Boston College Eagles vs. Rhode Island Rams
First Pitch: 3 PM
Talk to anyone who pitches for Boston College, and it'll sound a little bit like a broken record. There will be a dominant performance, something like five or six innings of onerun or shutout baseball. They'll come off the mound to a bunch of high-fives from their teammates, and they'll ice down their arm. After the game, they'll meet with the media, talk about how they worked on something with their weekly bullpen session, developed and got comfortable, mapped a gameplan, and executed.
They'll all credit a couple of people. They'll credit catcher Nick Sciortino for doing his thing behind the plate and working with them on the mound in an easy-going pitching battery. But they'll also credit pitching coach Jim Foster.
Before he was the pitching coach of the Boston College Eagles, Jim Foster was the head coach of the Rhode Island Rams. In nine seasons, he became the program's winningest head coach, going 268-230-3 for a .538 winning percentage. He had six consecutive 30-win seasons, eight consecutive Atlantic-10 Championship appearances, and two regular season championships. The team fell off in 2014, his last season, dipping to 13-40, but Foster left behind a legacy of excellence that's going to be hard to match.
Last year, Foster and the Eagles defeated Rhode Island, 8-4. Today, the Eagles roll back into Kingston with their sites set on victory #24.
Record: 19-21 (10-5 Atlantic-10)
Last Time Out: Rhody took two of three from St. Joseph's over the weekend, winning 4-2 and 5-1 before losing, 8-3, in the final game. Before that, they split a two-game series with Maine, on the road, winning 6-4 in 10 innings before losing a 1-0 decision.
This is the first Rhode Island home game since April 24th when they wrapped up a four-game home stand against Quinnipiac (for one) and St. Bonaventure (for three). The Rams are kicking off seven in a row and eight of the next nine at Beck Field.
Around The Horn
URI is led by two big bats in their order - Jordan Powell and Martin Figueroa. Powell is an on-base machine with a .428 OBP and a .374 batting average. He's got 55 hits, 17 runs scored, 12 walks, and 64 total bases. His RBI count, which is at 18, is fourth best on the team, but it's because he does a tremendous job setting the table. He accounts for a quarter of the team's stolen bases with 11, which means if he gets on base, it'll be a great chess match with catcher Nick Sciortino.
Figueroa, on the other hand, is the power threat, with five homers and 26 RBI to go along with a .314 average. His slugging percentage is by far the team's highest at .519, and he dominates the total bases category with 81. He has 15 doubles on the season, the only hitter in double figures.
Beyond the duo, Chris Hess is a pure power hitter leading the team in homers and RBI (six and 27, respectively). While that's just a smidge over Figueroa, he's only hitting .261, which means he has a propensity to go big or go home. That's something to keep an eye on; you can probably bamboozle him as a hitter since he has 30 strikeouts on the season, but if he gets a hold of one? Watch out below.
On The Bump
URI has a set of three starters who have handled 187 of the team's 346 innings this season in Tyler Wilson, Steve Myers, and Ben Wessel.
The trio's been entrenched as stalwarts on the mound all season long. Each started 10 games this year, with Wilson leading the way at an 8-1 record with a 2.98 ERA. He's thrown two complete games and has an incredible strikeouts-to-walk ratio, having blown away 75 batters to just 18 free passes. Opponents are also only hitting .172 against him.
The good news is that as a weekend starter, BC should avoid them.
Looking out of the bullpen, the Rams have six pitchers with at least 10 appearances, led by Tyler Barss. Barss is 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA but has eight saves on the season in 17 innings thrown. He's the clear-cut closer for the team.
The bridge to him goes through several candidates. Mark Silvestri leads the way with 15 appearances and a 2.76 ERA, but the Rams have contributions from Nick Johnson, Dom Grillo, Brad Applin, and Andrew Veiga.
This game could be in trouble if the weather doesn't hold off in the morning. Temperatures in Rhode Island are due to hit the 50s over the course of the day with a 90% chance of rain. That rain is expected to hit and be most prevalent through the morning, where there's an 80% chance or better for wetness before 9 AM. The weather tapers off through the rest of the day, but it's possible it rains too heavily in the early morning to make this game happen.
What's a positive for this is that Beck Field is FieldTurf, which should hold better than natural grass would.
BC heads to Kingston, Rhode Island to take on the flagship school for the Ocean State. Kingston is located in southern Rhode Island, south of Warwick, east of the Connecticut border, and west of Newport. Situated just outside Narragansett, it's about a 40 minute drive south from the capital city of Providence.
