After setting numerous team records in 2016 and making the Super Regionals for the first time in school history, the Boston College baseball team began the 2017 season with high hopes. While the resulting 25-28 record was not exactly what BC had in mind, on the whole, the season was a positive one that saw the team take steps in the right direction toward achieving lasting success, including making the ACC Tournament for the second consecutive season.
First and foremost, it must be pointed out, as it has been numerous times in the last three weeks, at the midway point in the season, the Eagles were a putrid 9-20 overall, including a 1-14 record in the ACC. They would, however, bounce back down the stretch and finish the season on a 16-6 tear, culminating in a sweep of arch-rival Notre Dame in the season’s final weekend to earn a spot in the postseason. That alone should provide the BC faithful some optimism heading into the offseason, but add to that the fact that most of BC’s team will return in 2018, and the makings are there for a great season next year.
The season itself had its ups and downs, and its share of impressive performances. The conference opening win at eventual ACC Champion Florida State, and series sweeps of the aforementioned Fighting Irish and NCAA Tournament-bound NC State Wolfpack, which included a memorable day celebrating Pete Frates’ and Chris Combs’ fight to end Lou Gehrig’s Disease at the 6th Annual ALS Awareness Game at Fenway Park, were major highlights, as was the series win at Duke, a team who made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament. Some of the season’s lowlights included series sweeps at the hands of Virginia Tech and North Carolina, the latter of which ended up as a 48-14 drubbing over the three games played. One positive that gets lost in the shuffle of the season based on the eventual results of the games was the way the Eagles played at Louisville and against Clemson. Though they went a combined 0-6 in those contests, Boston College was right there with both the Cardinals and Tigers, who are now both regional hosts, including 2-1 and 1-0 games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, against Clemson. The old saying goes, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades” and, to an extent, that is true. But, it’s also true that those results show just how close BC was at times to the very best in the nation, and just how good they can be in the future.
As far as individual performances go this season, 2017 saw a few players rise up and make a name for themselves. First among that group has to be sophomore Jake Alu. Coming into the season, the utility-player only had four career at bats, so, when he was thrust into action this spring, those who follow the program did not know what to expect. It didn’t take long for Alu to endear himself to the Eagle faithful, as he hit .331 for the season, including a ridiculous .342 mark in the ACC (huge All-ACC snub), setting himself up to be a key piece on next year’s team. Beyond Alu, the lineup was also bolstered by the arrival late in the season of freshman Jacob Yish. The outfielder only played in 26 total games, including 22 starts, but made the most of his opportunity, hitting .269 with a homerun and 11 RBI. He’ll be counted on as a sophomore to play every day, as will Brian Dempsey, another freshman who saw significant time (over 40 games) in the lineup the season and hit a solid .261. Gian Martellini made tremendous strides in 2017 as the Eagles’ everyday catcher, hitting a robust .302 while also leading the team in homeruns and RBI. He’ll again anchor the BC lineup in 2018. On the mound, Boston College found the missing pieces of its rotation in Dan Metzdorf and Brian Rapp who both showed flashes of brilliance at times during the season. They both worked very well behind ace Jacob Stevens, who is a draft eligible sophomore this summer. Should Stevens be lured away from the Heights by a professional contract, BC may have found his eventual replacement in the rotation this spring in righthander Jack Nelson. The sophomore served as the Eagles midweek starter for the majority of the season and excelled in the role, to the tune of a 4-1 record and 2.41 ERA. He will be counted on to throw some meaningful innings next year.
When the history of Boston College baseball is written somewhere down the road, the 2017 season may not garner much attention. After all, a 25-28 campaign doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but to truly gauge the impact of this season, one must look at where this team was at its lowest, and where it ended up. And, given that on the evening of April 9th most people thought the team and program were dead, the fact that they made the postseason, and finished ahead of three teams, makes this year a begrudging success.
We’ll be coming out with “where do we go from here” post later this week that will contain more individual analysis and predictions regarding the upcoming MLB draft, so stay tuned.