The 2018 season is officially underway and, after three games against the Santa Clara University Broncos in California, the Boston College baseball team is back on the east coast with a record of two wins and one loss. There was plenty of action to break down during opening weekend, so let’s get into it:
Friday: Boston College 5, Santa Clara 1:
Junior right-hander Jacob Stevens was masterful in the season opener, throwing five shutout innings, while striking out eight Bronco batters, and senior shortstop Jake Palomaki started his year off hot, going 3 for 5 with his first home run of the season and three RBI, en route to a 5-1 Eagles victory.
The BC offense jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first, scoring a run off Santa Clara starting pitcher Alex Barden. After a scoreless bottom half of the inning, the Eagles came right back in the second and tacked on two more runs coming off the bat of Palomaki, who drove a Barden offering over the left field fence, giving Boston College a 3-0 lead.
BC added a run apiece in the third and sixth innings, and relievers Sean Hughes, Zach Stromberg, and Carmen Giampetruzzi combined to give up only a single run the rest of the game, while striking out five more Santa Clara hitters. Catcher Gian Martellini also had good opening night, going 2 for 3 while scoring a run.
Saturday: Santa Clara 20, Boston College 9:
The Boston College pitching staff, which was dominant on Friday night, came unraveled on Saturday, as it gave up 20 runs to the Broncos in the game, including an astounding 14 in the seventh inning alone, in an eleven-run drubbing that evened the series at a game apiece.
BC starting pitcher Dan Metzdorf lasted only an inning after giving up five runs, three of them earned, to the Santa Clara offense. Junior Thomas Lane and redshirt freshman Joey Walsh came on in relief of Metzdorf and steadied the ship, going four combined innings innings without allowing a run or a hit, giving the Eagles the opportunity to climb back into the game. And climb back in they did, scoring once in the second and fourth innings, and five times in the fifth, giving the visiting team and 9-5 lead heading into the sixth. Santa Clara got one run back in their half of the inning, but BC still led by three heading into the seventh. After being blanked in the top half of the frame, four Boston College pitchers surrendered a combined 14 runs to the Broncos in the bottom half of the inning, including a pair of grand slams to Jake Brodt, and hit seven SC batters, giving the home team a 20-9 lead it would not relinquish. The quartet of Jack Nelson, John Witkowski, Jack Cunningham, and Mitch Bigras gave up at least two runs a piece, while recording zero strikeouts.
Offensively, the Eagles were led by sophomore Dante Baldelli, who enjoyed a career day at the plate, going 4 for 5 with three RBI. Senior Jake Palomaki stayed hot in the loss, going 3 for 6 with three RBI, as well. Sophomore Jack Cunningham recorded three hits on the afternoon and, in his first action since injuring his knee a year ago, redshirt-junior Scott Braren was 2 for 4 and started the game in left field.
Sunday: Boston College 3, Santa Clara 1:
Senior right handed pitcher Brian Rapp recorded a career-high ten strikeouts and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, while the Boston College lineup scratched across three runs, allowing the Eagles to take Sunday’s rubber match on Sunday and win the series two games to one.
Rapp was magnificent on the mound, holding a Bronco’s offense that had exploded for 20 runs the day before scoreless and hitless through six innings. The bullpen also rebounded after a shaky performance in game two, as Sean Hughes, Zach Stromberg, and Thomas Lane combined to scatter five hits over the final three frames while giving up a lone run and striking out four.
Offensively, the Eagles were again led by sophomore Dante Baldelli who enjoyed a 2 for 4 day at the plate with an RBI. Juniors Jake Alu and Gian Martellini were each held hitless, but combined to drive in BC’s other two runs. The win gave Boston College the series and helped improve the Eagles’ all time record against Santa Clara to 4-1.
It’s pretty easy to look at this weekend’s series against Santa Clara and recognize the importance of good pitching. Two stellar starting performances on Friday and Sunday, and one not-so-stellar outing for the staff as a whole on Saturday, have the Eagles back on the east coast with a 2-1 record. Obviously, it’s a long season and a lot of things can change over the course of 53 games, but I believe there is a lot to be excited about with this team, given what they showed in California this weekend.
First and foremost, Jacob Stevens and Brian Rapp looked really good. Granted, Santa Clara was a 13-40 team a season ago, but the middle of their lineup has as much pop as anyone, as evidenced by Brodt’s power display on Saturday, and the pair combined to completely shut them down, which only bodes well for the season moving forward. Also, the bullpen on Friday and Sunday was outstanding, as well. If Gambino can count on his starters to give five to seven solid innings of work, and then turn the game over to a combination of the bullpen arms from Friday and Saturday, BC could be a very dangerous team these season.
At the plate, it was great to see Dante Baldelli get off to a good start to the season. The sophomore struggled a year ago as a true freshman, but seems to have figured some things out offensively. His continued production at the plate would be a huge weapon behind Jake Palomaki who also got this season off on the right foot. I don’t really have any concerns about guys like Jake Alu or Gian Martellini moving forward, as their bats will come around quickly as the season gets going, and when they do, the top of the BC order will be potent.
Long story short, what this weekend proved is that the Boston College baseball team will go as far as its pitching staff will take it. While the offense can be very good (you should win games in which you score nine runs), bad pitching will almost always negate offensive success. The good news is the Eagles play nine more games out of conference, in which to work out any issues, before opening up the gauntlet that is ACC play at NC State on March 9th. Starting off the nine game swing is a match-up this Thursday, February 22nd, with the Boston Red Sox in Ft. Meyers, Florida. We’ll have coverage of this annual exhibition game later this week, so stay tuned.