All season long, the Boston College weekend starting rotation had been shouldering the load individually at the start of each game. On Saturday, they had a chance to play off one another in a display of what makes them unique and what makes the Eagles so tough to hit against each weekend.
Facing the Metro Atlantic's Niagara Purple Eagles, Mike King started the first three innings, using his slider and cagey abilities to allow only one hit - an infield single by Geoff Seto with two down in the second - while striking out two and walking one. Pitching to contact as he has all year, he induced four ground ball outs.
In the fourth, he handed the ball to Justin Dunn, the emerging high-value prospect of the Eagles staff. The power pitcher of the lot, Dunn pounded the strike zone into the high-90s, letting everything he had hang out over three innings time. Mixing in a slider, Dunn also allowed only one hit - a single by Owen Dziados in the fourth inning - as he befuddled and overpowered Niagara's bats. He struck out six of his nine outs, didn't walk anyone, throwing 45 scout-delighting pitches in the process.
After Dunn came Jesse Adams, the converted starter-turned-reliever. Two fly balls and a grounder later, it was Jacob Stevens' turn. The burly righty who led the nation for much of the year in ERA threw the final two innings, and after he walked two, a couple of singles combined with a third walk to finally put Niagara on the board with a couple of runs. But even then, he rallied to overpower the last two hitters, striking out two and ending the game with a 7-2 Boston College victory.
While the pitchers blew away opposing hitters, the Boston College bats blew away opposing arms. They jumped on the board immediately, scoring a run in the first before Niagara recorded an out. Jake Palomaki led off the first with a single, stole second, and moved up to third when the throw from catcher Joel Brophy went into the outfield. With a runner on third, Michael Strem singled, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
They extended that lead in a fifth inning that Niagara nearly got out from under. Johnny Adams singled to start the inning, extending his current career-long hitting streak to 11 games. He moved to second when pitcher Zachary Kolodziejski threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, but the Purp pitcher nearly got out of the slight jam by getting back-to-back grounders for two outs.
But Gabe Hernandez slapped a 1-2 offering to left field, scoring Adams, opening the flood gates for Jake Palomaki, who singled to right center to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. Palomaki got himself to third on a stolen base and a wild pitch, but Kolodziejski struck out Michael Strem to end the inning.
A three-run seventh broke the dam open altogether. Facing reliever Liam Stroud, who had also pitched the sixth, an Adams walk coupled with a wild pitch put a runner on second for Mitch Bigras, who singled up the middle to make it 4-0. After Bigras stole second, Palomaki singled to plate him, making it 5-0.
Palomaki stole second, his third swiped bag of the day, and it combined with a walk and a hit batsman to load the bases. The Eagle leadoff hitter scored on a passed ball by the catcher. Although Joe Cronin walked to reload the bags, Scott Braren grounded out to end the inning.
BC added another run in the eighth Logan Hoggarth scored on a wild pitch.
On the hill, Mike King (7-3) picked up the win while Kolodziejski (3-7) absorbed the loss. The Niagara starter completed five innings, surrendering three runs on six hits. He did not walk a batter, striking out two. Stroud finished two innings, giving up three runs, one of which wasn't earned, on two hits, but he walked three and did not strike out anyone. Daniel Procopio, one of the regular weekend starters for Niagara, pitched the eighth.
At the dish for BC, Palomaki had a monster day, going 3-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Johnny Adams also went 1-3 with a couple of runs scored. In the second half of the season, he's been a force, with 28 hits in his last 19 games, reaching base in the last 16 games. His hitting streak is among the Eagles leaders in the ACC era.
With the victory, Boston College won for the 28th time this season, setting a new record under Mike Gambino. The 28 wins are the most since BC had back-to-back 30-win seasons in 2009 and 2010. They won 30 games in 2010 to advance to the ACC Tournament, while they won 32 in 2009 to clinch spots in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Gambino's 128 wins-and-counting moved him past Mik Aoki this year into fourth overall on the BC coaches' wins total. Eddie Pellagrini's 359 wins is the record.
The Boston College record for wins in a single season is 37; the Eagles went 37-20 in their final year in the Big East under Pete Hughes.
The Eagles and Purple Eagles will finish their quick series on Sunday when they play at 1 PM. Prior to the game, the Eagles will honor their senior class of 2016.