Just win baby. It doesn't matter where, when, under what circumstances, under what conditions. Boston College won and won a lot this past week. The Eagles swept Duke, including one game in walk-off fashion, then demolished (and I mean DEMOLISHED) UMass by utilizing the long ball. They should have beaten UConn easily, but it turned into "one of those games." At 7-2 in their last nine games, this is the best stretch of baseball by the Eagles since winning eight out of 11 in 2012.
There is something to the fickle nature of winning baseball games; in '12, they finished 22-33, 10-20 in the ACC. There's a chance the season takes an absolute nose dive after the way the last couple of weeks went, and there's a chance BC, on the outside of the ACC Tournament picture, drops way off and is never heard from again. But let's take the chance to enjoy the moment.
Starting pitching. A big reason for the winning ways stems from starting pitching. It goes without saying that good pitching wins ballgames, but BC's been downright nasty. In their last five games played, the starters combined for 27.2 innings pitched, giving up eight runs on 18 hits while striking out 30 and walking nine. That's an average of a quality start each time. Their worst outing was arguably John Gorman's against Duke, but even he lasted six innings (second longest) and struck out six compared to two walks.
The quality starts are going deep into games, between the five and six inning mark. That's allowed Justin Dunn to flourish coming out of the bullpen in both long and short situations (the converted starter is fast becoming the team's best first option), and John Nicklas is started to become a lock-down reliever in the eighth and ninth innings. The question now is if they can keep it up since this isn't a pace we're used to from the Eagles.
Who's to credit for the complete makeover? Jim Foster. The former URI head coach is in his first year handling the pitching staff after Scott Friedholm left for a head coaching job, and Foster came with the reputation of being a pitcher whisperer. We're finding out that it's well-earned, for now at least.
Timely Hitting. Even against UConn in defeat, the Eagles found a way to score in the late innings. The path to victory can be easily mapped out via the following blueprint: score early to force your opponent's starting pitcher deep into his pitch count before he ever gets comfortable on the mound; allow to bend once he gets warmed up or in the first option out of the bullpen; destroy the second option out of the pen in the later innings and don't allow a closer to come in (or force a team to waste its closer in a non-save situation).
BC scored in the first three innings in all of their games in the past week, then damaged the back end of the bullpen. Against Duke, they forced the Blue Devils to go to Mitch Stallings for multiple innings in both of his appearances, and the way they attacked the opposing pitchers was superb. Their lineup is proving dangerous when it comes to manufacturing runs, especially as teams figure out that they can't pitch to Chris Shaw. Mitch Bigras, Nick Sciortino, Johnny Adams, and Donovan Casey are all names who have contributed at some point. Jake Palomaki is becoming a premier-style lead off hitter.
Again, there's a challenge to keep it going, but for right now, this is turning into quite the lineup.
The coaching. I'll say it again: there was no bigger critic of Mike Gambino than me. I'll say it again: he's been solid at the helm this year. There have been some early season mistakes, but as the year's gone on, he's responded and handled this team with a rotation that's been very good. There's a long way to go, but he's done a very good job and should be congratulated and commended on that.
Nothing. Wait, what? Let me explain next.
UConn's comeback. That game should've been over, but it wasn't. The Huskies came back and tortured the Eagles with a four-inning rally; their only lead was in the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth. I always say the ugly side of things has to be just thrown away, but this was a game where the Eagles played well enough to win and didn't. That's the first time they've really thrown away a loss, which when combined with the two blowouts is a cause for concern. Since two of those losses were out of conference, though, I'd really rather focus on the next step than the current one.