Saturday: vs. North Dakota State, 4 PM
Sunday: vs. Ohio State, 1:30 PM
Monday: vs. Butler, 1:30 PM
Tuesday: Central Michigan, 1 PM
After a weekend in which they extended their record to their best start ever at 7-0, the Boston College Eagles made the hour or so trek to Fort Myers for their annual exhibition game with the Boston Red Sox. It ended what was a fun and incredible week of baseball for the team.
But it's back to business, and business continues in the exact place where it last ended. The Birdballers are back in Port Charlotte, Florida, taking on northern teams as part of the Snowbird Classic. It's their second straight weekend in the event, only this time with power conference foes and five games in four days instead of three games in two.
North Dakota State: 7-1
Ohio State: 6-2-1
Central Michigan: 0-8
Around The Horn
Again, because BC is facing so many different opponents, it's nearly impossible to break down each individual team without turning this into a 5,000-word post. There is virtually no history with anyone in this tournament, with the Eagles having last played Northwestern in 1998 and having played Central Michigan and North Dakota State only one other time as part of previous Snowbird Classics. BC defeated the Bison last year and the Chippewas in 2014, having last beaten the Wildcats back in their last meeting. Meanwhile, it's the first ever meeting between BC and Ohio State and Butler, who is a member of the Big East.
Of the teams BC will face, they'll see arguably the best lineup in the first game. Northwestern enters the weekend hitting at a .272 clip as a team, and from there, it's a range of a couple of decent hitting teams (Ohio State and North Dakota State) to a bad hitting team (Butler at .201). Since it's only one game against each team, I tend to throw trends out the window since an aberration is always a possibility, but either way, that's a good way to judge everything.
For the Eagles, they'll send their usual suspects to the dish. Nearly every expected starter is mashing the ball to start the season with only Johnny Adams and Gian Martellini currently hitting under .200. But even then, Adams and Martellini played key roles in scoring runs when BC needed them, and as we've mentioned several times over, this season's been about a complete team effort.
On The Bump
Butler's really struggled this year, surrendering 10+ runs in three of the first four games of the season. They eventually rebounded with a couple of wins over Charleston Southern and Marian, but they're opening up this weekend with games against Northwestern and Indiana before they take on the Eagles. If they have to go deep into their staff before they play BC, that could be a factor.
As for Northwestern and Ohio State, the pitching staffs have been average in terms of statistics. They're certainly capable of a dominant performance, but they're also beatable. The Wildcats have a team ERA over 4.00, and Ohio State's still yet to have a real quality power conference win. The Buckeyes beat Pittsburgh in 13 innings but, like the BC-Villanova game, needed 11 runs to do it, and they gave up eight runs to Duke. They did win a 6-4 decision over Coastal Carolina and held the Chanticleers in the return match to three but lost.
North Dakota State's been the real pleasant surprise among these teams. When they played last year, the Bison were a 1-6 team and BC jumped on them, dominating in a 12-2 victory. This year, NDSU is 7-1 entering the weekend and has a pitching staff second to only BC among opponents this weekend. Four Bison pitchers are yet to allow an earned run, and their team ERA is well under 3.00.
The Eagles already announced the majority of their rotation, going with Mike King against Northwestern, Jacob Stevens against North Dakota State, Jesse Adams against Ohio State, and Thomas Lane against Butler. They haven't yet announced their fifth starter against Central Michigan, but the Chippewas haven't either. That game is miles away and most teams don't usually carry five starting pitchers. We're likely to see a non-traditional starter with several younger pitchers work that game since conference play opens up a few days later at NC State.
Besides the rest of the games going on in the Snowbird Classic, we look to the road ahead this week. Following the CMU game, BC will have a few days off before kicking off conference play against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack are 8-2 and playing this week in the Irish Classic. They'll take on Alabama at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, North Carolina before returning home to Raleigh to play Bucknell. Following that, they actually have a two game series at home against Fairfield before playing the Eagles over the weekend.
Hey it snowed in Boston yesterday!
It didn't snow enough to really ruin the fields, but winter's last gasp hung in there, dropping snow along the southern coast of Massachusetts and over Nantucket Island. It's still pretty cold up here though as the Birds play out the final stretch of games down in Florida this week.
In Port Charlotte, BC will actually draw two completely different sets of conditions through their two games today. It'll be cool in the 50s and 60s to start the day in the morning when they play Northwestern before getting up into the 70s by late afternoon - just in time for the NDSU game.
It's clear sailing through the weekend with conditions calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to high 70s throughout the weekend. Perfect baseball weather.
Same place as last weekend. Wash, lather, rinse, repeat.
Music To Listen To When You're Back In Port Charlotte
Aerosmith - Back in the Saddle. LEGENDARY BOSTON BAND ALERT.
I've always said this - the Red Sox game is a ton of fun, but it's an exhibition. It doesn't count. It's a great experience, and it's awesome for the players, a great day at the ballpark. But this weekend is back to business. BC enters this weekend as one of the cornerstone programs of the Snowbird Classic at 7-0, the program's best start. They take on much improved competition this week.
It's time to get serious again and pick up some real momentum heading into Raleigh next week.
Random Fact(s) of the Week
-Butler beat Marian in Indianapolis last Wednesday, 15-4. It's the only true home game anyone's played among teams we'll see at the Snowbird Classic, including BC.
-Port Charlotte is one of the best places in America to retire. It ranked #1 in a poll issued by CNNMoney.com, and it's been included in the Top 25 issued by US News and World Report.
-Port Charlotte once survived a major hurricane event. In 2004, Hurricane Charley was a Category 2 storm headed for Tampa on Florida's west coast. Then without warning the storm shifted and picked up intensity to Category 4. It hit Port Charlotte on the nose. The final tally of damage caused by the storm was over $11 billion in Florida alone, causing the National Weather Service to retire the name of the hurricane.
This is the perfect time for escalation of quality of opponent. One of the knocks against the Eagles through the first two weeks of the season is that they haven't played anyone, meaning their 7-0 start is more house of cards than foundation to an electric season. If they can come out of this weekend with quality wins, especially against Big Ten opponents, that will set them up for a run at the Wolfpack to start the ACC season.
I think matchups are going to play a role in this one, but, like I said, it's virtually impossible for me to mathematically predict what's going to happen in these games based on one game. In one game, a .100 hitter is just as likely to have a big game as a .500 hitter, and the tendencies can be more thrown out the window. So it'll be interesting to see how things go.
But I do think the Eagles have a very good shot at picking up some wins. If they get through the weekend undefeated, national polls are likely to start noticing. But I think they're going to be tagged with their first loss at some point. Of the five games, if BC goes 4-1, that's going to be a huge accomplishment. If they're 3-2, that's cause to be happy. If they're 5-0, someone should probably streak Shea Field with Mike Gambino's face painted on their chest.
It's a big weekend of baseball, and more than a lot can happen between now and Tuesday. One thing's for certain - this weekend is going to be very interesting.