conference in the country. So, with that in mind, I think the Eagles take the Huskies again, earn a spot in the Beanpot Championship game at Fenway in a few weeks, and record a couple of important wins heading into their home series against UNC. Let’s just hope the rain holds off…