Heading into this weekend, Boston College faced two major questions about facing the fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals. How would their bats, which ranked dead last in the league with a .260 batting average, crack the league's second-best pitching staff? And even if that did happen, could BC's vaunted starting pitchers, who have been stellar all season long, stop one of the best-hitting teams in the entire country?
Regardless how the rest of the weekend goes, consider the questions answered.
Johnny Adams went 2-3 with three RBI, and freshman Jacob Stevens continued his unthinkable rookie campaign with seven immaculate innings as the Eagles took the series opener from the Cardinals, 6-1, before almost 700 fans at Shea Field on Friday afternoon. The win snapped a six-game winning streak by the Cardinals, and it was the first ever program win by BC in the short history against the national powerhouse.
BC wasted no time getting on the board against Louisville starter Brendan McKay. After Stevens sat the Cardinals down in order in the top of the first, McKay, who entered the game at 7-1 with 73 strikeouts to just 22 walks, ran into control issues. He allowed back-to-back singles to Nick Sciortino and Michael Strem, then walked Joe Cronin and Johnny Adams to plate the first Birdball run.
After Colby Fitch scored an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1, the Eagles broke it open in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Strem worked a five pitch walk, advancing to second when Joe Cronin singled. Gian Martellini singled to center to load the bases, and on the first pitch he saw, Adams blew the doors wide open.
He drove McKay's offering to right, and with the runners exploding off the bases, both Strem and Cronin scored, making it 3-1. Louisville right fielder Colin Lyman attempted to throw out Martellini at third, but Adams broke for second. Louisville cut off the play and went back to second, but Adams dove in ahead of the tag. When the dust settled, runners stood on second and third with a two-run lead.
Logan Hoggarth then flew out to right, on which Martellini broke for home. Lyman's throw to the catcher Fitch was on target, but it bounced to backstop as Martellini slid home with the Eagles' fourth run. It was a watershed moment for the Eagles, who went from holding on to dominating force.
"That was huge for us, just working counts and seeing pitches," said Adams. "We stuck to our approach to hit the fastball, and that really worked for us today. McKay is obviously a good pitcher, so it was good to get on him early and go from there."
"One of the huge keys to this game that might get lost because we scored six is Logan Hoggarth's quality at-bat to drive in a run with Gian at third," said head coach Mike Gambino. "That was a huge at-bat. For him to go 0-2 (in the count) and grind it and get a job done - we did a good job of getting situational hits and getting a job done."
The Eagles would add two more in the bottom of the sixth. With McKay's day on the mound done, Sam Bordner entered the game to try and hold things at bay. But he walked Gabe Hernandez on a full-count pitch, and after he struck out Dominic Hardaway, who nearly got a bunt down on the first base line before it was called foul, Jake Palomaki went inside-out on a pitch left up and in, doubling to left. Hernandez chugged around from first to plate BC's fifth run, extending the lead to four.
As Nick Sciortino walked, Jake Palomaki stole third, setting up runners at the corners for Michael Strem. On the first pitch he saw, Strem got a bunt down for a safety squeeze play, and Palomaki trucked home to make it 6-1, BC.
From there, the pitchers did the rest of the work. Jacob Stevens pitched himself out of trouble in seven innings of work, throwing 102 pitches on the afternoon. After retiring Louisville in order in the first and second, he rallied in the fourth with a runner in scoring position. After McKay singled to help his own cause, he advanced to second when Sciortino attempted to snap throw to first during Devin Hairston's at-bat. The throw went into right field, moving the runner up one bag.
But Stevens struck out Hairston, then made an incredible pick off move to second with Adams shading from shortstop to nail McKay. Two batters later, he induced a fly ball to Danny Rosenbaum, keeping the Cardinals off the board.
He retired the minimum in the fifth and sixth, then pitched out of a jam again in his final inning. With 82 pitches weighing on his arm, he allowed a lead-off single to Hairston, then once again got out of it with a strike him out, throw him out double play against Blake TIberi. But back-to-back singles put two runners on until Logan Taylor popped up to end the inning.
Jesse Adams came in for the eighth and ninth, working two perfect innings with two strikeouts to lock down BC's 20th victory of the season.
For BC, Stevens (3-2) picked up the win, finishing with seven innings, seven hits allowed, one run, which was unearned, striking out four and walking one. Of his 102 pitches, 65% were strikes. Jesse Adams threw 24 pitches to get six outs in relief, striking out two in a non-save situation.
For Louisville, McKay (7-2) was saddled with an uncharacteristic loss, giving up four earned runs for the first time since April 2nd. After starting the year with one earned run in four outings, including a complete game shutout against Ole Miss, he's now allowed three earned runs in four of his last six starts. He struck out six and walked four.
Sam Bordner allowed two runs one hit in one inning of work, walking two and striking out two. Sean Leland pitched the seventh and eighth for the Cardinals, allowing only one runner to reach base, via a walk.
At the dish, seven BC hitters recorded at least one hit with Martellini and Adams notching two. Adams had the three RBI mentioned with Palomaki, Strem, and Hoggarth each adding one. Each of BC's top five in the order scored one run.
After being swept last year at Louisville, the Eagles now have a victory in the short four-game history between the two schools. They'll look to win the season series against the 30-win ballclub on Saturday at Shea Field. First pitch is at 1:30 PM.