In three games, we understand if your perception of the 2015 Boston College baseball season changed.
Gone are the hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth. Entering the North Carolina weekend at 50th in the RPI, BC only fell four spots to 54. But the sweep loss assured the Eagles of a season in which they would lack the big quality win over a tournament-bound team. Despite sweeping Georgia Tech, the lack of marquee non-conference wins combined with the team's slow start combined with their skid all but assured they won't be selected by the committee to the field of 64.
It's frustrating because the season held so much promise after the recent winning streaks. We understand that. The culture of baseball at BC, never one for public consumption, could have changed overnight. Instead, BC is right back where it began, on the outside looking in.
But remember the way this season began. If you're coming late to the bandwagon, there's nothing wrong with that. Don't expect BC to compete at a national level, though. They only won 22 games last year, and that in and of itself was the most wins of the Mike Gambino era. They can still win 30 games, and they can still make the ACC Tournament. They're very much in the hunt. So don't jump off the bandwagon yet, no matter how disappointed you are.
This year began with expectations incredibly low. All we hoped was for improvement enough to put the Eagles around the 30-win mark, and we wanted them to get into the ACC Tournament. That's still very much alive, and they can still place in the middle of the seedings. They're not out of it by a long shot, but one thing they need to do after last weekend is right the ship. It's not sinking, but it listed a little bit. As a result, these become key games to get the offense back on track.
URI Record: 17-17-1 (10-5 Atlantic-10)
Last Time Out: Won two out of three against VCU (7-3, 6-3, 0-7)
Bryant Record: 17-18 (8-4 Northeast Conference)
Last Time Out: Split with LIU-Brooklyn (8-3, 4-5, 9-1, 4-13)
Around The Horn
We know what URI is going to bring to the table; BC already defeated them once this year by a 5-2 margin in Chestnut Hill. So we're going to spare you the details of running through the lineup top to bottom, identify the players, and let you know who could cause fits and starts for the Boston College pitching staff.
Instead, we'll look at the BC pitching staff and wonder aloud what the Eagles are going to bring to the table. BC's pitching staff simply continued its excellent ways this past weekend, but it ran into trouble after giving up mistakes. After all, Jesse Adams coughed up three runs after one of his fielder's committed a two-outs error. The difference between being good, being elite, and being legendary is the ability to bear down and get out of the jam after something like that happens.
Not to pick on Adams because I don't blame him at all in that scenario, but the next time around, the BC pitching staff have to mentally prepare for that situation if it happens. You react to the situation as opposed to letting the situation cause the reaction. If they get into that trouble against URI, that's one thing to look for.
As for Bryant, I can tell you the Bulldogs are capable of really doing some damage to the baseball. Through the first 30 games this year, they had several players at or around the .300 mark. They're hitting nearly .300 as a team. If BC takes the staff approach, Bryant needs to be a game focused on getting to the next batter, a type of survive-and-advance. It's entirely conceivable Bryant is going to mash the ball similar to the way Harvard is.
In fact, the Bulldogs statistically compare with the Crimson. The stats are great, but they play in an incredibly weak conference. That said, the possibility is there. They're pushing 30 homers, and they've scored over 200 runs. They're not a team to be taken lightly at all. Opponents are holding a poor 6.14 ERA on them.
On The Bump
Quite simply, the bats need to show up. I'm not saying anything we don't already know - BC struggled this past weekend and really hit the wall against North Carolina. Now it's often said you're never as good as when you're destroying the ball and you're never as bad as when you can't hit at all; that means BC needs to find the happy middle. I'm looking for extended at bats and patient pitch counts. I'm also looking for a lot of small ball out of the Eagles so they can revisit their roots as the type of team they were before they could rely on the power of Chris Shaw.
Again, we don't need to go over the URI pitching staff, but look for the Eagles to score between four and six runs in order to win this game, as long as the pitching holds up.
As for Bryant, the Bulldog pitching staff is bad.Their team ERA pushed to the 5.00 mark, and they've given up a substantial amount of runs, both earned and unearned. The game plan for them is to outslug opponents, which they're capable of doing. Given how the weekend went, we'll really need to take a long, hard look at their ability to go toe-to-toe with a team that's not particularly good on the hill.
If BC wants to avoid a full blown panic button situation, they'll need to score runs and assuage the fears that they're slumping at the dish at the worst possible time. Not to make the guys grip their bats tighter, but this is a good challenge for them to respond to.
We really don't have a need to watch the out of town scoreboard anymore since it's unlikely BC gets into the national tournament. Instead, let's look ahead to the weekend opponent with Virginia Tech.
BC plays Tuesday/Wednesday this week, but the Hokies only play on Tuesday. Having lost four out of their last five (all in a row before winning the final game against Duke), we know they're slumping badly. They play Appalachian State this week, but they've lost to UNC, Radford, and to the Blue Devils (twice) in the past week or so. So look for them to try and break out. If they can't, it's going to set up a juicy opportunity for BC to pick up huge wins this weekend.
Quite simply, this weekend is the make-or-break weekend of the season.
Music To Listen To As You're Wrapping Up Games With Lil' Rhody
John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band - On The Dark Side. Nothing beats a good flashback to Eddie and the Cruisers, a personal favorite and arguably the greatest soundtrack to a movie from its era, if not all time. The band formed in Rhode Island, originally starting out in Narragansett. They hit money with the Cruisers soundtrack, later appearing in Rocky IV with the song "Hearts on Fire" dominating the Russian training montage.
USA! USA! USA! USA!
Fun Fact Of the Week
The saxophone player from the Beaver Brown Band is now a part of Ernie & The Automatics, a band formed by local Massachusetts car kingpin Ernie Boch, Jr. Boch's from and lives in Norwood - the hometown of John Gorman.
Bryant head coach Steve Owens is only 49 years old, but he's been a head coach since 1992. Between Cortland, Le Moyne, and now Bryant, he's amassed nearly 750 career win. He's over the 150 win mark at Bryant, having led the Bulldogs in their four years as members of the NEC.
In four years at Bryant, he's won three regular season championships - including one when they weren't even a full member of Division I (2012). Bryant's been to the last two NCAA Tournaments. In 2013, they defeated Arkansas, 4-1 before losing to Kansas State, 7-1. The Razorbacks got revenge in their return match with a 12-3 win. The Bulldogs were a #3 seed in that bracket.
Last year, the Bulldogs once again held a #3 seed but lost to Houston in the Baton Rouge Regional, 3-2, in extra innings. They lost to Southeastern Louisiana to go 0-2 in the tournament.
You know, I have definite concerns about this week's games. The Eagles need to break out of the funk, and even though I feel like the pitching is good enough, the hitting has to be better. URI is going to be hankering for a revenge win, and Bryant is in the hunt for another league championship. They want to enhance their postseason resume with a win over a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament.
I'm going to call for BC to win both games, but I'm saying don't be surprised if they lose one. I worry about that Bryant game, and I think there's a solid chance the Eagles lose to the Bulldogs at home. We'll see how it goes, and I'm hopeful Birdball figures it out with the Hokies on the horizon.