Last week was an interesting week to be a follower of Boston College baseball. There was a high, there was a low, there was something in between, and there was something we have no idea what to think about.
Following losses in two out of three games to Pittsburgh, the Eagles opened their home schedule with a disheartening loss to the University of Connecticut. They promptly rebounded by pounding Massachusetts in Amherst, grabbing momentum back on their side heading into a weekend series against national college ball power and ACC divisional rival Florida State.
The first FSU game encouraged Eagle fans since Birdball hung into the later innings, stifling and stymieing the Seminoles but never breaking on through. FSU's victory was far from a sure thing, but it was well-earned. After watching the pitcher's duel between Mike King against Mike Compton and company, the next two games suddenly became incredibly intruging.
Then the rains came. Then the wind came. And then the snow came. A preemptively-rescheduled doubleheader became a cancellation, and then a springtime, April Fool's snowstorm dropped just enough of the white stuff to cancel the third game. An opportunity to pick up huge wins went by the wayside, but is there a silver lining to take away?
The UConn game was, in a word, disheartening. Every baseball team absorbs losses, but that game exposed something worse. The Eagles looked lethargic, like they needed a couple of days off after the trip to Pittsburgh. Even though it was the first game of the season played at home, they simply didn't show up until the later innings. The pitching was good, but it wasn't great. Facing a very good UConn team, they gave up just enough in that game to allow the Huskies a decided advantage.
You can't do that against good teams, and UConn baseball is capable of being a good team.
The good thing is that, like I said, teams absorb losses over a season. Those losses come in all shapes and sizes. Teams will win games they should lose, and teams will lose games they should win. They'll fight hard in some games, and in some respects it'll be evened out by games where the team doesn't show up as hard.
The key is to not let it develop into something else. BC was able to hit the switch for a couple of runs in the eighth inning against UConn, but against teams in the ACC, that won't happen. And in the long run, perhaps a game like that UConn game proves that there are no days off. Days off cost victories.
Then came the UMass game. If there was a message coming out of UConn, the Minutemen quickly became collateral damage. I'm sure the Minutemen have some fine players, and I'm sure their team is made up of really nice guys. They just stood on the tracks while a bullet train was hurdling towards them at a rate of speed comprised of anger and desire.
The Eagles pounded the Minutemen from pillar to post in their victory in Amherst. It was a game where BC showed mettle, showed internal fortitude, and proclaimed the UConn loss wouldn't define how they would play. It was the polar opposite of the spectrum, highlighted by a couple of long balls. I'm sure going on the road to a short trip, one where they could still sleep in their own beds, played a factor.
There isn't a whole lot else to really get into about this game, other than that the teams will play again on Wednesday in a return match - once again in Amherst - in the Beanpot First Round.
Waved In From Third
That leads us to the FSU game. I was extremely impressed with how BC gave the Seminoles all they could handle defensively. Mike King, a name that's going to be called in June at the MLB Entry Draft, spun over eight innings of stellar baseball.
I've heard arguments that BC could've pulled King and gone to the bullpen for someone like Justin Dunn. King was pitching out of his mind, and there was no reason at that point to see if he couldn't finish. He came incredibly close to completing nine innings against a top ranked team, all while staying around the 100 pitch mark. He hadn't thrown that many pitches through eight, and there was no reason to go to the bullpen for a closer in a game where the closer wasn't needed.
There was no way to see that Dunn wouldn't get a chance to pitch over the weekend, at all. Dunn, who can go multiple innings as a closer, would've had an opportunity if Mother Nature hadn't conspired.
As it turns out, the other two games were cancelled against the Seminoles. Depending on your rationale, you can look at this one of two ways. For starters, BC played FSU tough, and I'd like to think they would've won at least one of those games, namely the one where Jacob Stevens started. That's not a knock against Jesse Adams, who pitches better than stats would indicate, but is instead a credit to how Stevens opened up 2016.
The other way of looking at this is that BC didn't actually lose ground in the ACC playoff race. Because of the two rainouts, BC couldn't lose a full game. BC entered the weekend a full game back of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and NC State for the final playoff spots, of which two of those three teams occupy.
Notre Dame beat Wake Forest in two of three this weekend, but with BC idle in all but one, the Irish only pick up a game instead of potentially two. The same happened with NC State, who beat Virginia for two out of three.
But Pittsburgh lost two out of three in their series, meaning BC actually gained ground on the Panthers despite going 0-1 over the weekend. It keeps the Eagles right in the hunt, even though they'll need to put together some league wins sooner rather than later.
There is one thing about the BC weekend that is worth mentioning. With a lineup consisting of nine hitters, none of which are thoroughbred power mashers, Mike Gambino had to be creative in the way he played against FSU.
In the bottom of the fifth, Nick Sciortino doubled to left. When Jake Palomaki hit one back to the mound, Sciortino took off from second, but the Seminoles wound up throwing him out. Palomaki himself wound up as the third out of the inning a couple of batters later, caught stealing during Donovan Casey's at-bat.
Normally I would ask myself why a manager would run a batter from second to third when he didn't need to, and I would ask myself why he would take a guy and get him potentially thrown out at second for the inning's last out.
But there's a couple of things to realize here. First, base runners were at a mega premium for the Eagles so playing conservatively could mean to sit on runners and not move them. When you're struggling to get guys on in a game, you have to get aggressive and catch the opponent off guard.
Second, it reinforces something I said at the beginning of the year. I know Coach Gambino would love to play a station-to-station type game, but he's not going to be doing that. He would love to play the traditional style of baseball game, where you have power in the middle of the order, a couple of table setters, and a lineup that fits what everyone thinks a baseball lineup should have.
He doesn't have that type of lineup. He has a bunch of small, contact hitters. Against good pitching, BC's struggled at times, which was predicted from the beginning of the year. There is a way to get around that, and that's to be creative and play the averages. Just because a guy is hitting in the three hole doesn't mean he's going to hit 15 homers. The lineup is set to get aggressive and to play to a team's strengths - speed, quickness, etc.
I don't disagree with the moves based on everything I predicted at the beginning of the year. In fact, I would love to see more of it - bunting, squeeze plays, and small ball. You can manufacture runs that way and squeeze the most juice out of your lineup.