Virginia Cavaliers vs. Boston College Eagles
Friday: 2:30 PM
Saturday: 1:30 PM
Sunday: 1 PM
Record: 19-12 (6-6 ACC)
Last Time Out: Virginia has been struggling as of late, with Wednesday's 15-3 win over George Washington only their second win since the first game of the Louisville series. Since they took back-to-back wins in a doubleheader over Wake Forest, the Hoos are 4-7. Last weekend, they lost two of three to NC State before dropping a game in Richmond to VCU on Tuesday. They pummeled GW, 15-3, on Wednesday.
Around The Horn
The Virginia lineup is very good, but BC has the element of surprise in their back pocket.
Four Hoos enter this weekend with batting averages soaring over .300. This is an incredible lineup, headlined by Matt Thaiss and his .372 average, eight doubles, five homers, and 29 RBI. He has an unbelievable eye at the plate, walking 18 times to just three strikeouts. He's one of the toughest outs in college baseball.
Behind Thaiss, Ernie Clement hits .358 with 15 RBI. Adam Haseley hits .352 with 12 doubles, three triples, four homers, and 16 RBI. And Daniel Pinero, who is one of the few guys with experience playing against BC, hits .310 with nine doubles to his credit.
The big slugger to watch is Pavin Smith. Smith is hitting a "paltry" .327 in comparison to the three guys at the top of the lineup, but he has 32 RBI and 20 walks. He knows how to move players along the bases.
Virginia as a team ranks second in the league with a .314 batting average. They don't walk a ton (98 walks is second least in the league), but they're one of the toughest teams to strikeout (146 ranks second behind Louisville's 123)
Boston College is going to counter this lineup with a reconfigured starting rotation. Mike King has been moved to Sunday for his start, and Jacob Stevens will now pitch on Friday. Jesse Adams is out of the rotation for this weekend, replaced by closer Justin Dunn, who has shown a capability and willingness to go deep into games.
Mike Gambino noted that he wanted to get Justin Dunn into last Friday's game with a lead against FSU, but since the Eagles didn't have the lead he stayed with King. In order to get Dunn, who is absolutely dominant as a pitcher, more innings and work, he'll start the game with him. Dunn is rated anywhere from the top 50 to just inside 100 on draft boards, so using him in multiple innings as a closer is great as long as BC can get to him. Starting him on Saturday opens up a possibility to get the juju going for BC and allow him to use some of his dominant stuff without having to work from behind.
The Eagles' team ERA is up to 3.34, which might be frustrating for fans to see, but remember that the levels they were at earlier in the year were totally unsustainable. BC is still fourth in the league in team pitching, having allowed 79 earned runs. They've walked the least amount of batters with 83 - eight better than the second best team (Louisville), and they've only allowed seven homers (also best in the league). This is one of the best pitching staffs in the league, and arguably the Eagles could have one of the better staffs in the nation.
On The Bump
This is a Virginia pitching staff that has struggled this season. The Cavaliers, ranked 11th in the league, lost some of their firepower from last season when they lost Nathan Kirby, Brandon Waddell, and Josh Sborz. Fans may conceivably remember them since Kirby (40th to Milwaukee) and Sborz (74th to the Dodgers) were both picked up in the first 100 picks of the MLB Draft. There's something to be said when your third best pitcher is picked in the fifth round (Waddell to the Pirates).
In their place has been a national league type lineup since Adam Haseley, who is hitting .354 at the dish is also the team's best starting pitcher. He's 6-0 this year in six starts with a 1.42 ERA. He'll get the call on Saturday against Justin Dunn.
The term "best starting pitcher" is an operative word, though. Connor Jones, the only other announced starter, is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA and is the Friday starter, so can we really call Haseley the best starter on the team?
The duo's been electric this year. Jones, having thrown 47.1 innings, has 41 strikeouts to 14 walks with an opponent's batting average of .236. He's given up only one homer and seven extra base hits. Haseley's thrown 31.2 innings, but his opponent's batting average dips below the Mendoza line to .191. He's given up two homers and three doubles, but he's scary powerful with his control. He's only walked nine guys, though his strikeout numbers dip to 25.
Behind them, there really isn't much in the starting rotation. Daniel Lynch and Tommy Doyle - two guys who sound like they belong on BC with names like that - started seven games apiece, but both have ERAs well over 5.00.
