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Boston College Baseball Vs. Virginia Tech: Settling the "Scores" one base runner at a time

Nick Sciortino isn't just throwing runners out anymore. He's flat out dominating opposing lineups from behind the plate.

Courtesy BC Athletics | John Quackenbos

Throughout the entire season, storylines of an individual or particular game come to fruition simply by their nature. If someone comes up with a big RBI base hit or puts on a pitching display, they tend to hog the headlines and get the white hot spotlight of attention.

But one underlying storyline each and every week for Boston College comes from what might be its most elite force - its catcher. In the first inning of Sunday's win over Virginia Tech, Saige Jenco led off the game with a single to left field against starting pitcher Mike King. Almost immediately, the Hokies sent their leadoff man on a quest for a stolen base, where he was promptly tagged out by Johnny Adams after another cannon throw by Nick Sciortino.

For the Eagles' junior catcher, it was the 15th base runner he's picked off in 2016. That puts him well ahead of some of the more glamorous athletes in the ACC, including Clemson's Chris Okey (12), Louisville's Will Smith (11), and Florida State's Cal Raleigh (10).

"I thought he could be a pro catcher," said head coach Mike Gambino. "I really did. I didn't know, maybe, that he would be a defensive force like he is. I think he's a kid that next year has to be in the conversation for the Johnny Bench Award and should be in the conversation this year. He is as good as anyone in the country; I know that I haven't seen the whole country, but if he's the best guy in our conference and we have the best conference in the country, it puts him right in there."

The Johnny Bench Award is handed out annually to the best Division I catcher. Sciortino is on the watch list from the Wichita Sports Commission, who presents the award. After semifinalists are named later this month and following its balloting procedures, the finalists will be named on June 6th with the award handed out at its annual banquet at the end of the month.

The award is named for Cincinnati Reds catching legend Johnny Bench, who revolutionized the position. Bench is widely recognized as the first catcher to wear a protective helmet under his mask. A two-time National League MVP, he helped the Reds's Big Red Machine teams win two World Series titles, two additional National League championships, and six division titles at a time when only four teams made the postseason. The World Series titles were won back-to-back in 1975 and 1976, with Bench winning World Series MVP honors in '76 when they swept the Yankees in four games.

For Sciortino, though, this isn't his first taste of the national radar. Last summer, he played for the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Over the summer, despite sharing time with Richmond's Kyle Adams and Pepperdine's Aaron Barnett, he caught 17 runners stealing, tops in the league, while accounting for 164 putouts and 30 assists (a .990 fielding percentage) in just 23 games.

Part of what makes Sciortino so dangerous is a trigger-release delivery to a base. He has an incredibly quick release, which allows him to throw with incredible velocity down to a base. Beyond that, he has pinpoint accuracy to all bases, including snap throws down to first. He does it with the leadership confidence and qualities that made him the Ed Lyons Coaches' Award Recipient for the Anglers, which is given every summer who exceed expectations with their hard work.

"If our pitchers give him any chance at all," said Gambino, "then you're out. At second base, it's awesome, and it's the same at first base. If you get a half of a step too far, or you get leaning the wrong way, he can pick anyone off. He has base runners almost on the defensive when they're out on the bases.

"And he's got great leadership qualities," he continued. "I don't know that you can ever expect someone to be that dominant, but it says a lot about his work ethic. It's a credit first to (former assistant coach, now head coach of UNC-Wilmington) Coach Friedholm and now Coach Foster the last two years."

Any questions about running on Sciortino on Sunday were quickly quelled in the first inning. When Jenco was caught stealing, through the cheers of the dugout, pierced a voice, who said what everyone else was thinking:

"I don't know why they even keep trying to do that."