Looking back over the course of this spring, I can summarize my feelings about Boston College baseball in a downgrading curve. I started the year with optimism in the face of negative odds, choosing to temper expectations against the theory that a team is never as good as when it looks good and is never as bad as when it looks bad. That meant that when BC was beating teams in the beginning of the season, I talked about how they would need to elevate their game.
As the year progressed, BC held their own against good teams, which was a good indicator of their potential. But then there was the major drop off, the losses to Northeastern, Harvard, and Dartmouth. There was the move to URI, to Bryant, to wherever there could be space. And there was the feeling that this team would fail because, quite honestly, they were completely and utterly fatally flawed in several aspects on the field.
I started to waver my support for this team in a call to action after the Wake Forest/Northeastern week:
...if the Boston College Eagles want to quell the discussion about dropping the sport or why they fail, then they have to go out and earn it. If they don't want to hear about the talk about firing the coach or hear about the talk about not having a stadium, then they need to force the attention the other direction. And, at some point, after three years, they have to determine what kind of team they're going to be.
Until a week ago, BC hadn't done much to quell that conversation. They weren't really out of the ACC Tournament race, but they weren't doing a whole lot to get back into it. The Notre Dame weekend surely didn't help. Then came NC State and a weekend series win. That got eyebrows raised, especially heading into this weekend with Maryland. If they could somehow manage to eke out some wins, they'd be right back in the playoff hunt. The problem was they hadn't created a track record of winning those games.
On Sunday, wearing those Wounded Warrior uniforms, Boston College defeated Maryland, 5-2, to collect a season sweep of the Terrapins. By winning five of their last six conference games, the Eagles are now in 11th place, one game back of the Terps for 10th place. That means BC will head into next weekend against ninth place Pittsburgh with a chance to grab the inside track towards a playoff spot. At the beginning of the season, that was the stated goal. As the year wore on, we all doubted it. Now there's a chance to shut us all up.
For all the talk about needing a new stadium, BC is 7-3 in games played at Shea Field. For all the talk of how they couldn't win 20 games, they're now three away from that number, just ten games under .500. For all of the flack they've taken about #AddLacrosse and #CrossTheProgram, they have a golden opportunity to get themselves into the ACC Tournament if the chips break the right way. If it's too late to turn it on, at least they have turned it on. At least they're showing that they can improve, and that the program, just maybe, is heading in the right direction.
Now whether or not that direction is to include Mike Gambino, that's for another story. At the beginning of the year, I was very vocal in giving him a chance. As the year wore on, I said he wasn't doing his job. But his shuffling of the lineup, his insertion of guys like Michael Strem, I have to hand it to him. It's worked so far. Chris Shaw is hitting like an entirely new hitter, and Blake Butera and Joe Cronin are finding themselves at home hitting in front of him. Gambino stuck with Jeff Burke longer than I probably would as a weekend starter, and Burke just threw eight innings against the Terps for his first win of the year.
So he's done a good job of shutting me up in that regard. At the end of the season, depending on how the team does, we can analyze the statistics to determine if this team won games because of performance or because of others' weaknesses. Whether or not Gambino should be the head coach is not up to me, but my clear-cut "It shouldn't be him" from a couple of weeks ago doesn't hold as much merit if BC can win 20 games and pressure for an ACC playoff spot.
I'll admit it, and I'll eat the crow for it. This team - the last two weeks - it's enough to quiet the critics at least until everyone sees how the last six games turns out. Win, and they stay quiet. Lose, and the critics will come right back as you slink back towards the bottom of the ACC.
I want Boston College baseball to do well. As a baseball guy, I believe in northeast baseball, and I believe in the success at this level. But there's still a long way to go for this program. It's made strides, but it doesn't undo the struggles earlier in the year. There's still potential, and there's still a chance. But, once again, it's up to them. They haven't clinched anything yet, and while this run has been great, there's a long way to go. And, once again, I'll issue the challenge I issued after Wake Forest and Northeastern:
I believe in you. I believe in your talent. I believe in your untapped potential. I think this team is more likely going to be the team that nearly won a pitcher's duel with the arguably the best staff in the ACC than it is the team that got blown out by a lower-tier CAA club. But it's up to you to make it happen.
Boston College gets a single game with URI on Tuesday, then a three game series with Pittsburgh this weekend. Go out there and prove them wrong.