Strong At The Plate, Shaky On the Mound: BC Splits Tournament

Everything seemed to be clicking.

In the bottom of the second, Boston College strung together a series of hits, eventually capping off a four-run rally with an RBI single from Gabriel Hernandez. After allowing a base hit to the second batter he faced, starter Nick Poore retired the next 12 in a row. Less than 24 hours after handing a Xavier a 14-7 loss, BC baseball seemed poised to pick up another early-season win against the Musketeers.

And then suddenly, the Eagles hit a wall. After retiring the first batter in the top of the sixth, Poore allowed three consecutive batters to reach, loading the bases. Brian Rapp, a freshman who made his college debut on Friday night against Wofford, entered to neutralize the threat. Instead, a four-pitch walk, a base-clearing triple, and another single later, the Eagles found themselves down 5-4.

Xavier’s Greg Jacknewitz came in and shut the door, tossing five shutout innings to end the game. BC managed just two more hits in the contest, while the bullpen allowed another Xavier rally. This loss dropped the Eagles’ record to 2-2 on the team’s opening weekend.

Before being shut out for the final seven innings of Sunday afternoon, BC baseball had gotten out to a terrific start offensively. While BC put up a decent 20 runs in its four-game opener last season, the team burst out to 27 runs this weekend, highlighted by a 14-run performance against Xavier on Saturday.

Even more importantly, this production came from up and down the lineup. Five BC players tallied more hits than Chris Shaw, the Eagles’ batting leader last season. It may have seemed as though Shaw didn’t have an especially notable weekend statistically—he hit just .250 with one extra base hit—but the pitchers this weekend never really gave him a chance.

He picked up a hit by pitch and seven walks on the weekend—four of which came from the intentional variety.

That’s worth repeating. Shaw was intentionally walked four separate times, all coming in the first three games. There is no better sign of respect opponents can offer.

On Friday night against Wofford, the strategy of avoiding Shaw proved effective. The Eagles came out swinging, racking up 11 hits on the night, one more than Wofford’s 10. Yet, BC struggled to get the big hit all night. The Eagles put at least two men on base in six of nine innings, but plated just four. The team finished with 15 runners left on base in the 8-4 loss. Shaw finished 0-2, and though he reached base twice on two walks, he didn’t get the chance to take advantage of his clean-up role.

In Saturday’s doubleheader, however, all of BC’s bats came to life. Each member of BC’s starting lineup picked up a hit in the first game against Xavier, while Hernandez and Michael Strem had especially strong games, combining to go 5-12 with seven RBIs. None of the Musketeers’ arms could quiet the bats, as BC tagged all four pitchers for at least three runs.

The second game of the day, coming against USC Upstate, took longer for BC’s bats to awaken. Shaw led off the scoring with a solo shot in the second, but USC chased BC starter Jesse Adams in the fifth inning after he allowed three runs and five hits. A strong relief appearance from Justin Dunn and a three-run rally in the seventh eventually propelled BC by USC 5-4, giving the team the doubleheader sweep on the day.

Possibly BC’s biggest issue from last season—getting production from someone not named Chris Shaw—seems to have been answered thus far, though the small sample size and not facing a ACC pitching would make any over-confident statement in the lineup unwise. Hernandez did a great job in the leadoff spot, tallying a team-high eight hits in the series. Toward the middle of the order, Butera, Strem, and Hoggarth combined for 21 hits (six extra-base ones), which could make some teams think twice about giving Shaw the free pass.

The performances on the mound were a different story. No Eagles starter made it further than 5.1 innings, while each allowed at least three earned runs. The starting rotation finished the weekend with an ERA of 6.05, while the entire staff’s ERA sits at a putrid 6.69. Not good numbers.

Really, there were only a couple bright spots for BC pitching this weekend. One, the performance by two relievers: Mike King on Saturday Morning and Dunn on Saturday afternoon. King hurled the final 2.1 innings for BC, allowing Xavier just one hit and picking up the save. Dunn, a righty who logged just 12.1 innings all last season, put up an incredible effort against USC, allowing just one run on two hits in the final four and a third, while also striking out five.

The second: BC’s strikeout-to-walk ratio. Starter John Gorman began the effort on Friday night, setting down a career-high eight men on strikes and walking only one. The rest of the staff followed suit, finishing the weekend with 45 strikeouts and just nine walks, a remarkable statistic for a team just starting the season.

True, it’s early. True, this was BC’s first chance to get out of the constricting confines of the bubble and play on an actual field. True, new pitching coach Jim Foster has barely gotten the chance to work with his pitchers. But, no matter how hot BC’s bats get, the team will have to figure out its rotation quickly if it expects to compete in the ACC.

Featured Image by Louise Shiman Lu

About Alec Greaney 98 Articles
Retired. But you can probably still follow him on Twitter @AlecGreaney.