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Boston College Baseball ACC Tournament Preview - Game One: NC State

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The Eagles swept the Wolfpack during the regular season in Boston, which included the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park

Image courtesy of BCEagles.com
BCEagles.com

After capping off a series sweep of Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon in come-from-behind fashion, the Boston College baseball team was rewarded with the 11th seed in this week’s ACC Baseball Tournament where they’ll face both NC State and North Carolina as part of Pool B. 2017 is the first year of the new tournament format that features four three-team pools, with the winner of each pool advancing to semifinal games on Saturday. The winners of those two contests will then play for the conference title on Sunday on ESPN2. The Eagles will play NC State in their first contest on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm. Let’s take a closer look at that matchup:

Game Location:

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY

Game Time:

Tuesday, May 23rd @ 3pm ET vs. NC State

Projected Starters:

Tues: BC: So. RHP Jacob Stevens (5-6, 5.01 ERA) vs. NCSU: r-Sr. RHP Johnny Piedmonte (6-0, 1.88 ERA)

How to Watch/Listen:

Every game of the 2017 ACC Tournament will be broadcast nationally on the RSN family of networks, with Sunday’s Championship Game being broadcast on ESPN2. As part of that lineup, Tuesday’s contest between the Eagles and Wolfpack will be broadcast on NESN Plus, as well as streamed online on ACCN Extra via the WatchESPN App. The game will also be covered on Gametracker. Links to both online coverage options can be found on the baseball schedule page of BCEagles.com.

What you should know about the NC State Wolfpack:

Head Coach Elliot Avent’s NC State team, which was at one point in the season fighting for its postseason life, finished the second-half of the regular season on a tear, and enter postseason play with a 33-22 overall record, including a 16-14 mark in the ACC, earning them the seventh seed in the tournament. BC and NC State met during the regular season in Boston, with the Eagles taking all three games on the weekend, including the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park. Since that series however, the Wolfpack have been on fire, going 13-2 overall, with an 8-1 mark in the ACC, most recently, taking a series from Clemson, two games to one, in Raleigh.

Offensively, NC State boasts a .279 team batting average and features three players hitting .300 or above. Leading the way for the Wolfpack at the plate is catcher Brad Debo. The freshman leads the team with a .344 batting average and has added 17 doubles, four homeruns, and 41 RBI to his team’s cause this season. Behind Debo is centerfielder Josh McLain who is batting .317 with 19 doubles, four homeruns, and 28 RBI in 54 starts on the year. The junior also leads the team in stolen bases this season, as he has swiped 11 bags in 12 attempts. Freshman Will Wilson is also enjoying a nice first year in Raleigh, as the infielder is batting an even .300 to go along with seven homeruns and 43 RBI. By far, the biggest power-threat in the Wolfpack lineup is Joe Dunand. The junior infielder is hitting a solid .289 in 53 starts this season, but has launched a team-leading 16 homers and driven in 47 runs. Needless to say, the Boston College pitching staff will need to be careful handling Dunand and the rest of the NC State lineup if they want to start pool-play off with a win.

On the mound, NC State has been very good all season, amassing a 4.08 team-ERA and limiting the opposition to a .251 batting average. On Tuesday afternoon the Wolfpack will give the ball to 6’8 righthander Johnny Piedmonte who has put up the best numbers on NC State’s staff this season, with a 6-0 record and a 1.88 ERA. The Eagles have actually faced Piedmonte already this season, as the junior threw 4.1 innings of relief against BC in the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park. In that outing, the Boston College lineup tallied eight hits off Piedmonte and scored two runs, one of them earned. Because he is so tall, Piedmonte’s fastball will look much faster than it really is because of the downward plane on which it is thrown. The Eagles will need to on-time with their strides in the batter’s box in order to recognize pitch-type and velocity from the big righty.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

At one point this season, Head Coach Mike Gambino’s team was an ACC-worst 1-14 in conference with a 9-20 record overall. However, since that time, the Eagles have upped their level of play, finishing 16-6 down the stretch, including a 10-5 record in conference, to earn the 11th seed in this week’s ACC Tournament. The Eagles most recently swept the Notre Dame Fight Irish in a must-win series in Chestnut Hill.

