Sometimes an entire game can change or end in an instant.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a 2-2 game, Boston College head coach Mike Gambino replaced Logan Hoggarth with pinch hitter Chris Balogh. On the fifth pitch of his at-bat, Balogh hit a groundball with eyes up the middle, bouncing one through the hole at second for a base hit to put the winning run at first with Johnny Adams striding to the plate.
In a matter of three pitches, everything changed. Facing an 0-2 count, Tommy Doyle delivered the first ball of the count. On the pitch, pinch runner Dominic Hardaway took off for second. Catcher Matt Thaiss threw down to second, but the ball screwballed away from the bag towards second and bounced into right center field. Hardaway, who dove into the bag, got up and hustled to third. Just like that, a seemingly harmless runner on first turned into a potentially deadly situation for the visiting Virginia Cavaliers.
Two pitches later, Doyle got Adams swinging at a pitch in the dirt. The ball bounced in front of Thaiss, so Adams started running towards first. Thaiss stepped out in front of the plate and threw down to first base for a routine play that would've sent the game into extras. But the ball clipped Adams in the leg, and it got away from Pavin Smith. Hardaway ran home, touching off a celebration as BC exploded from their dugout, 3-2 victors at home.
"You just have to find a way," said Adams. "You just have to focus on what (Doyle) was throwing, especially in a situation like that, with a guy on third and a base open. (The pitcher) will probably try to spike sliders and try to get me to chase there, and that's what he did. With the base open, he looked to spin an offspeed, so that's what I was looking for."
It was the crescendo of a game featuring more incredible pitching performances. Originally starting the year as the closer, Justin Dunn was tabbed as the starter for the Eagles. He went five innings of two-hit baseball, matching a career high with five strikeouts while walking only one. He faced three over the minimum, scattering two hits, while throwing 72 pitches on a limited pitch count. Dunn pounded the catcher's mitt, hitting 96-97 miles per hour consistently and dazzling the scouts in attendance.
"After last weekend where he had that weird weekend where we played one game (against Florida State), (pitching coach) Jimmy Foster came to me on Tuesday morning and asked what I thought," said Mike Gambino of the switch to move Dunn to the rotation. "We went back and forth about it, waited it out a little it, and talked about a way to get Jesse Adams going while getting Justin more innings on a weekend. We were able to do some things, and it was a great call by (Foster)."
Dunn didn't mess around after allowing a leadoff single to Adam Haseley, who doubled as the Wahoos' starting pitcher. He induced a couple of grounders, then struck out Pavin Smith with a fastball into a slider that broke in the high-80s on the outside corner. Following the first inning, he allowed only one base runner by way of a walk in the top of the second through the rest of his appearance. In the fifth, he hit Jack Gerstenmaier and allowed a single to Ryan Karstetter, but he bore down to retire Justin Novak and end the threat.
The offense, meanwhile, jumped on the Cavaliers at the start. Jake Palomaki led off the game with a walk, then scored from first when Joe Cronin blasted a double off the wall in left center. After Michael Strem sacrificed Cronin into scoring position, Donovan Casey hit a fly ball to score the run and give the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
"When our offense is going well, it's going from first to third, taking an extra base, stealing a bag when we can," said Gambino. "With the weather we've had in the last week, with the flags pinned in and the ball not going anywhere, runs are hard to come by. We have to bunt for a hit, we have to hit and run, and we have to situationally hit. Donovan Casey gets a big sac fly in the first, and that's what we have to be. Especially in the ACC - runs are hard to come by in this conference anyways."
Brian Rapp relieved Dunn in the sixth and ran into issues, allowing the game to become tied. A walk, an error, and a wild pitch put runner sin scoring position and a grounder by Thaiss and a double by Smith tied the game at 2-2 with only one run earned. He rallied to strike out two to end the inning, but the defending champs managed to enter the late innings tied.
The game remained that way into the ninth, where the Eagles last-out heroics gave them their fourth ACC win of the season.
For BC, Jesse Adams picked up the win in relief. Lost in the story of Dunn's excellence was the move of Adams back to the bullpen. But the lefty came in with two outs in the seventh and pitched through the ninth to pick up his third win of the season. Adams finished with two strikeouts and a walk, allowing a single hit on 37 pitches, of which 25 were strikes.
"Obviously starting is great, and I've really enjoyed starting, but I feel very comfortable coming out of the pen," said Adams. "It really wasn't that big of a deal, and I knew Justin would be able to jump into that spot to throw successfully. When I'm pitching in the later innings, I get a chance to relax and just attack hitters, which I was able to do (on Saturday)."
For Virginia, the loss spoiled an absolutely sterling performance by Adam Haseley. He went eight innings, throwing 107 pitches in the process, allowing just the two first inning runs. He struck out six and walked three, surrendering only five hits in the process. Tommy Doyle (1-5) picked up the loss, allowing the unearned run in the ninth.
The two teams will battle in a rubber match on Sunday, with Mike King pitching for the Eagles against a pitcher to be announced for Virginia. As a result of the reconfigured rotation, King, normally BC's Friday night starter, gets a chance to pitch his team to its first ACC series victory since the season opener against NC State.
"Sunday games in the ACC are so important," said Gambino, "because they can sweep a weekend for you, help you avoid a sweep, or, like what we'll see, have it be a rubber match. Everyone knows how good Mike King can be, that he's a Friday starter. It's a great opportunity to have him pitch for us on Sunday."