For the past six years, Boston College baseball battled the notion that the program was in decline. The ACC Tournament berths of 2009 and 2010 and the NCAA Tournament berth in '09 drifted further away from the rearview mirror. With the recent malaise and bad karma settling in on fans this year, it seemed as thought they couldn't believe in a team that hadn't proven to them that they could consistently win.
There will be no seventh year.
The Eagles opened up a 7-2 lead over Georgia Tech in the final game of their three game series, then survived a furious comeback by the Yellow Jackets to take a 7-6 victory in the season finale. The win leapfrogged the Eagles into eighth place in the ACC standings, clinching them an ACC Tournament berth and likely placing them back inside the bubble for the national tournament picture.
BC jumped in front for the third straight game against the Ramblin' Wreck in the top of the first inning. Mirroring the first game of the doubleheader earlier in the day, three hits set the tone for the day. Jake Palomaki and Nick Sciortino recorded singles to put two runners on with one out against starting pitcher Burton Delaney. That set up Joe Cronin, who launched a double down the left field line to plate a run. Scott Braren struck out and Johnny Adams grounded out to end a potential big inning, but the Eagles had a 1-0 lead before ending their pitcher, Jacob Stevens, to the mound.
After Stevens worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first, the Eagles scored three to blow open an early lead. Logan Hoggarth and Gabe Hernandez provided bookend singles for a strikeout, setting up a first-and-second situation with only one out. Palomaki then crushed the first pitch he saw down the right field line, scoring both runners and advancing to third on an errant throw by right fielder Brandt Stallings.
With BC in front 3-0, Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall used a quick hook on Delaney, yanking him in favor of reliever Zac Ryan. Ryan, who pitched well in the Yellow Jacket win on Thursday, surrendered an RBI double to Michael Strem before striking out Sciortino and inducing a fly ball from Cronin. Still, the inning ended with the Eagles in command, 4-0.
The Yellow Jackets got one back in the third. Stevens walked Wade Bailey to lead off the inning, and Matt Gonzalez bunted himself aboard to put two on with nobody out for Kel Johnson. Johnson promptly singled an 0-1 pitch up the middle to score Bailey, cutting into the BC lead and making it 4-1. Stevens rallied for a double play and a fly out to end the inning, again working out of a jam in the third.
BC got the run back in the fourth. Mitch Bigras doubled to lead off against Ryan, and after a Hernandez bunted him over to second with a sacrifice, Palomaki registered his third hit with an RBI single to center. But Georgia Tech traded the run with BC by adding one in the fourth, a moonshot homer to left by Ryan Peurifoy that made the score 5-2 after four.
The teams simply kept trading blows in a heavyweight style fight. In the top of the fifth, Joe Cronin blasted a homer of his own, hitting one out of the left center power alley after Nick Sciortino singled to put the Eagles up 7-2. Once again, though, Georgia Tech came back with a run of their own in the fifth when Peurifoy registered an RBI single off reliever Donovan Casey to cut the lead to 7-3.
In total, the teams scored six runs, adding points in every inning starting with the bottom of the third. They combined for 10 hits, turning the game into a slugfest that would only get more tense after the seventh inning stretch.
Facing Bobby Skogsbergh, the teams drew a line in the stand for one last showdown. Three straight singles by Trevor Craport, Stallings, and Peurifoy loaded the bases with nobody out. After a strikeout, a grounder back to Skogsbergh retired the lead runner at the plate, though a double play was averted at first. Threatening to get out of the jam, Georgia Tech instead inflicted damage.
Will Bailey singled through the right side, past the outstretched glove of Bigras, bringing in two runs to cut the lead to 7-5, and Matt Gonzalez singled home Connor Justus to pull within one. But Skogsbergh got out of the inning by inducing a grounder to second, keeping the Eagles in front, 7-6. It was an inning where Georgia Tech registered three runs on five hits, working three straight full counts.
But it proved to be the Yellow Jackets' final stand. Jesse Adams entered the game in the eighth for the Eagles, and although Georgia Tech had two on with one out, a couple of fly balls ended the threat.
Adams set down the Jackets in order in the ninth, touching off a celebration six years in the making in Chestnut Hill.
It was an incredibly grueling day at the office for both teams. Georgia Tech stranded 15 runners in the finale, leaving the bases loaded in the first and fourth. The Yellow Jackets stranded runners in every inning except the ninth, which is also the only inning they didn't have a runner. They recorded 26 at-bats with men on base, including 16 with runners in scoring position. In addition, they pounded six hits in two-out situations and went 16-30 in advancement opportunities.
Compare that to Boston College. The Eagles only had 18 at-bats with runners on, including 10 with runners in scoring position, while having 10 less advancement opportunities.
Leadoff men in this game reached base over half of the time, with Boston College getting the leadoff man aboard six times compared to the Yellow Jackets' five.
Within the box score, three batters from both sides combined for three or more hits. Wade Bailey went 4-5 with two RBI and a run scored, while BC's Jake Palomaki and GT's Ryan Peurifoy each registered three hits. Palomaki had three RBI and two runs scored while Peurifoy had two RBI, including a homer.
As for the rest of the order for the Eagles, Strem, Sciortino, and Cronin all had two hits, with Cronin tallying three RBI, including two on his fourth homer of the year. Further down the roster, Logan Hoggarth also had two hits, but the Eagles struck out 10 times for the first time since striking out 11 times against Pittsburgh earlier this year.
On the hill, things got a little messy. Jacob Stevens pitched three innings, throwing 60 pitches and battling with his command early on. He walked four to just three strikeouts, but he only allowed one run on three hits, making pitches when he absolutely needed to get out of jams.
Brian Rapp (3-2) picked up the win by going the next 1.2 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with three strikeouts. After Donovan Casey threw two outs without allowing a run, Skogsbergh surrendered three runs on five hits, predominantly in that seventh inning. Jesse Adams threw the final two innings for his fifth save.
For Georgia Tech, Burton Delaney (2-4) picked up the loss, lasting only 1.1 innings while giving up four runs on sixt hits. Zac Ryan settled into throw the next 3.2 innings, but he gave up three runs on five hits in the process. He did record five strikeouts without a walk.
After that, Keyton Gibson, Ben Parr, and Matthew Gorst completed the next four innings unscathed as the Eagles held on.
For the Eagles, it was their 12th win in a one-run ballgame, improving them to 12-3 in that situation. It was also the 26th time they won a game where they led after six innings, and they improved to 26-1 when leading after eight. It was the 26th time they won a game where they scored first.
By finishing 31-19, BC completed its best regular season since the 2009-2010 stretch, where they went 34-26 and 30-28. Their 19 losses marks the first time BC lost less than 20 games in 23 years (they went 22-14 in 1993). Their 13 conference wins are the most since going 14-16 in 2010, and the win marked their sixth conference series win, most since joining the ACC 10 years ago.