As much as I'd like to sit here and tell you the Beanpot Championship is this great, hard-fought baseball game for a tradition-rich trophy, I can't. The baseball Beanpot isn't anything like the hockey trophy carrying the same name. More than once, it played the role of precursor to a Hockey East tournament series or championship game. The teams that play are often the most talented, and while detractors occasionally view the bracket as overrated, it's a huge event for fans and supporters of those programs.
Quite honestly, the baseball Beanpot isn't the same. Boston College can't risk throwing its top pitchers in a game against UMass with a series against North Carolina on the horizon. The four teams involved are seldom among the national elite class. There is no level playing field for them, especially with Harvard playing in one of the nation's weakest leagues in the Ivy League and Northeastern and UMass playing in mid-major conferences.
That doesn't mean, however, it's not important.
This year's Beanpot, for Boston College fans at least, has a chance to change some of that perception. The Eagles are proving to be a class team this year, and the Beanpot offers a chance to reclaim a mantle they've long lost as the premier New England baseball program. They'll get to do it in a place that's wholly sacred to New England, to Massachusetts, and to Boston - Fenway Park.
The Beanpot's final games returns to Fenway for the first time since 2013, and with it comes the chance to change the perception of the BC program. This year's been a revelation, but the first real step towards reclamation comes if BC can clinch a trophy it hasn't hoisted since 2011. The level with which they've played as of late is restoring pride in the team, and if they win the Beanpot, it will prove to be the first major jump up.
In order to do so, BC will need to get through the same UMass team they beat up, 11-1, three weeks ago at the New England Baseball Complex. At the time, the Minutemen were a bad baseball team. They fell to 4-8 overall with the loss; since then, they've been a .500 team, going 7-7.
Even though UMass is 4-1 in non-conference games since the BC loss, I can't be too concerned by the positive results. They beat a Siena team that was a tournament team last year, but bear in mind the Saints finished second in league play but went under .500 during the '14 regular season. They're also well under .500 this year.
They beat Central Connecticut, another team that finished second in their league last year, but the NEC is far from on par with the A-10 or the CAA, let alone the ACC.
When they stepped up in class to punch against good teams, they went 1-5 against George Washington and Saint Louis, two of the three best teams in their league, and they just got killed by UConn yesterday. If there's an area of concern, it's that they beat Harvard to get to this point in the Beanpot, and Harvard played BC tough. But remember the Eagles merely managed that game, and they can play this one out with a guy like Nick Poore earning innings - guys who didn't pitch in the first UMass game with any regularity and a complete 180 from the Harvard game.
Record: 11-15 (7-8, Atlantic-10)
Last Time Out: Lost to UConn, 13-2; Swept by Saint Louis this past wekend (6-0, 1-0, 13-7)
Around The Horn
The first time they played, the UMass lineup wasn't very good. They had a few guys hitting .300 but were only slightly above the .250 mark as a team. Now? They only have one guy over .300 with a team average of .248.
Kyle Adie's still going strong at .347, but every other batter that regularly plays for the Minutemen severely dropped off. Paul Yanakopulous was hitting .355, but he's dropped to .276. Rob McLam was hitting .313, but he's now at .260.
Only three guys have 10 or more RBI. This late in the season, that's not a good look.
Eric Stone threw five innings against the Minutemen the last time they played, and Tyler Hinchcliffe looked good in one inning out of the bullpen. More than likely, UMass is going to draw a steady diet of the BC pitching staff's midweek stars since this is the only game the Eagles play this week before conference play kicks back up. Nick Poore, one of BC's middle starters, gets the call to start.
On The Bump
Going into the last BC game, UMass had a train wreck pitching staff of a 6.13 ERA with five guys sporting double digit runs allowed per game. They've shaved nearly a full run off that number since, with only two guys allowing more than ten runs per game.
That's the good news. The bad news is that UMass is still prone to giving up a lot of runs. It'll be interesting to see what they decide to do in the Beanpot, since they settled on a "staff approach" to the last BC game. Watching the last game felt like there was no way the Minutemen even expected to win the game; they'll have to change significantly if they intend to win the Beanpot. That said, they got throttled pretty badly by UConn yesterday.
The UMass pitching staff is a crapshoot for this game, which is the one thing that concerns me. BC's hitting has been outstanding, and they'll have a much larger field of play of which to work with at Fenway. The contact hitters should be able to make use of the good amount of space and weird dimensions to move runners across. Look for contact hits to the gap and use of both the Monster and the Triangle in right center.
Crazy as this sounds, we need to watch some of the teams in front of BC in the RPI rankings. The Eagles are 50th in the RPI rankings, which means they have some ground to make up if they want to assure themselves of a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Immediately in front of the Eagles in the next five spots are Rice, Oregon State, Central Florida, Southeastern Louisiana, and Oral Roberts. Central Florida played UNF yesterday, and SELA played the Ragin Cajuns from Lafayette as well. Oral Roberts played Arkansas-Little Rock.
In order to keep up with the Joneses, BC has to win in order to keep pace with teams like idle Rice and Oregon State. A loss, while not disastrous, would be a major blow. Why? UMass is ranked 189th.
Music To Listen To Once You're At America's Most Beloved Ballpark
Neil Diamond - Sweet Car--AHHHA HGJKDSG:LKJDSGKJ.
Sorry. I don't know who that guy was about to play that, but I had to choke him with his pink hat.
Luke Bryan - That's My Kinda Night. The Beanpot should never leave Fenway. Just walking up the tunnel and seeing the green lawn is something everyone should experience once in their life.
Fun Fact Of The Week
Fenway Park just celebrated its 103rd birthday. It opened the exact same day the Titanic sank.
So the field is extremely quirky, as we are all well aware. We know about the dimensions with the Monster not being far from home plate but being ridiculously tall, and the Triangle in right center field is 420 feet away. It's less than 300 feet if players can wrap the ball around Pesky's Pole, but the fence in the right field corner is actually beyond 300 feet. That's because the Pole isn't in the right field corner.
The foul poles are inside the field of play. If a ball goes through the scoreboard on the bounce or a fly out in left field, it's considered a ground rule double. A ball can hit the wall in left center field, and depending on where it hits, it's either live or a homer. There's a yellow line denoting where.
But if you can hit the rail in the Triangle, it's a homer.
God I love Fenway.
Bring that damn trophy home where it belongs. Eagles win the Beanpot.