Heading into the season, a number of ACC baseball previews referred to Boston College as a team people would play, a program on the schedule. They were nothing more because over the past six years, they hadn't earned the right to be called anything but. Even in stages of growth, they still struggled to consistently win league games, after all.
Even through the first 10-plus games in 2016, BC hadn't really earned the right to be a team to watch. They won a bunch of games, but they hadn't picked up a marquee victory to really solidify themselves.
Oh by the way, that sound you just heard? That was the snapping sound of every head flicking towards Chestnut Hill.
In their ACC opener on Friday, the Eagles dominated the eighth-ranked NC State Wolfpack. They broke a scoreless tie in the fourth, broke it open in the fifth, then salted it away in the sixth before slamming the door shut in the later innings. When the dust settled on game one, BC had a 7-0 win, its first ACC win of the year, and an attention-getter that means Saturday's matchup will be loaded with intrigue and intensity.
Starting pitchers Mike King and Joe O'Donnell were sterling through the first three innings, keeping the game scoreless into the fourth. King retired the first eight men he faced before he surrendered singles to Josh McLain and Brock Deatherage on back-to-back pitches in the bottom of the third. But he stranded both runners, pushing a full count pitch to Preston Palmeiro that was grounded out to second.
As for O'Donnell, he ran into base runners in both the first and second. After Jake Palomaki led off by reaching first via an error, he was thrown out at second. O'Donnell then walked Joe Cronin but stranded him in the first by striking out Michael Stream and inducing a grounder by Donovan Casey. In the second, Nick Sciortino and Mitch Bigras singled through the right side to put two on with nobody out, but Gian Martellini grounded into a 4-6-3 double play before Johnny Adams grounded out up the middle. He would retire the side in order in the third.
But it was in the fourth where the game finally broke. Working through the order for the second time, BC took advantage of another error by shortstop Joe Dunand, who would commit three on the day. Strem led off by reaching via Dunand's error, advancing to second when Casey singled on the first pitch he saw. With two on and nobody down, Sciortino singled back through the middle, scoring Strem and advancing Casey from first to third.
That allowed Casey to score when Mitch Bigras grounded to Dunand on a 1-0 pitch which turned two. It cleared the bases, scoring the run, but it was a 6-4-3 double play, preventing an RBI. Still, even after Martellini ended the inning with a fly ball, BC led 2-0.
BC broke it open in the fifth. For the third time, a leadoff batter hit one to Dunand, who couldn't handle it and committed his third error of the day, putting Johnny Adams at first. Gabe Hernandez bunted himself aboard, putting runners on first and second, with nobody out, setting the stage for the top of the order.
BC attempted to sacrifice them over with Jake Palomaki, but his bunt attempt was picked up by the pitcher O'Donnell and thrown away, giving the Eagles full bags with nobody out. That set up Cronin, who singled a 1-2 pitch to center, rotating the bases and making it 3-0.
Strem was up next, and he grounded to Dunand at short. But NC State failed to turn two, giving Strem an RBI as Hernandez scored, moving Cronin to third. The small ball continued with a bunt single by Casey down the third base line that scored Cronin, giving the Eagles a 5-0 lead, none of which were earned to that point.
After King sat down the Wolfpack in order in the bottom of the fifth, BC put the game entirely out of reach with two runs in the top of the sixth. After Martellini singled, O'Donnell rallied for back-to-back strikeouts. But he threw a wild pitch to move him up a base, then pitched around Palomaki to bring up Cronin, who promptly laced a two-RBI triple to right center, clearing the bases to give BC a 7-0 lead.
King finished seven innings before handing the ball to Bobby Skogsbergh, who ran into problems in the eighth when NC State put runners on second and third with two out,. But he struck out slugger Chance Shepard to end the inning. Skogsbergh walked one but retired the side with two K's in the bottom of the ninth to give BC the win.
Mike King (3-0) picked up the win for BC, not allowing a run and scattering six hits through seven. He was utterly spectacular, striking out four and not allowing a walk. Skogsbergh threw two innings, giving up two hits, but he also struck out four and walked one in the ninth - the only BC free pass on the day.
For NC State, O'Donnell (2-1) was charged with his first loss of the season. He went six innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits while striking out five and walking two. But the NC State defense was charged with four errors, three by Dunand - meaning only two of the runs were actually earned. Travis Orwig threw the final three innings for State, waling three and striking out two but not giving up a run.
Offensively, Cronin had a big day for BC, going 2-for-3 with three runs batted in and two walks. Sciortino went 3-for-5 with an RBI, and Bigras and Casey had multi-hit games, going 2-4 and 2-5, respectively. Strem and Casey all added runs batted in.
For NC State, Brock Deatherage was the only player with multiple hits, while Palmeiro, Andrew Knizner, Chance Shepard, Brett Kinneman, Evan Mendoza, and Josh McLain scattered the others with one apiece.
The two teams will play the second game of the series on Saturday afternoon with a 3 PM start in what's expected to be a dogfight. If NC State took BC lightly in the first game, they're expected to rally on their home turf with the weekend games. And in doing so, they'll be sending their ace to the hill. Brian Brown takes the mound against the Eagles on Saturday, opposed by BC's Jesse Adams. The game be seen via gopack.com.