Nick Sciortino knew it was gone as soon as it left his bat.
In the fourth inning, facing Northeastern starting pitcher Nate Borges, the Boston College catcher caught a hanging curveball on a 1-1 count right out over the middle of the plate. He hit it on the screws, blasting it towards dead center. It just kept going and going, rising and rising.
Then Mason Koppens happened. The Huskies centerfielder elevated on the fence, 400 feet away from where Sciortino was already watching and ready to trot. He skied about two feet over the fence, reached up, and caught it, committing the ultimate in highway robbery of a hitter.
"When a pitch hangs like that, whether you're the catcher or the hitter, you tend to have the same reaction," said Sciortino. "Your eyes get bigger, but you're obviously on the other side of being excited or nervous when it's coming in. He (Koppens) made a great play, maybe the best I've ever seen. I got back to the dugout, and we were all talking about how great of a player it was. Even though (a homer) was taken away from me, I was still excited that I was a part of it because he just made such an amazing play."
That Koppens robbed Sciortino underscored what would be a monster day for the Eagles catcher. The junior, batting second in the order, wound up with three hits, including a home run and a double, notching two RBI as the Eagles defeated Northeastern, 8-2, at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Massachusetts.
The win clinched the 12th Beanpot championship for Boston College as they became repeat champions for the fourth time in the trophy's short history.
"We had wanted to take Joe Cronin out of the two hole and put him into an RBI spot (Cronin would bat fourth in the lineup)," said head coach Mike Gambino of the move of Sciortino into the top of the lineup. "So we moved Nick up into the top of the order, and we wanted to see how it would play out. If he goes out and plays well, it can make a coach look like a genius, but it had nothing to do with me. He was just swinging the bat great."
The Eagles put together a complete performance, albeit with a slow start. Facing the Huskies, the teams logged a 0-0 tie through the game's first three innings as Borges allowed only a single in the second inning. BC, meanwhile, went with a staff approach, bringing in freshman Thomas Lane to start for two innings. After retiring the first inning in order on just seven pitches, he gave up a couple of hits in the second, slugging through it before handing the ball to Zach Stromberg, who would go two perfect innings in relief.
"He was losing his fastball a little bit," said Gambino, "but I thought he came back in and was working the glove side with the fastball better (as his outing went on). He throws a heavy fastball, and you see guys just pound it into the ground. If he continues to develop, I think Thomas Lane is going to be a guy that we're really going to like seeing out there."
Neither Lane nor Stromberg recorded a strikeout, but the rest of the BC staff went about powering through the Northeastern lineup. Between the fifth and the ninth, BC would strike eight, including a strike-out-the-side performance by Brian Rapp in the eighth. They allowed only one hit between the second and the eighth, not walking a batter until Jesse Adams issued a base on balls in the seventh. In what was a total staff performance, the Eagles held the Huskies scoreless until the ninth, when they had already amassed an 8-0 lead.
That lead came about thanks to the offense's breakout performance. In the top of the fourth, after the resounding fly out by Sciortino, the Eagles steadied themselves against the Huskies by generating a run. Michael Strem and Joe Cronin hit back-to-back singles to put two on with one out. Gian Martellini grounded to third into a fielder's choice, but third baseman Nolan Lang booted the ball, loading the bags. That enabled Logan Hoggarth to hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Strem and giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
"That was a big, quality at bat in a big spot at the time," said Gambino.
BC added one more in the fifth when Sciortino began making up for the out. Anthony Maselli led off with an infield single, then moved over to third thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Dominic Hardaway and a grounder to first by Jake Palomaki. Sciortino laced a double off the left field wall, scoring the runner to make it 2-0.
In the sixth, it began 4-0 as the long ball started coming into play. With Will Jahn relieving Borges to start the inning, Gian Martellini blasted a homer to right the opposite way on a 2-1 fastball, giving the Eagles a 3-0 lead. Later in the inning, Johnny Adams doubled to right center with two outs, scoring when Maselli put one back up the middle into center, increasing the lead to 4-0.
"I felt good during batting practice up at BC," said Martellini, "so I came into this game with a good confidence. I went out in my second at bat (as a designated hitter) and hit a home run, but even though it's been a while, anything I can do to help the team is really what I want to do."
BC opened the flood gates in the seventh. Sciotino led off the inning with his homer, blasting one to right, but it was only the start of a big inning for the Birds. With one out, Cronin walked and Martellini was hit by a pitch. That brought up Logan Hoggarth, who launched a 1-1 pitch into the Northborough night, homering to left to give BC an 8-0 lead. "It's always great to do that, and to do that in a Beanpot, where it's my last Beanpot, to give the team that, it's really great," said Hoggarth.
Northeastern would add two runs in the ninth off of Bobby Skogsbergh with two outs, but a grounder to substitute Mitch Bigras would end the game. Bigras had to reach to catch a line drive, then a quick bobble and settle before dropping the ball ended the game in a little bit of confusion, confusion that was cleared up by the umpire's out signal and the arrival of the Beanpot into Boston College's waiting arms.
BC pounded out 14 hits on the day, with no defensive errors, as part of their big game. Sciortino had the three hits (which should have been four if not for the Spiderman play in center), with two RBI and a run scored. Hoggarth went 2-3 with four RBI, including the three-run homer. And Maselli put together a multi-hit game, very quietly helping to lead the offense from down in the lower third of the order.
For Northeastern, Keith Kelly had two hits and an RBI as four players combined for seven hits. Kelly, Jake Farrell, and Mason Koppens all had two hits, while Cam Walsh added another single hit on the scoresheet.
For the Eagles, Sean Hughes (1-0) picked up the win for his efforts in the fifth inning, throwing two strikeouts while allowing one hit. Borges (2-2) absorbed the loss for the Huskies. The Eagles also used John Witkowski for an inning, while Isaac Lippert pitched the top of the ninth.
With the trophy in tow, BC can now turn its attention to Louisville for the Cardinals' first ever trip to the Birdcage. Northeastern (19-16) will also be at home, hosting William & Mary.