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Boston College Baseball Weekend Preview - #12 Clemson

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The Eagles travel to South Carolina to take on the No. 12 Clemson Tigers, in an important ACC Atlantic Division match-up.

BCEagles.com

After failing to score a run in a 4-0 loss to the UConn Huskies on Tuesday afternoon, the Boston College baseball team heads to Clemson, South Carolina this week to take on the twelfth-ranked Tigers in a series beginning Thursday evening. Though they are a top-15 team in both major polls, Clemson sits only one game ahead of the Eagles in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, making this weekend’s match-up critical for both teams.

Series Location:

Doug Kingsmore Stadium, Clemson University, Clemson, SC

Game Times:

Thursday, March 29th @ 6:30pm ET vs. Clemson
Friday, March 30th @ 6:30pm ET vs. Clemson
Saturday, March 31st @ 2pm ET vs. Clemson

Probable Starters:

Thu: BC: Jr. RHP Jacob Stevens (3-2, 3.21 ERA) vs. CU: So. LHP Jacob Hennessy (2-1, 2.27 ERA)
Fri: BC: Jr. LHP Dan Metzdorf (0-3, 5.81 ERA) vs. CU: Jr. RHP Brooks Crawford (1-1, 3.08 ERA)
Sat: BC: Sr. RHP Brian Rapp (2-2, 3.97 ERA) vs. CU: R-So. LHP Jake Higginbotham (3-1, 3.94 ERA)

How to Watch/Listen:

This weekend’s series will be covered in a myriad of different ways. As always, all three games will be covered on Gametracker, however, the three contests against the Tigers will also be broadcast on the ACC Network via the WatchESPN app, as well as streamed audibly on the Clemson radio network. Links to all options can be found on the schedule page of Boston College baseball at BCEagles.com.

What you should know about the Clemson University Tigers:

In his third season since taking over for the legendary Jack Leggett, head coach Monte Lee has the Tigers where their fans have become accustomed to finding them - among the top-15 teams in the country - as Clemson comes into this weekend’s action ranked No. 12 in both major polls, with an overall record of 19-6, including a 5-4 mark in the ACC. Though they have found themselves ranked since opening day, the Tigers are only one game ahead of Boston College in the ACC’s Atlantic division, making this weekend’s series very intriguing.

On the mound, the Tigers will feature a pair of left-handers and a right-hander on the weekend, with lefty Jacob Hennessy getting the start on Thursday, righty Brooks Crawford going on Friday, and lefty Jake Higginbotham getting the nod in the series finale on Saturday. Hennessy, a sophomore, is 2-1 on the season with a 2.27 ERA in 35.2 innings pitched. He has fanned a batter per inning this season, recording 36 strikeouts against only nine walks. Crawford, in his junior campaign, has a 1-1 record and 3.08 ERA in just over 26 innings pitched. Though not possessing the same strike out to walk as Hennessy, Crawford will present a challenge for the BC lineup on Friday. Redshirt sophomore Jake Higginbotham has the highest ERA in the rotation at 3.94, but also possesses the best record at 3-1 in six starts. He’s also only walked five batters on the season and is holding opposing batters to a .235 average.

As a team, Clemson comes in dead-last in the ACC in offense, accumulating a .245 team batting average through 25 games, and feature no players over the .300 mark. Leading the way at the plate is infielder and catcher Chris Williams. Williams, a senior, is batting .287 on the year, with five doubles, six home runs, and a team-leading 26 RBI. Behind him is sophomore shortstop Logan Davidson who is batting .273 on the season, with four doubles, three homers, and 11 runs batted in. Rounding out the top-thee is outfielder Robert Jolly, as the senior is hitting at a .269 clip, while adding five doubles, a home run, and 12 RBI to the offense. Though he is having a down year average-wise, keep an eye on the always dangerous, and former Dick Howser Trophy winner, Seth Beer. The junior is batting only .259, but still leads the tigers with seven long balls and has added 17 RBI.

What you should know about the Boston College Eagles:

Head coach Mike Gambino and his Boston College Eagles team will look to bounce back from a midweek loss to UConn on Tuesday, when they travel to Clemson, SC to take on the Tigers. Though they sit at 9-13 overall, BC has accumulated a 4-5 record in conference and most recently took their first home ACC series, two game to one, over Virginia Tech at the new Brighton Stadium, last weekend. A win, or two, on the road would be a huge boost to the Eagles in the conference standings as the ACC’s Atlantic division is very close race early in the season.

The Eagles will feature the same rotation this weekend as they have throughout the season, with right-hander Jacob Stevens getting the call on Thursday evening, lefty Dan Metzdorf starting on Friday, and righty Brian Rapp getting the ball on Saturday. The weekend rotation has been a strong spot for BC this year as the trio has produced nearly two excellent outings per weekend since the season began. And, with the upward trend Dan Metzdorf is showing after a great performance at UVA and a dominant eight-inning showing that included 13 strike outs and an ACC Pitcher of the Week award versus Virginia Tech, things are going well with these three and Boston College will need that to continue this weekend if they want to take a game, or two, on the road.

Offensively, the Boston College bats have cooled a bit, dropping the Eagles team average to .267 on the year, but they still feature three everyday players batting over .300. Shortstop Jake Palomaki continues to hit the ball well, as the senior sports a .415 batting average and has added ten doubles, a triple, two home runs, and a team leading 19 RBI. Sophomore second baseman Brian Dempsey has also gotten himself off to a solid start in the first half of the season, accumulating a .360 batting average and driving in 10 runs, while starting every game for the Eagles. Though his numbers have, understandably, dropped, freshman outfielder Chris Galland is still producing for BC, with a .357 average, five doubles, two triples, 11 RBI, and 13 stolen bases. His getting on base will be key for Boston College this weekend at Clemson.

Prediction:

The series this weekend between Boston College and Clemson is bigger, and more important, than, I think, most pundits thought it would be when the season began. Though they sit in the top-15 in the country and have won 19 games so far this season, the Tigers are 5-4 in conference and are only one game ahead of the Eagles, as we approach the halfway point of the conference season. That means the winner of this series will put themselves at, or near, the top of the Atlantic division and the loser, while still very much alive in the race for the ACC Tournament, will have some ground to make up the rest of the way. Looking at Clemson’s cumulative statistics this seasons, it strikes me that this year’s Tigers are, essentially, the opposite of what has made them successful in the past. They always had good pitching, but their offense was usually one of the best in conference, yet today, sits dead last in the ACC by nearly ten points. That’s not to say Clemson is entirely without hope at the plate, as they’ve launched 31 home runs as a team this year, but the Eagles’ pitchers will not be facing nine players in a row who are all hitting .320 or higher. And that, I believe, is what this series will come down to: how well can BC’s pitchers handle the Tigers’ lineup. Though they were just blanked by UConn, I have faith that Boston College will score some runs off Clemson’s rotation, as they are good, but not nearly they best BC has seen this year. So, it really comes down to whether or not Stevens, Metzdorf, and Rapp can take advantage of a struggling offense and whether or not the bullpen can step up and hold a lead, should they be given one. Now, all of this is occurring against the backdrop of a road ACC series, which is a huge factor in predicting the outcome of this weekend. It’s very hard to win consistently in the ACC. It’s even harder to win consistently on the road in the ACC. Even so, BC has gone into two very difficult environments this season and come away with wins (and should have taken the series both times), so I like them winning at least one game this weekend against Clemson and maybe taking the series should things break their way on Saturday. Either way, this series will be a great litmus test for a Boston College team that has been a pitch or two away from being a top the ACC so far this season.