Entering the weekend, Boston College had almost never won games this season when trailing into the sixth inning, having gone 1-17 in situations where they were outright losing into the later frames. Utah, meanwhile, had never lost, going 17-0 when holding a lead into the seventh.
Stats never really mattered much to the Cardiac Kids of Chestnut Hill.
Trailing 3-1 into the seventh inning, BC scored three times to complete a run of four unanswered, taking a one-run lead over the Utah Utes in the second round of the Oxford Regional of the NCAA Tournament. That set the stage for a four-out save by Jesse Adams, paving the road for a 4-3 Birdball victory over the Utes at Swayze Field on Saturday night.
The win guarantees the Eagles a spot in the 6 PM EST Regional Final game, and it means a victory will send them to the Super Regionals round for the first time ever. BC last played for a Regional championship in 1967, when more localized regionals sent winners directly into the College World Series.
It was a win that wasn't without its warts. Utah took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning and led virtually the entire way into the later innings. With one out, Cody Scaggari singled against Eagles starter Mike King, then scored two batters later when Kellen Marruffo doubled him home, giving the Utes a 1-0 lead. Hunter Simmons then singled up the middle to score Marruffo, putting the Eagles in a 2-0 hole before they ever put a bat in their hands.
Utah extended the lead to three in the top of the fourth. With two outs and a man on first, King hit DaShawn Keirsey to put runners on first and second, following it up with a single from Scaggari up the middle to score AJ Young around third.
BC's bats, meanwhile, had nothing going against starting pitcher Dalton Carroll. Carroll set down the first six men he faced, retiring 15 of the first 16 he faced. The lone hit came in the leadoff spot in the bottom of the third, when Johnny Adams poked a single through the right side.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles finally broke onto the scoreboard, doing so in a manner reminiscent of a backhanded compliment. They got their first two runners on, with Joe Cronin walking and Scott Braren sending him to third with a single with nobody out. But Johnny Adams grounded into a double play, putting two outs on the board even as the run crossed the plate.
The Eagles rallied from that moment to load the bases on an error, single, and walk by Logan Hoggarth, Mitch Bigras, and Jake Palomaki, respectively, but they failed to push another run across.
That led to the dramatic seventh inning. Carroll started the inning but surrendered a full-count double to Johnny Adams, who stroked one towards the corner down the left field line. That immediately sent Utah to their bullpen for reliever Hunter Rodriguez. It was a curious move given Rodriguez's season-long stat line (2-1 in 11 appearances with a team-high 9.43 ERA), but a smart move considering his performance in Pac-12 games (2-0 in four appearances with a 1.93 ERA).
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the skies decided to open up during his warm-up pitches, forcing him to limit offspeed and breaking pitches. With a slippery grip, he threw a passed ball to move Adams to third. He then hit Hoggarth, putting runners on the corners. He worked a 2-1 count against Gabe Hernandez, but the pinch hitter squared on the last pitch he saw. He popped it up, but the slick ground prevented the pitcher from exploding off the mound. Rodriguez bobbled it, then threw the ball into right field, scoring Adams to cut the lead to 3-2.
That was it for Rodriguez, removed from the game in favor of closer Dylan Drachler. Drachler, who closed out the win over Ole Miss on Friday, promptly hit Palomaki with his second pitch, loading the bases still with nobody out. After Michael Strem grounded into a 5-2 fielder's choice throw-out of the lead runner at the plate, Drachler walked Nick Sciortino to tie the game at 3-3.
That kept the bases loaded for Donovan Casey, playing in just his second game back since breaking his hand against Virginia in early April. Casey grounded the fifth pitch he saw to shortstop, but it handcuffed Scaggari. He got the first out at second, but Casey hustled past the throw at first, safe at the bag with an RBI as Palomaki scored the go-ahead run.
In the eighth inning, Josh Rose singled off reliever John Witkowski with one down, but Sciortino gunned him down at second for the second out. After a walk to AJ Young, Jesse Adams came in and struck out Kody Davis to end the inning. Adams delivered a 1-2-3 ninth, securing BC's 33rd victory of the year.
On the hill, King was good after the rough start, completing 6.2 innings and allowing only the three runs. He struck out two and walked two, pitching to contact as has become his custom. Of the 31 batters he faced, he induced nine groundouts, throwing 111 pitches, 65 of which went for strikes. He gave way to Witkowski, who gave up only the one hit in one inning of work. Adams recorded his sixth save of the year for his efforts.
Dalton Carroll finished six innings for the Utes, charged with two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. The only extra base hit he allowed was the last batter he faced, throwin 109 pitches, of which 63 went for strikes. Rodriguez wound up charged with two runs and the loss (2-2) while only allowing one hit. Drachler finished the last two innings, allowing only one hit with a strikeout and a walk.
At the dish, Scaggari, Marruffo, and Rose all had two hits for the Utes, while Adams had the only multi-hit game for the Eagles. Of the BC runs, only two came with RBIs attached, one each for Sciortino and Casey.
With the win, BC are now within one more victory of advancing to the Super Regionals. The Eagles have never been to the round since it was introduced in 1999. BC's last trip to the College World Series, in 1967, came after they won two best-of-three local series. That year, the Eagles swept Dartmouth before defeating UMass in games hosted in Amherst.
The Eagles also set a couple of records during the game against the Utes. Joe Cronin's walk in the seventh set a new career record for the BC program with 113 free passes, while Mike King set a single season program record with 98 innings thrown.
BC is automatically qualified for the Regional Finals of the Oxford Regional. Tulane, who defeated the host Ole Miss Rebels, advanced to play the loser of the Eagles-Utes game in the Second Round Elimination Game, so Utah will play the Green Wave at 2 PM. Following the game, the Eagles will play the winner at 6 PM.
If the Eagles win the 6 PM game, they will advance to the Super Regionals for a best-of-three series against the winner of the Coral Gables Regional. If they lose, they will play a winner-take-all game on Monday to determine the regional champion.