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First Pitch: Road Warriors Return Home For Beanpot First Round

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Eagles FINALLY play a game on Shea Field, and it's a rematch with a team they decimated 22-1 with a trip to Fenway Park's Championship Game on the line.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, Boston College played Northeastern in a game where we weren't sure quite what to expect out of the Birdballers. They were playing a team they seldom beat, a team they struggled with. They weren't sure when, if ever, they would play at home. Under a partly cloudy, 32 degree day, the Eagles answered the bell in a big way, blasting 22 runs on the scoreboard against the Huskies and waltzing back to Chestnut Hill with their seventh win of the season.

Two weeks later, the circumstances are different. The Eagles enter the Beanpot as a favorite to finally win the trophy that's eluded them since 2011. Although not the best statistical offense, they're the most potent, having put up big numbers against much tougher opponents. Their pitching staff is more battle-hardened and deep, able to go to the third or fourth arm in order to get quality starts and outings. And with the exception of Harvard, who BC doesn't play this year and may not play in the Beanpot, they've outscored opponents by a combined 33-2.

On pure paper alone, the ACC Eagles are in a spot where we can expect them to be: the favorite to win the trophy and celebrate on Fenway Park's pure-bred lawn later this month.

In the Beanpot first round this year, though, we're going to add a different wrinkle. Since the season started on February 13th, Boston College has not played a single game on their home field. Nine scheduled games were moved, of which seven were scheduled home games. BC played three in Northborough, Massachusetts at the New England Baseball Complex, played three in Newark, Delaware. One game—the third game against NC State—was flat out cancelled. Through 30 of 2015's 50-plus games, Boston College hasn't played at home.

Until now.

Of the remaining games, only eight will be on the road at a field other than Shea Field in Chestnut Hill. One will be at Rhode Island, and one will be at Fenway Park as part of the Beanpot's Championship/Consolation rounds. Today kicks off a string of home games that won't end until April 24th with a trip down south to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

So it's fitting that the Beanpot for 2015 holds so much importance. There's heightened anticipation. Boston College is home. They're the favorites to win the Beanpot this year. They're playing a team they crushed the first time out. After treading water for half of their season, now's the time to lay the hammer down and really pick up some steam.

Now all they have to do is win.

On Paper

Record: 11-19 (4-5 CAA)
Last Time Out: Lost 9-1 to UConn; last weekend took one of three games from Elon (2-6, 7-5, 3-6)

Around The Horn

Since this is the second non-conference game of the week, it'll be interesting to see how Mike Gambino handles the pitching staff. This isn't a game to gamble the staff away with Clemson coming to town this weekend. At the same time, it's the Beanpot, a trophy BC hasn't won with any of the players on the current roster. That means we really don't know what to expect.

I don't think the Eagles are likely to pitch any of their weekend starters; it wouldn't make sense to pitch Jeff Burke, Mike King, or John Gorman for multiple innings and waste a potential start against Clemson. The only pitcher among the trio likely to get a look would be King, since he would still have normal rest since his last start and before his next start. That said, King is interchangeable for a week start with someone like Justin Dunn. So it's foolish to waste the start.

When last they met, Gorman did get the start and went four innings, but he had missed a start in the previous weekend and was pushed back into the midweek. That set him up to be the Sunday starter of the conference series, where he's been ever since.

That said, Gorman held Northeastern at bay, allowing just one run on two hits in four sterling innings. The Huskies couldn't solve the BC pitching, which included Bobby Skogsbergh and Trever Massey after the score was out of hand. That means they still haven't seen any of the better relievers on the Eagle staff.

Expect BC to have a similar performance against the Huskies. Maybe they don't hold them to one run on five hits, but there's going to be a whole new slate of pitchers taking the field at home against Northeastern—guys they don't have an internal database against.

On The Bump

If there's one thing we saw a lot of against Northeastern, it was their bullpen. The bad news? I don't find it likely a team gives up 22 runs on 22 hits again. That just screams outlier.

The good news? The Huskies pitching staff is still struggling. Despite rallying from the BC loss with a three-game sweep of Delaware, Northeastern enters this game having lost five of six. Following their sweep of the Blue Hens, they promptly surrendered 18 runs to both Rhode Island and Bryant. They coughed up nine to UConn.

The Huskies pitching staff, which, like the Eagles, can't risk losing a weekend starter in this game with James Madison coming up here this weekend, will likely have to throw somebody with an ERA well over the 5.00 mark. Then again, only three guys on the entire staff have an ERA under 5.00, and two are relievers.

Northeastern has a staff ERA of 6.56, facing a BC staff that hit cruise control against Dartmouth but just exited a complete slugfest against Wake Forest. Chris Shaw is mashing anything that moves at this point. Call me cocky, but I'm giddy with excitement to see what happens.

Scoreboard Watching

I'll tell you something you already know: watch the result of the Harvard-UMass game. The other Beanpot game kicks off at 3:30 PM out in Amherst. What's interesting in this series is that Harvard has to save its pitching staff for four games this weekend against Brown, and UMass is a bad baseball team.

What To Listen To As You're Watching The Game At Shea Field

A home game? A real live home game?

Of course it's during Frozen Four week so I can't go.

Fun Fact Of The Week

I know the hockey community hates the use of the word Beanpot when it gets thrown out for anything other than the four-team tournament played at the TD Garden in February, but baseball's version has some history to it.

The Baseball Beanpot began in 1990 with the same four teams as the hockey Beanpot: BC, Northeastern, Harvard, and Boston University. BC won three of the first four, losing only in 1991 when Harvard defeated them, 12-9, in the championship game. In 1994, BU and Northeastern inexplicably made the championship game, with the Huskies taking home the first crown.

BU discontinued baseball following the 1995 season, so Massachusetts was added in time for the 1996 season. UMass promptly won two straight in '96 and '97, taking three of four by winning again in 2000 (there was no Beanpot in 1998 because of a rainout, and BC won it in 1999). This year marks the 20th edition of the tournament featuring these four teams with only the 2007 Beanpot as an aberration—Holy Cross replaced Harvard in the consolation game after Harvard lost to BC, 6-3, because of a scheduling conflict. The Crusaders promptly defeated UMass, 8-3, because LOLUMASS.

Since its inception, the Beanpot's been played at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, with only a couple of exceptions. The 2000 semifinals played out at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket RI, and since 2004, there's been sprinklings of campus sites for the first rounds with the championship and consolation played at Fenway Park. Over the past few years, the ability to play at Fenway's grown tougher because of accessibility during the beginning of the MLB season, but the tournament returns this year to the fabled grounds.

10 times Boston College has won the Beanpot, but they haven't won it since 2011. That said, last year was the first time the Eagles ever finished outright dead last in the tournament, dropping two one-run ballgames to Harvard and Northeastern.

So when you think the Beanpot doesn't mean much, it does. This used to be Boston College's playground. Now, hopefully, it can be again.

Prediction Time

I don't think another 22-1 outcome is going to happen, but I can't see BC losing this game. I think playing at home with the memory of last year's fourth place finish and consolation game loss at Parsons Field to the Huskies should still be fresh, and they played just poor enough against Dartmouth to give the coaching staff some ammo.

I seldom play this card, but in the interest of how this year's gone, I'm about to come across really arrogant about one thing—Boston College is an ACC program that's won some games and, for the most part, been competitive since the start of the season. The Beanpot shouldn't be a worry. There's always a chance they'll lose, but there's something about this team's make up that has me believing.

Please don't prove me wrong. Go Eagles.