The Rams play at Bill Beck Field, built in 1966 but renovated twice since the turn of the century in 2000. Formerly a natural grass field, it was resurfaced during the first set of renovations in 2000 before FieldTurf was officially installed between 2007-2009.
In the early 2000s, Beck Field received new dugouts, new batting cages, new fencing, and a big old scoreboard. During the second round, the scoreboard was replaced, as was some of the fencing, with a new backstop and new bullpens built.
In 2011, URI added the all-important indoor batting cage down the right field line. This allows the Rams more practice time throughout the year. There's a great picture of the cages on the URI athletics home page, and by looking at it, this is exactly what the Eagles could use at the new facility. It's nothing special, but it's an indoor training facility and it's exactly what a New England team needs to take swings in the winter.
On their homepage, the Rams also have plans to improve the grandstand, bleachers, and press box area.
The stadium measures 330 feet down both foul lines, 375 to the power alleys, and 400 to straight away center.
Music to listen to while yelling that UNC ripped off URI...and vice versa
Aeromsith - Back In the Saddle
Okay let me explain by UNC vs. URI argument for a second. Both schools have the same mascot (a ram), both have the same school colors (a light blue, a navy blue, and white - though URI is called "Keaney" blue and UNC is "Carolina" blue), and both essentially have the same fight song (Rah Rah Rhode Island Island vs. Rah Rah Car-lina -lina). I've made the joke a thousand times, but the real question remains about who ripped off who.
Coach Foster going back to URI is something where he's back in the saddle, wearing maroon and gold. Like Mike Gambino coaching against Virginia Tech, there has to be a fondness there for the personal history. The current head coach, Raphael Cerrato, took over for Foster when he departed. When they play against each other, they should want to win more than anything. When it's over, you start rooting for them once more.
Random Fact(s) of the Day
URI's been a member of the Atlantic-10 since 1981, when it was known as the Eastern 8 Conference. Prior to that, they spent four years as an independent.
This year marks the 35th season of the Rams in the Eastern 8/Atlantic-10 Conference.
Prior to their independent schedule, URI spent 27 years as a member of the old Yankee Conference. A league that formed in 1946, it's the spiritual predecessor to the current Colonial Athletic Association in football. URI, then known as the Rhode Island State College, helped charter the conference with the flagship schools of the New England schools - Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts (then known as the Massachusetts State College).
The league was actually chartered twice, first as the New England Conference in 1938 and then as the Yankee Conference in 1946.
Over time, the Yankee Conference grew to include Boston University, Delaware, Richmond, Villanova, James Madison, Northeastern, and William & Mary. Northeastern was an original member of the NEC but left in 1945.
URI became a baseball independent because the Yankee Conference stopped sponsoring all sports except for football. Eventually, the football conference merged into the Atlantic-10, where it's always had a unique relationship with the CAA. The A-10 eventually merged into the CAA for football, while retaining its sponsorship and membership in other sports.
The term "Keaney" blue to describe the blue of the Rhode Island Rams comes from Frank Keaney, a former head basketball coach who led RISC/URI to four NIT appearances with a career record of 401-124.
Bill Beck Field is named for former head baseball coach from 1954 through 1959 who was also the URI football coach from 1946-1949. Beck passed away tragically in 1965 from injuries sustained as a skiing accident. When the baseball stadium was opened in 1966, it was named in his memory.
URI has been to one national tournament. They went to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 when they won 34 games, 18 in conference, in the final year of Frank Leoni as head coach. Named the fourth seed in the Long Beach Regional, they lost to the host Dirt Bags, 11-2, before losing to the Pepperdine Waves, 2-1, in an elimination game. Following the season, Leoni went to William & Mary, where he coached from 2006 through 2012.
I use the term for pretty much every game, but, like the previous games BC's played, this one is intriguing for a number of reasons. In a one-game series, URI is a dangerous team capable of hitting midweek pitchers. Remembering BC's struggled against Bryant last week, remember that the Eagles are capable of being hit by a good hitting team. URI is certainly that, which means BC needs to stay on their toes.
Going on the road, at this juncture, is probably good for the Eagles, since a short jaunt down to Kingston to play at a class New England facility can hook them up to a juvenation machine if they need it. But BC is pumping on all cylinders on the weekend. They just have to take care of some business in a couple of non-conference games to really instill confidence as an at-large bid.