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First Pitch: Old Friends Collide When Lil' Rhody Comes to Boston

Jim Foster goes head-to-head with his old club when the Rams make the trip up I-95 to take on the Eagles on Shea Field.

Courtesy BC Athletics

If there's one thing Jim Foster knew how to do, it was win as a head coach in the state of Rhode Island.

The winningest baseball mind in the history of the Ocean State's flagship institution, Foster won less than 30 games only twice in nine years. He won 269 games, two regular season conference championships in the Atlantic-10, and a conference Coach of the Year. A former assistant under Frank Leoni, he went to the NCAA Tournament as an assistant coach in 2005.

So when he left Rhody for the challenge of assisting at Boston College, it was a major hit to the Rams' program. But the Eagles are reaping the benefit. Placed in charge of the pitching staff, BC's arguably improved their performance from last season.

BC's allowed 5.64 runs per game, of which 5.01 are earned. But they allowed 44 runs in three bad losses to LSU, Louisville, and Clemson. Removing those 44 runs, the number drops to 4.77 runs per game. All of a sudden, BC is one of the middle tier baseball pitching staffs in the ACC.

From an overall standpoint, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where Foster's biggest impact is most felt. BC is experiencing some of their most consistent starting pitching, lacking the significant drop off from one day to the next. Mike King's become one of the better starters, working his way into Saturday after starting the year in the bullpen.

And what of that bullpen? Last year, John Nicklas was a wayback machine, someone who gave up a ton of hits while sporting a bloated ERA. This year? He's made 15 appearances while allowing only nine earned runs. That may seem like a lot, but consider this: of the pitchers on BC's staff with ERA's of 5.00 or higher, seven aren't regular pitchers and two either see starting innings or are a longer relief pitcher.

Foster's been great with the staff, something to help the Eagles into the stretch run. The URI loss has been the BC gain.

On Paper

Record: 13-12-1 (6-3 Atlantic-10 Conference)
Last Time Out: Swept St. Joseph's (11-5, 2-1, 6-3)

Around The Horn

Statistically speaking, this is a good to better-than-average Rams team. They have a few guys who can mash the ball, although they're not a team that can hit it out. They have a couple of guys currently hitting over .300, led by Mike Corin's .318 average in 26 games. Corin leads the team in most offensive categories, including hits, doubles, homers, and RBI. So that's a name to keep an eye on.

Chris Hess is another guy to watch, hitting .309 with 25 hits, 13 runs scored and 14 RBI. Ryan Olmo is hitting .385, but he's only played in 18 games. Tim Caputo is hitting .284; Jordan Powell is at .267.

Top to bottom, this is a good lineup. It's not elite, but 1-9 are capable of doing some damage. You're allowed to make some mistakes, but you're not allowed to pitch like crap. They score runs (133 on the season), but they don't do it with the long ball (nine). Watching this team is to enjoy the intricacies of old fashioned small ball.

If there's one thing BC pitching will need to watch in particular, it's the speed. URI has 51 stolen bases in 68 attempts, led by Mike Sherburne's 12/15.

On The Bump

Like the hitting, this is not a pitching staff that makes many mistakes. They're good but they're not great. They're hittable, but they're very solid.

Tyler Wilson is a legitimate #1 starter, having gone 4-0 in six starts, throwing 46.1 pitches and allowing only eight earned runs. At a 1.36 ERA, he's going to turn some heads. Since this is a midweek game, though, BC's going to avoid him.

BC is likely to look down the lineup and face a guy like Blaise Whitman. Whitman's made four starters, throwing 17 innings with a 3-1 record and a 2.65 ERA. They also could face Ben Wessel; Wessel is 2-1, but his ERA is one of the rare high numbers at 6.14.

Bottom line with this team is that their starters are plus, their relievers are lock down, and they don't make mistakes. In baseball, to win games, you simply don't have to make mistakes.

Scoreboard Watching

Midweek game, so there's not a whole lot to pay attention to. UMass knocked out Harvard yesterday in the Beanpot, 6-5, and are in the midst of having to play three games in three days. They head to New Britain, CT to take on Central Connecticut before playing Hartford tomorrow.

Music To Listen To If You're Still Reveling In BU's Loss

The last time a team from Rhode Island came to Boston, it went well for them. For BC's sake, let's hope that doesn't happen here today.

Fun Fact Of The Week

A rivalry, albeit minor and probably one nobody pays attention to, exists between the University of Rhode Island and the University of North Carolina.

Both schools have rams as mascot, and both utilize multiple shades of blue in their color scheme (although UNC's "Carolina Blue" is a shade lighter than the "Keaney Blue" at URI).

The fight song is also exactly the same, although "I'm a Tar Heel born, and I'm a Tar Heel bred. Rah rah Car'lina 'lina" is replaced by "I'm Rhode Island born, and I'm Rhode Island bred. Rah rah Rhode Island island."

Who wears it better? You be the judge.

Prediction Time

I haven't really mentioned it because I'm not into talking about the players who aren't here, only about the players that are. But BC is missing Chris Shaw for this game and the foreseeable future. If the Eagles are able to win, it's because they're able to replace Shaw's production.

That doesn't necessarily mean his power or his ability to crush the ball. In baseball, you need to be able to adjust and adapt to create runs. If BC can use the rest of the lineup to manage the rest of the runs and keep innings moving, they'll be just fine.

But here's the thing: losing a player midseason for a period of time is tough. You can get by for one or two games, but eventually, that player's absence is going to be felt. I think BC is going down in this game because they haven't yet adapted to the hole in their lineup. That said, they'll be better, and they'll be okay. Good enough to make the ACC Tournament? I don't know. But this isn't about the ACC Tournament. This is about facing URI. Rhode Island wins it in a close one.