An incredibly strong bullpen has two guys in Kevin Doherty and Jack Roberts (seriously does every Irishman go to Virginia?) with 15 and 11 appearances, respectively. Doherty has a 1.69 ERA while Roberts has a 1.98.
But remember that Virginia's team ERA is 4.42 so once you get past those four or five guys, there's noticeale dropoff. There are eight pitchers with ERAs of 5.00 or higher and only six with ERAs of 3.00 or lower.
That's a good opportunity for BC, who counters with a lineup that's been anemic at times this year. The Eagles are second-to-last with a .270 batting average, right behind Virginia Tech's .272 (Duke is last at .252), but BC is dead last in runs scored with 125.
That runs scored number could be alarming since there's a big time drop off to Duke and BC from everyone else. Duke is 13th in the league with 127 runs scored, two ahead of the Eagles. Notre Dame is in 12th - with 163 runs. That means BC trails the Fighting Irish by nearly 20 runs. Long story short: the offense needs to get its mojo going.
One of the reasons for BC's anemic offense stems from the weather. The team got into a rhythm at the beginning of the year, but they've had limited chances to actually swing a bat in game opportunity over the last month. Midweek games postponed and weekend games cancelled yielded less opportunity to get outside and get in batting practice.
The good news is that this weekend might finally give the Eagles a chance to play three full games. There's no rain in the forecast until Tuesday, and the sun should be shining all weekend.
It's going to be cold, though. Although first pitch temperatures should be hovering around 50 for Friday's game, it'll dip close to freezing on Friday night. That means there will be a chill on Saturday when the high is into the low 40s.
Sunday looks like the pick of the weekend. A 1 PM start will be chilly at the beginning, probably just below 40 degrees. But the temperatures are going to continually rise throughout the game, and things should be pushing 50 by the end of the game.
Music To Reboot Your Season To
Green Day - Welcome to Paradise.
The members of Green Day (Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre) wrote this song about the experience of moving out of their parents' houses. They moved into an abandoned house in Oakland, a place that was completely broken down but allowed them to live rent free. Despite it being an absolute junk hole, it came to be home for them. At least that's what Wikipedia is telling me.
Like so many other teams they face this year, Virginia plays home games at a plush stadium. Davenport Field holds upwards of 5,000 fans, many of which sit under a covering, and they have a club seating area out in left field that has a climate-controlled cash bar. This place is a thing of beauty.
But this game isn't being played in Charlottesville. It's being played at BC, where there is no club seating, overhang for fans, or cash bar. There's a couple of portable toilets and an outfield wall held up by slats of wood. We know that this field is a lot like moving into an abandoned house in Oakland (hey, I'm trying to make a comparison here!).
That said it's still our home, and even though there's always facility discussions, Shea Field is something we've made our own as Boston College baseball fans and followers. It's the Birdcage, and it takes a special kind of athlete to play there. Maybe we don't have the greatest situation in the world, but it's still ours. Welcome to paradise.
Random Fact(s) of the Week
Only five current Virginia players have ever played against Boston College since the two teams played only one series in 2014 in the past four years. Daniel Pinero played all three games at shortstop in that '14 series, and Connor Jones pitched 4.2 innings out of the bullpen. Other than that, there's been only one at-bat and one out recorded on the mound against the Eagles appearing at Shea Field this weekend.
Virginia hasn't played at BC since 2011, when they took two of three games. They've only played eight games ever in Chestnut Hill, where BC is 2-6 against the team.
It's a good thing this game is in Massachusetts, though, because BC is 0-12 against the 'Hoos in Virginia.
Did you know? The term Wahoos, the unofficial nickname for Virginia sports, comes from Washington and Lee baseball fans, who referred to the team as "a rowdy bunch of wahoos." It caught on.
Wahoo also refers to "wa-hoo-wa," a Native American yell that was adopted by Virginia fraternities into their school yell. It originated from Dartmouth. It's now part of "The Good Old Song" at Virginia, which, as a school song, uses the tune of Auld Lang Syne.
Of Mike Gambino's two wins against Virginia, only one's come in Boston. BC beat Virginia 5-3 to open up the 2012 season at the Caravelle Resort Tournament. That came after the Eagles won an 11-inning game in 2011 at home.
The only other neutral site game between BC and Virginia came in 2010 in the ACC Tournament.