As a look back, BC improved to 7-0 on the season with a clean sweep of their first weekend at the Snowbird Classic. They defeated Chicago State (7-1) and Indiana State (5-3) on Saturday in a doubleheader before winning a slugfest, 12-inning affair against Villanova (11-10) on Sunday. That led to Monday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox, which the hometown MLB club won for the 26th straight time (6-0).
Let's go around the horn at some of the highlights.
Maybe it's just me, but the doubleheader sweep was another sign of BC taking steps forward. Jacob Stevens pitched an absolute gem against the Cougars in the morning session on Saturday, followed by Mike King pitching more solid baseball against a tougher Indiana State opponent. It was a good day for BC, almost as if the Chicago State game prepped them for a game against Indiana State.
At the same time, BC's pitching depth is starting to come into focus. The Birds got three solid innings out of three guys not named John Nicklas or Justin Dunn, and they simply keep finding more arms to throw out at an opponent. Against the Sycamores, they sat back and handed the ball to Dunn for two innings, and he shut down a tough Missouri Valley Conference team for his first save of the year.
Seven games into the season, the Eagle pitching staff has an ERA of 1.91, and that includes the Villanova game in which they allowed double digit run totals. King, Stevens, and Thomas Lane all have ERAs under 2.00 (Stevens is at 0.00), and BC's received 18.1 innings from pitchers yet to allow an earned run. They're 15th best in the nation, ranked just behind Cal State-Fullerton and behind only Georgia Tech (0.90) and Florida State (1.50) among ACC teams.
Competition is starting to heat up, and if the pitching staff goes on lockdown again this weekend, BC will start turning heads nationally. Northwestern and Ohio State are on deck - two power conference teams with name recognition.
A team has to win every kind of baseball game over the course of the season. There's going to be a number of one-run ballgames, and when you break down the win over Villanova, that's exactly what it was. Sure, it was a slugfest, which is altogether another type of game a team will have to win over the course of a season. It went to extra innings, yet another type of game. But in the end, BC won a one-run game over a deceptively tough opponent.
If there was a true highlight, it's that they found a stopper type performance out of the bullpen. Jesse Adams struggled in two innings of work, allowing six runs while battling control issues (four walks and four hits). That'll happen to anybody, as any pitcher will tell you. They're all prone to bad days every now and then.
But when Adams was pulled, Thomas Lane came in and buoyed the pitching staff for 4.1 innings. He allowed only a couple of runs on five hits, a performance that's just as good as getting a near-quality start. After him, John Witkowski, Brian Rapp, Dan Metzdorf, Donovan Casey, and Zach Stromberg all did their job in holding off Villanova as best as they could. Then John Nicklas came in and threw 2.1 innings of sterling baseball, shutting down the Wildcats and allowing the offense to get the run to win when they needed it.
You're not going to get seven shutout innings every game from your starting pitcher. When it doesn't happen, you need a pitching staff and team willing to band together. That's what BC got against Nova, and that's what helped them remain undefeated.
We've talked a ton about pitching, but what about the lineup? Through the first seven games, BC's finding ways to drive in runs thanks to an approach I talked about at the beginning of the season. This isn't a team that will have one guy every game capable of blasting that game-winning homer. Instead, this is a team built on depth and tough outs.
Through seven games, BC is hitting just under .300 as a team. The majority of hitters who played in the majority of games (five or more) are hovering around that .300 mark. That means, top-to-bottom, the lineup is getting the same production out of the majority of hitters.
There are standouts, such as Nick Sciortino and Donovan Casey, who are at .563 and .455 respectively. But consider that six Eagles have four or more RBI, including three with six or more. Logan HOggarth and Jake Palomaki both have six, and Joe Cronin, who is hitting a "paltry" .292 in comparison to his over-.300 teammates (detection of sarcasm? I hope so) has seven. Gian Martellini, who has only two hits since his homer against Northern Illinois, still has five.
Bottom line is that this lineup needs to keep developing, but it's capable of driving in runs anywhere from the #1 spot to the #9 hole. That's exactly what they wanted for an identity, and that's exactly what they're turning into through the first tenth of the season.
The Red Sox exhibition on Monday was fun. It was great to see the Eagles and Red Sox both don the PF3 wristbands and play out a seven inning game on NESN. It was great to see a guy like Joe Cronin play solid baseball, complete hustle plays, and impress some of the people that are watching. It was fun to watch him gain a base hit because Pablo Sandoval struggled to field a grounder. It was fun to watch Hanley Ramirez at first base against BC, because it's fun to watch Hanley Ramirez.
But there are no misconceptions about this game. If BC is ever able to beat the Red Sox, it's only the first Spring Training game of the year. In terms of the Red Sox season, there are 162 more important games during the regular season, and there are far more important games BC will play in 2016.
It's a fun day at the ballpark, and it's a great way to give BC a taste of what the big leagues are like. It gives the Eagles a chance to watch big leaguers warm up, take BP, take infield practice. It allows them to take out their phones and take pictures of David Ortiz in the batting cage.
But after the conclusion of that game, my brain started wandering to the Snowbird Classic games this weekend. It's not meant to take away from the fun of the Red Sox game, but at the same time, I would much rather have BC sweep Clemson or take a series from Florida State. They entered jetBlue Park at Fenway South with a 7-0 record, and they departed with that same record regardless of outcomes.
The ACC Tournament is always the goal, as is the NCAA Tournament. And this upcoming weekend will be a big deal in terms of moving the Eagles forward towards that goal.