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Boston College Baseball Weekend Preview - Niagara, Bryant, and Army

The Eagles travel to Cary, N.C. where they’ll take on three different opponents in three days.

BCEagles.com

The Boston College baseball team hits the road once again this weekend, as they start the first leg of their annual spring break road trip in Cary, North Carolina, where they’ll face the Niagara University Purple Eagles, the Bryant University Bulldogs, and the Army Black Knights at the USA Baseball Complex.

Series Location:

USA Baseball Complex, Cary, North Carolina

Game Times:

Friday, March 2nd @ 2:30pm ET vs. Niagara
Saturday, March 3rd @ 12pm ET vs. Bryant
Sunday, March 4th @ 11:30am ET vs. Army

Probable Starters:

Fri: BC: Jr. RHP Jacob Stevens (1-1, 7.11 ERA) vs. NU: TBA
Sat: BC: Jr. LHP Dan Metzdorf (0-1, 7-04 ERA) vs. BU: TBA
Sun: BC: Sr. RHP Brian Rapp (1-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. ARMY: TBA

How to Watch/Listen:

All three of this weekend’s games will be covered on Gametracker. Links to each can be found on the schedule page of Boston College baseball at BCEagles.com.

What you should know about the Niagara University Purple Eagles:

Head coach Rob McCoy enters his tenth season at the helm of the Niagara baseball program and leads his team to North Carolina with a season record of 1-2, after dropping their season-opening series to the Longwood University Lancers in Farmville, Virginia last weekend. The Purple Eagles started their season a week later than most teams, opting not to schedule a series the weekend of February 15th.

Though Niagara has yet to formally announce a starting pitcher for Friday’s contest, the odds-on favorite to get the call will be redshirt-senior Cody Eckerson. Eckerson was the Friday night starter for the Purple Eagles last weekend against Longwood and earned a no-decision in his team’s 15-2 win. In the game, the 5’9 lefty lasted only four innings, but did manage to record seven strike outs in that time. Eckerson has had a wealth of experience in his career and will be a tough test for an Eagles lineup that has struggled at times this season.

Offensively, Niagara features three everyday players hitting above .400 through their first three games. Infielder Greg Cullen is off to a scorching start to the season, as the junior is batting .600, with a triple, two home runs, and a team-leading six RBI in only 15 at-bats. Behind Cullen is fellow infielder Owen Dziados. The senior is batting .455 on the year and has blasted a home run, while driving in four. Also enjoying a good start to the year is Julian Gallup. The senior outfielder is batting .417 though three games with a double and a pair of RBI.

What you should know about the Bryant University Bulldogs:

Steve Owens enters his eighth season as head coach of Bryant University, one of BC’s annual midweek rivals, and is shouldering some lofty expectations coming into the year, as most outlets picked the Bulldogs to run away with the 2018 NEC crown. However, Bryant enters this weekend with a season record of 0-6. To be fair, the Bulldogs have played possibly the toughest schedule of any cold-weather team to start the year, with back-to-back road series at Arizona and #25 Auburn.

Just like Niagara, the Bulldogs have not released their starter for Saturday’s game, but if they keep the same rotation as the first two weekends, the Eagles will face lefty Jack Patterson. In two starts this season, the senior has an 0-1 record and 5.59 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched. He has also struck out seven batters in his two outings, against two very talented lineups. Much like Eckerson for Niagara, Patterson will pose a challenge for BC as the crafty lefty has been around the block and will know how to compete even without his best stuff.

At the plate, Bryant has gotten off to a good statistical start to the year, even against the high level of competition they’ve faced. Freshman infielder Sam Owens leads the team with a .462 batting average and has recorded two doubles and two RBI. Though not a power threat, sophomore outfielder James Ciliento is also having a great early season, as he’s batting a robust .389 through six games. Providing the most pop in the Bulldogs’ order is infielder Tyler Panno. The junior has already launched three home runs on the year to go along with a double, eight RBI, and a .333 batting average. Though they are winless on the season, Bryant is a very good baseball team that will be in the hunt for the NCAA tournament come May.

What you should know about the Army Black Knights:

Leading the United States Military Academy baseball team to North Carolina will be a familiar face for BC baseball fans. Jim Foster enters his second season as head coach of the Black Knights after a stint in Chestnut Hill, where he helped the Eagles reach the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time in program history. His Army team enters this weekend’s action with a record of 3-4, after going 1-2 against Michigan on opening weekend, losing to Fordham the following Tuesday, and then taking a series two games to one at the University of Maryland last week.

Likely getting the start for Army on Sunday will be Sam Messina. He’s started on Sunday in both of Army’s weekend series this season and, barring a change, will get the ball against the Eagles this weekend. On the year, the righty is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in eight total innings. While his numbers aren’t great, he is averaging a strikeout per inning, as the junior has recorded eight punch-outs on the season.

Senior infielder/catcher Jon Rosoff leads Army with a .348 batting average through seven games. He’s also belted a double and knocked in a pair of runs. Behind Rosoff is designated hitter Matt Hudgins. The junior is batting .300 for the season and has swatted four doubles and a home run, while plating three runs. Sophomore John McKenna is also a big part of Army’s offense, as the first baseman is batting .286 with a double, triple, and four RBI.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

After falling on Friday and Saturday of last week to Minnesota and Indiana, head coach Mike Gambino and his Boston College team scored seven runs in the ninth inning on Sunday versus Rutgers to earn a come-from-behind 11-6 win, and enter this weekend with an even 3-3 record this season.

The Boston College rotation will look the same as last weekend with junior righty Jacob Stevens getting the nod on Friday, junior lefty Dan Metzdorf taking the ball on Saturday, and senior right-hander Brian Rapp starting the rubber match on Sunday. Each have two starts under their belt already this season with varying success and will need to focus on executing each pitch this weekend in order to help their team win.

Offensively, the Eagles come into this weekend’s slate of games with a .255 team batting average. Leading the way after a 4 for 5 performance last Sunday is sophomore Brian Dempsey. The second baseman is hitting .400 in six starts this year and has knocked in three runs. Behind Dempsey is fellow sophomore Jack Cunningham. Cunningham, an outfielder, is batting .333 in 21 at bats and has recorded an RBI. Another second-year player, Dante Baldelli, is having a great start to the season as well, as the Eagles’ centerfielder is hitting .304 with a double and four RBI. Juniors Jake Alu and Gian Martellini and senior Jake Palomaki are also hitting the ball well to start the year, as the trio are batting .273, .261, and .269, respectively.

Prediction:

This is an important early season weekend series for Boston College. I wrote in my recap of last weekend’s action that I believe the Eagles missed a great opportunity by not taking more than one game against three Big 10 teams at the Snowbird Classic. While this weekend may not feature any marquee names, I view these three games as a barometer of where this Boston College team is at this point in 2018. With no offense intended toward either team, BC should beat Niagara and Army. It’s that simple. If they want to be an NCAA Regional team in 2018, which I firmly believe they are capable of being, they need to take care of those two teams. Bryant, however, is a different, and more intriguing, story. While they are currently 0-6, the Bulldogs have a lot of talent and even received some preseason top-25 consideration. Though they may not mirror their 47-win season from 2016, as noted above, they’re widely expected to win the NEC and make the NCAA Tournament. So, with that as a backdrop and the fact that BC and Bryant will play again this season, I think this game is very important. Just like last weekend, I think Boston College comes out of the weekend with at least two wins, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they earned the series sweep. And though it may not have the same resume boost as a sweep of the Big 10 would have had, wins over these three schools, especially if Bryant performs the way most think they will perform this season, will be huge come May.