There's a challenge to this weekend's series.
With final exams ongoing at Boston College, the Eagles baseball team takes a weekend off from ACC in-league play in order to play a quick two-game series against the Hartford Hawks of the America East Conference. It's a series where the Eagles should clean up, clean house, and walk away with a couple of quick victories.
Therein lies the rub. There's a pressure to the baseball of this weekend. Coming out of exams, there's a part of the Eagles that needs to compartmentalize and get away from the pressures of their academic life. They'll need to persevere through a week where athletics are likely to take a back seat.
At the same time, BC needs to persevere through a weekend in which their eyes will be darting to other series. Their backs to the wall, the Eagles most likely aren't going to be eliminated from postseason contention this weekend, not with a three-way tie between Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech two spots in front of them. But they find themselves down to their final breaths, especially with Virginia, a top-ranked team a year ago, in front of them.
Don't take this series lightly. BC has to deal with more distraction than normal from multiple sides. The games themselves will provide a chance to get away from it all, but this is anything but a given, even against a sub-.500 team from a poor baseball conference.
Record: 18-26 (8-11 America East Conference)
Last Time Out: Defeated Northeastern on 5/5 (9-6); Swept Stony Brook (10-9, 12-10) over last weekend
Around The Horn
Like so many other teams BC's faced this year, Hartford brings a top-heavy lineup capable of mashing the ball through a few people in their lineup. They're a .262 team, but only three hitters are substantially over that mark. David MacKinnon is hitting .340 on the season to lead the way, followed by Chris DelDebbio at .301. Trey Stover's .283 provides a good intermediate average.
After that, though, the team is hitting right at or around the average mark. Ryan Lukach is hitting .268, with Ben Bengtson at .265 and Nick Campana at .263. Everyone else is at .250 or lower.
The good news for Hartford is that nobody is really under the .200 mark, and they hit a ton of extra base hits. Of their 378 hits this season, 105 are for extra bases, including 80 doubles. If they can string together enough hits, they're going to be capable of scoring runs.
That said, they don't score that many runs. For a team hitting .262, they've only scored 197 runs. Of those 197 runs, they've manufactured 173 via RBI. It's a number that's spaced out throughout their lineup - nearly all every day players have 10 RBI and nobody has 40 - and they're a team capable of getting on base.
In short, this is a team that has top heavy hitters but is pedestrian the rest of the way. Nobody is really awful and a liability, but outside of the three hitters mentioned, they're not going to jump off the paper.
On The Bump
Since this is a weekend series, it'll be interesting to see if the Hawks throw their top arms against the Eagles. Kyle Gauthier, Sam McKay, and Brian Murphy took the majority of weekend starts with 11, 10, and 10, respectively.
Gauthier's thrown over 70 innings, by far the best starter, but he has only a 3-6 record and an ERA of 4.17. McKay is also 3-6, and Murphy is 0-4 on the season.
This is a team that gives up a good amount of earned runs, sporting a team mark of 4.69. They've given up less hits than they've amassed as a team, but they've given up 41 more runs than they've scored. That means if put into a jam, the pitching staff will struggle to get guys out. Runs will need to come in bunches.
So here's the deal - we will be watching the scoreboard this weekend. At this point, we don't care about results of teams like Miami or Clemson since catching them is out of the question. Since BC isn't playing in conference games, they can still lose ground if the wrong teams win.
Wake Forest is playing NC State, and Georgia Tech is playing Pitt. Both of those series are at home for the teams BC is competing against. At the same time, Virginia is playing Duke. So we need to be rooting HARD for the Wolfpack, the Panthers, and the Blue Devils.
Here's the problem - Pitt and Duke have been bad baseball teams this year. If they can't string some wins together, the Eagles will be staring at Virginia Tech next week where the Hokies only have to win one game in order to knock them out. By the same token, we'll still have to keep an eye on the 'Hoos, who will play North Carolina.
Those are the series to watch this weekend.
Music To Listen To While You're Praying For A Miracle
Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer. By far my all-time favorite band and my all-time favorite song, the Eagles need help. They're living on a prayer right now, and they need substantial amounts of help. No help? No playoffs. And even with help it might not be enough.
Fun Fact Of The Week
America East plays two-game series weekends within its conference play, utilizing a DH game and a non-DH game. It's kind of an interesting set up, since one game the pitchers have to hit and the others don't. The ACC uses strictly designated hitters, and while a team can choose to have its pitcher hit, Hartford can play with the DH this weekend.
A Division I program since 1985, they've only been in America East since 1990. Hartford was once a member of the Northeast-8 Conference, which eventually became known as the Northeast-10 Conference. They were actually a former conference rival of teams like Pace, Bentley, and Bryant before transitioning and classifying to D1.
From 1985-1989, they were a member of the ECAC league before moving to America East, which at the time was known as the North Atlantic Conference.
The head coach of the Hartford club, Justin Blood, is a former pitcher from Franklin Pierce who is in his first head coaching position. He's only 35 years old, and he was the former pitching coach of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Little known fact - he was at Y-D when I was broadcasting games there.
Does anybody even care at this point? I'm being serious. I'm not worried about these two games, and I really don't care if BC wins or loses. I'm more worried about the conference games. Just please pick up two wins for pride and move on.