Coming off of last weekend's losses to Clemson, there was something of a sense of urgency surrounding the Boston College baseball season. Although it's still early in the year, there felt a need to come out against an underrated Pittsburgh team and collect wins in order to right the ship and get back on track. On Thursday, that's exactly what happened.
Joe Cronin hit a first inning homer from which the Eagles never looked back, and Mitch Bigras blasted his first career bomb as the bullpen shut down Pittsburgh in the late innings for a 6-4 victory. The victory improved the Eagles to 3-4 in league play while earning them their 13th win on the season.
BC didn't waste any time jumping on starting pitcher Josh Falk. Jake Palomaki worked a full count before drawing a walk, and on the very next pitch, Cronin blasted a homer (his third of the season) to left to give BC a 2-0 lead just six pitches into the game.
The Panthers got one back off starting pitcher Mike King in the bottom of the inning before both teams settled in. After King led off his game with a strikeout, Charles LeBlanc doubled to center. With Nick Yarnell at the plate, King attempted to pick him off of, but he threw it into center, moving LeBlanc up to third with nobody. Yarnell hit a sacrifice fly, scoring the runner, though unearned, from third, to make it a 2-1 game. King would put another runner on when Alex Kowalczyk reached via an error, but he rallied to induce a fielder's choice to get out of the inning.
The Panthers tied it in the next inning. After King got two quick outs, he walked Frank Maldonado on four pitches. He moved to third on a single to right center by Matt Johnson, and Jacob Wright scored a base hit to right center to tie the game at 2-2.
King settled in after that and didn't allow a run through the rest of his five full innings, though he would surrender a run that scored in the sixth.
BC, though, would have a big lead before that run ever scored, plating one in the fourth and three in the sixth. In the fourth, it was Bigras, who worked a full count before blasting a pay off delivery to the deepest part of the ballpark, notching his first career bomb with one to dead center to give his team a 3-2 lead.
In the sixth, BC chased Falk from the game, gaining runs against the beleaguered Pitt bullpen. After Falk walked Johnny Adams with one out, the Panthers lifted him in favor of Garrett Wrambel. Wrambel nearly got out of the inning, inducing a fly out to Logan Hoggarth, but he surrendered a double down the left field line to Jake Palomaki, extending the lead to 4-2. The hit scored Adams from second, where he stood after stealing a base to welcome Wrambel to the game.
With a man on second, Pitt walked Cronin intentionally to set up a force out, but Donovan Casey singled to right, scoring Palomaki from second and advancing Cronin to third. That was it for Wrambel, who was lifted in favor of Tyler Garbee. But Garbee balked against Stephen Sauter, scoring Cronin for the inning's third run and a 6-2 Eagle lead.
Pitt chipped away at the lead, starting in the bottom of the sixth. King allowed back-to-back hits on the first two pitches of the inning, including a Kowalczyk double, to plate a run, but he rallied for two strikeouts to nearly get through the inning. A single by Maldonado advanced a runner to third, forcing King from the game in favor of Bobby Skogsbergh. Skogsbergh rallied for an out on his first pitch to end the threat and get out of the inning with just the one run and a 6-3 lead.
BC threatened in the top of the seventh, loading the bases, but they failed to blow the game open. Still facing Garbee, pinch hitter Chris Balogh and Michael Stream flew out to start the inning. Then Garbee struggled, walking Bigras and allowing a single to Johnny Adams to put two on with two out. He walked Hoggarth, loading the bases for Palomaki, but the BC leadoff hitter flew out to center to end the threat.
Following the stretch, the Panthers scored one off BC's pitching, which ran into some control issues. He walked the first Wright and LeBlanc to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Yarnall grounded to short, with BC going the short way to third to retire the lead runner, keeping runners at first and second but with one out.
During Kowalczyk's ensuing at-bat, though, Skogsbergh balked, advancing both runners into scoring position. That enabled Kowalczyk to fly out to right, sacrificing a runner home for a 6-4 score. With Yarnall at third and two out, the Eagles went to the bullpen for Kevin Connor, who welcomed himself to the game with back-to-back HBPs. Mike Gambino didn't waste any time going back to the bullpen, bringing in Brian Rapp, who struck out Caleb Parry to end the inning.
Now through seven, Gambino went back to the bullpen for John Nicklas and Justin Dunn, who went into full lockdown mode in the eighth and ninth. Nicklas went 1-2-3 with a lineout, groundout, and strikeout, and Dunn struck out both LeBlanc and Yarnall before inducing Kowalczyk into a grounder to end the game against the meat of the Panther order.
Mike King (4-1) picked up the win by completing 5.2 innings. He was a little uncharacteristic in his final stats against a very tough Pitt lineup, striking out four and walking three, giving up seven hits. Of the three runs he allowed, only two were unearned.
Bobby Skogsbergh threw one full inning, giving up the one run, walking two and recording zero strikeouts. After Kevin Connor faced two batters with the two HBPs, Brian Rapp got the one out he threw via strikeout on seven pitches.
Nicklas and Dunn combined for the final two outs, with Dunn picking up his second save of the year, fourth of his career.
As for Pittsburgh, Falk (2-2) absorbed the loss for the now-.500 Panthers, throwing 5.1 innings and allowing four runs on seven hits. He walked more than he struck out, walking four and K'ing two. Wrambel got only one out despite facing four batters, surrendering two runs. Garbee threw 1.1 innings, and Jextin Pugh pitched the final two innings.
At the dish, the top of the offense starred for BC. Cronin and Donovan Casey both went 3-4, with Cronin hitting the two run homer for his RBI on the day. He also scored two runs. Casey also recorded an RBI.
Jake Palomaki added two hits, two runs scored, and an RBI, while Bigras' lone hit was the solo homer. Johnny Adams had a 2-4 day. The bulk of the Eagle lineup, however, was hitless through the middle of the order.
For PItt, LeBlanc had the only multi-hit day, goign 2-4 with two runs scored.
BC goes for the series victory on Friday with a 1 PM start at Cost Field. Jesse Adams will get the call for BC against Pittsburgh's Aaron Sandefur.