Maine Black Bears vs. Boston College Eagles
First Pitch: 4 PM
Record: 18-31 (7-13 America East)
Last Time Out: The Black Bears played their home finale this weekend, losing two out of three to Stony Brook. They'll end the season with four games on the road, with this as their final non-conference game. Following this game, they'll head to Binghamton to finish out 2016. They've been eliminated from contention for the AEC Baseball Tournament.
Around The Horn
Three freshmen form the core of Maine's next rebuilding step at the plate, a team that hits just .249 but averaged just under four runs per game. Behind them, there's a group of three or four hitters who will graduate, meaning they'll need to find bats to replace the middle chunk behind their core moving forward.
Danny Casals is the team's lone .300 hitter, entering this game with a .305 average and an OPS of .829. He's the team's catalyst with 12 stolen bases, 54 hits, and 25 walks drawn. A freshman, he only has 15 runs batted in and a limited amount of extra base hits, but he's shown a knack for scoring runs, with 28 runs scored placing second best on the team.
Colin Ridley is the team's second best hitter for average at .299, and despite having a lower OBP than Casals, his OPS is higher at .852. That's because of a .513 slugging percentage and an ability to hit for extra bases. The team leader with 36 RBI, Ridley's 19 extra base hits account for nearly half of his base knocks.
Jeremy Pena is the third hitter, and while he's the worst of the trio in average, his average still hovers around .275-.280. He works a little bit of a Swiss Army knife-type hitter. He doesn't lead the way in many offensive categories, but he's near the top in hits, one of only two players (along with Casals) with 50 on the year.
Behind the three, Tyler Schwanz, a junior, has 17 doubles and 48 hits. He's the team's fourth best hitter. But unfortunately, that's where it ends. The next three hitters who have seen regular action this year are all seniors, and as the batting averages dip low, Maine runs into a problem of finding depth players to build out and around in their lineup. While they have an opportunity to do that in recruiting, that's not really something we ought to care about from a Boston College perspective late in the year of a non-conference game.
What does all of this mean? To be honest, it means BC can't overlook a team on a single game, which is the case any day of the week. But it also means that Maine is legging out the end of its year, with a number of players who are getting their final cuts as college athletes. That's an underlying story to keep an eye on, to see if they get ultra aggressive and take chances because it's the end of the road.
On The Bump
The Black Bears enter the season with a 4.86 team ERA, including three shutouts on the year. But opponents are hitting .262 against them, and BC has been on an absolute tear in this regard over the last month or so.
It's incredibly hard to predict midweek games because teams never use their weekend starters in this slot. Even when they only have two games, teams have midweek pitchers that they rely on for limited innings. With the big series against Georgia Tech on the horizon, this is actually something that may work in Maine's favor.
The Black Bears are eliminated from AEC Tournament contention, meaning they just have to toss arms out there and use the final innings of the season. BC will need to be much more judicious in their approach. Expect a diet of the midweek staff, including pitchers like Thomas Lane, who has been the bread and butter all year in midweek games, with relievers like John Witkowski, who pitched on Sunday, and Dan Metzdorf. We're likely to see Bobby Skogsbergh throw if the game is tight, but I wouldn't be surprised to see if a couple of arms are totally off limits - guys like Jesse Adams may be used for only one inning or less down the end of the game if he's needed at all since he just pitched on Saturday.
Weather on Tuesday in Boston is going to be absolutely gorgeous, similar to the conditions seen on Saturday in the sunshine. It's going to be on the dry side with temperatures skyrocketing as the day goes on. While it'll be in the low 50s when the sun comes up, it'll be near 70 when the game begins, with overcast skies giving way to patches of sunshine. There's a slim chance for some sprinkles in the mid-afternoon, but any gusting winds will mellow down to breezes as the day moves on.
Where in the World is Boston College Baseball?
For the final time this year, Boston College plays at Shea Field.
I've really hammered home the stadium situation this year simply because it's a necessary point. When Boston College announced there would be a baseball stadium, I had a palpable excitement for roughly 15 minutes. Then that excitement turned to fear. When you're hoping and wishing for something for so long, finally getting it makes you feel afraid and have a little bit of panic.
The question I've always had is - what if they mess this up? What if they build Shea Field with turf? My fear drips on that simply because it would set the program back years if it's not built with an indoor batting cage, lights, or anything that can help this team and program push forward. If it's done on the cheap just to placate the calls for a new stadium, you're almost asking for trouble.
This team during this season has been an odyssey. We've seen that they can be a national tournament contender with subpar facilities and next to nothing in comparison to the rest of the ACC. They've done it by team building and becoming a gritty program the likes of which the rest of the conference doesn't have.
But you don't want to be that forever. You don't want to be the gritty team with a not-really-good-enough field and subpar facilities. You don't want to be punching above a weight class every year. You want to move up and be a contender.
As this season's gone on, I hope that's been the realization in all of these comments and posts. As someone who's followed the growth of this program, building the right stadium is so important and so vital to the next step. Don't make BC have to punch above a weight class year in and year.
Music to close out your home schedule
Semisonic - Closing Time.
An annual rite of passage at most sporting events I've been to for the past 15 years or so is to hear this at the end. So since this is the last home game, just remember that every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. This is the end for the 2016 regular season in Boston. What happens next comes from this beginning's end - whether it's a trip to Durham, a trip to the NCAA Tournament, or a trip home.
Random Fact(s) of the Day
Of the seven teams in the America East Conference, only six are eligible for the postseason because UMass-Lowell is still technically transitioning from Division II to Division I. Last year, this played a role in the postseason seeding because the River Hawks finished fourth.
In last year's standings, Maine finished tied with UML for third place with 10-10 conference records, while Hartford finished fifth with a 10-12 record. Had UML been eligible for the postseason, they would've finished third because they defeated Maine, two games to one, in their weekend series. That meant Maine would've played Stony Brook in the first round, and UMBC would've played UMass-Lowell. Instead, Maine wound up as the #3 seed and Hartford wound up as the #4 seed.
Maine went out of the AEC Tournament in two straight games, losing to UMBC in the first round before losing to Hartford in an elimination game.
The AEC Tournament, by virtue of having UMass-Lowell among its ranks, now plays its conference tournament at LeLacheur Park, the home of the River Hawks and the Lowell Spinners. It will stay there through 2017.
Maine has had success in the conference tournament, winning it in 2002, 2005, 2006, and 2011 since the turn of the century.
A number of notable Mainiacs have gone onto success in Major League Baseball. Mike Bordick is probably the best known, having played for four organizations, most notably Baltimore, between 1990 and 2003. He was an All Star for the Orioles in 2000.
Jack Leggett, the former coach of the Clemson Tigers who was fired after last season, is a Maine grad, as is Boston Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield and Bill Swift, who led the National League in ERA in 1992 while also winning a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics when baseball was a demonstrationsport. He played for Seattle, San Francisco, and Colorado throughout his career.
It's actually going to be a little sad to see Shea Field closed down after the game. This has been a memorable season for all parties involved in following this ballclub. But the end of the road means the looming shadow of that Georgia Tech series. It's best for the Eagles right now to focus on the game at hand, take care of business, then look forward to those games with the Yellow Jackets that amounts to playoff games for their postseason lives.