Offensively, Boston College has continued to get better as the season has worn on, as they’ve raised their team batting average, which was once hovering around .220, to .256. The Eagles have also displayed more power at the plate in the second half of the season, most recently launching four homeruns in a come-from-behind victory over Notre Dame on Friday. Pacing the BC lineup is utility player Jake Alu. Only a sophomore, Alu has put together a fantastic year in his first season in the everyday lineup, batting a team-leading .335 with nine doubles and 23 RBI. Behind him in batting is catcher Gian Martellini who, in his second year in the program, is hitting .308, while leading the team in both homeruns and RBI, with five and 35, respectively. Two-way standout Donovan Casey has also been one of the steadiest performers in the Eagles’ lineup, as the junior is hitting a solid .290 with a pair of homeruns and 20 RBI to go along with a 3.03 ERA on the mound in 22 appearances, including five saves. Designated hitter Jacob Yish has been a pleasant surprise for the BC offense this season, as the freshman came on strong late in the year, hitting .284 with a homerun and 21 runs batted in only 21 starts.

On the mound, Boston College has had an up-and-down season, at times displaying sheer dominance, and at other times getting shelled by the opposition. However, the staff seemed to find its identity down the stretch and lowered its team-ERA to 5.17, while allowing opposing hitters to bat .262 off them. Mike Gambino will go to his workhorse on Tuesday afternoon, as Jacob Stevens will make his 16th start of 2017, and will try to tame the Wolfpack lineup the way he did at Fenway Park in April. In that game, Stevens went 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, while striking out four. By all accounts, ‘Bear’ will face an NC State offense that is hitting its stride at just the right time of the season. He’ll need to be careful with the middle of the Wolfpack order and be aggressive going inside with his fastball to both lefties and righties if he wants to give his team the opportunity to win on Tuesday.

Prediction:

I really like the new ACC Tournament format. By playing only two games in pool-play, the conference has evened the playing field for the lower seeds in the tournament. In the past (prior to the play-in game format from last season), there were only two pools of four teams, with everyone playing three pool games before the winner of each pool met in the title game. The higher seeds, who typically had deeper, more talented bullpens, had an advantage in playing three pool-play games over the lower seeds because the lower seeds would, presumably, not have the same depth of talent on the mound to win three tournament games back-to-back-to-back. Now, with only two games prior to the single-elimination portion of the tournament, every team, regardless of seeding, has a fair shot to get themselves into the semifinals, and, to be honest, I think the new format favors a team like BC. They’re playing really good baseball right now and the heart they displayed on Friday and Saturday of this past weekend leads me to believe that this team is not happy just to be invited to the dance, they want to make some noise. And, why shouldn’t they? They’ve won their last six games and come to Louisville as the second-hottest team in the conference. Who is the hottest you ask? Why, that would be NC State, winners of 13 of their last 15 and eight of their last nine in the ACC. So, because there can be no ties, one of these teams has to cool off on Tuesday with a loss. The question is, which one? As I did last Thursday with the Notre Dame series, I will refrain from making an outright prediction, but I will say that I like the matchup of BC’s offense vs. Johnny Piedmonte. I don’t know what it is, but Boston College teams usually hit extremely tall right-handers very well. Maybe it’s because most of the time those types of pitchers throw very straight fastballs with little-to-no cut/run movement; maybe it’s because they don’t hide the ball very well in their delivery; or, maybe it’s just a mental thing. Whatever the reason, BC usually performs well against them. Again, I won’t make a pick, but given the series between these two teams in April, I expect a very competitive and low scoring game on Tuesday.