It’s finally here. Baseball season. Yes, this year has already seen AJ Dillon and Anthony Brown bring excitement back to the Boston College football program and, yes, Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman currently have the Eagles’ basketball team in contention for a trip to the postseason. But, come on, folks. This is what you’ve been waiting for! All kidding aside, the start to baseball season is always one of the best times of the year, but this season in particular carries with it even more excitement and anticipation. Not only will the Boston College baseball team christen a new stadium in Brighton, but it will also put one of the deepest and most experienced teams in Mike Gambino’s tenure on its new field turf with the hopes of making an unprecedented third consecutive trip to the postseason. The quest to make history starts tonight, as the Eagles take on the Santa Clara University Broncos just outside of San Jose, California.
Stephen Schott Stadium, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA
Friday, February 16th @ 9pm ET vs. Santa Clara
Saturday, February 17th @ 4pm ET vs. Santa Clara
Sunday, February 18th @ 3pm ET vs. Santa Clara
Projected Starters (2017 Stats):
Friday: BC: Jr. RHP Jacob Stevens (5-7, 5.10 ERA) vs. SC: R-Jr. LHP Alex Barden (0-3, 11.57 ERA)
Saturday: BC: Jr. LHP Dan Metzdorf (4-6, 5.06 ERA) vs. SC: TBA
Sunday: BC: Sr. RHP Brian Rapp (3-3, 4.90 ERA) vs. SC: So. RHP Alex Waldsmith (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
How to Watch/Listen:
All three games will be available via Gametracker as well as online streaming video presented by the Santa Clara University athletic department. Links to both options can be found on the schedule page for Boston College baseball at BCEagles.com.
What you should know about the Santa Clara Broncos:
This weekend’s series at Santa Clara will mark the second time in program history the Eagles have traveled to the state of California. The only other west coast trip happened four years ago, when BC started its 2014 season against these same Santa Clara Broncos, taking two games from them and a game from Nevada. However, while the schools in this weekend’s matchup are the same, the teams themselves are not. This year’s Santa Clara Broncos are led by first-year head coach Rusty Filter, who spent the previous eight seasons as the associate head coach at Stanford University. Filter inherits a team that went 13-40 in 2017, including a 9-18 mark in the West Coast Conference. Though he will have his work cut out for him, Filter is recognized as one of the best pitching coaches in the country and should have the Broncos moving in the right direction this season.
Offensively, Santa Clara batted .258 as a team in 2017, with three everyday players hitting over .300. All three return in 2018. Leading the way for the Broncos at the plate a season ago was first baseman Jake Brodt. Brodt, now a senior, hit .338 in 2017 with seven home runs and a team-leading 39 RBI, while also starting all 53 games for the Broncos, en route to First Team All-WCC honors. Behind Brodt was SC’s everyday DH, Niko Holm. Holm, also a senior, batted .307 in 52 games for Santa Clara, launching two homers and driving in 24 runs. He could also see time in the outfield this season. The biggest power threat the Broncos feature in their lineup is junior third baseman John Cresto. As a sophomore in 2017, Cresto earned All-WCC Honorable Mention honors by batting .307 on the season and hitting a team-leading 12 home runs. The trio of Brodt, Holm, and Cresto will form a powerful middle of the order that Boston College’s pitchers will have to deal with this weekend.
On the mound, the Broncos struggled in 2017, compiling a team ERA of 6.39 in 465 innings pitched. For the weekend, the Eagles are slated to face one righty and one lefty, with a third pitcher yet to be announced. On Friday, BC hitters will face redshirt-junior left-hander Alex Barden. Barden, who has great size at 6’6 220 pounds, appeared in 17 games a season ago, three of them starts. In those games, he went a combined 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched. On Sunday the Eagles will face sophomore righty Alex Waldsmith who, in his freshman campaign, made 28 appearances out of the bullpen. Though he got into 28 games, he only threw 17 complete innings and, in those innings, compiled a 0-1 record and an even 9.00 ERA. Even though their 2017 stats seemingly indicate the Broncos will be pushovers on the mound, don’t forget that Filter is one of the more regarded pitching coaches in the nation and will likely have them throwing the ball better this spring.
What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:
After reaching the postseason for the second year in a row in 2017, head coach Mike Gambino and the Boston College Eagles enter 2018 with one of the deeper and more experienced teams in recent memory. A majority of the projected starting lineup has seen significant playing time in the past and the weekend rotation should look identical to last year. In short, BC has the opportunity to parlay that experience into another run to the ACC Tournament and beyond this season, and it all starts this weekend in California.
Offensively, the Eagles batted .253 as a team a year ago, but return many key pieces that helped BC raise its team average nearly 40 points in the second half of the season. Leading the way once again at the top of the Boston College order will be the trio of Jake Palomaki, Jake Alu, and Gian Martellini. Though we covered their 2017 stats in our season preview of the Eagles hitters, I’ll reiterate that these three will be counted on the pace the offense this season, with Palomaki and Alu reaching base early-and-often, and with Martellini driving them in. Also, look for seasoned players like Mitch Bigras, Scott Braren, and Anthony Maselli to find success early in the season as Gambino will play around with the lineup to find a combination that works consistently.
As noted multiple times leading up to this weekend’s series, the pitching staff should be the anchor of this year’s team. The starting rotation of Stevens, Metzdorf, and Rapp accounted for 234.2 innings pitched a year ago, and will hopefully build off that experience, and a second year under pitching coach Alex Trezza, in 2018. While the weekend rotation will usually garner most of the headlines, BC features a deep bullpen this season with some exciting “newcomers.” The irony of that term lies in the fact that four of those fresh faces in the bullpen aren’t really that fresh, as junior Vanderbilt transfer Brendan Spagnuolo and redshirt freshmen Mikey Giordano, Michael Marzonie, and Joey Walsh have been with the team for over a year and are all finally cleared to play, either medically or by the NCAA. It will be very interesting to see how Gambino utilizes his bullpen arms this weekend, as the Eagles do have a lot of talent toward the latter half of games.
Opening weekends are always fun to predict. Every team in the nation is starting out with the same record and the same goal of reaching the College World Series. And each believes that they’re going to start the year with three wins. Boston College no different. After spending the last six weeks practicing inside the bubble in Alumni Stadium, the Eagles are ready to get outside and get going. Looking at this matchup, a few questions stand out in my mind: how improved is Santa Clara’s pitching staff after a rough season last year? Can BC’s rotation contain the middle of the Bronco’s lineup and limit big innings? Will the time difference play a factor at all, given the players on Boston College’s roster have never traveled to the west coast for a series? We’ll definitive answers to those later tonight. I see this weekend falling in the Eagles’ favor. I think that the experience BC is bringing to California is going to be the difference on the mound and at the plate. The games may be close, as both teams will come out hot looking to jumpstart their seasons, but Boston College will do the little things to earn a series sweep. Yep, I said it. Three games to none, Eagles. Santa Clara will be much improved from their 13-40 record a year ago, but Rusty Filter will still experience some growing pains in his first season at the helm that Boston College will exploit to start their year on a winning note.