There weren’t many clouds over Shea Field on Saturday, just smoke coming off grills on the Alumni Stadium parking lot. It was a festive and large crowd for the Boston College baseball team (20-18, 8-11 ACC) in its fourth annual ALS Awareness Game, which honored BC alumni Pete Frates and Jim Daly, who are both fighting the disease. Saturday’s crowd got a good show. The Eagles clinched the series with a 6-1 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (24-14, 9-11) thanks to some dominant pitching and a lot of quality at bats.
“[Georgia Tech] was eighth in RPI coming into this series, [so] that’s a really good ballclub,” said BC head coach Mike Gambino after the game. “Our boys aren’t doing anything we can’t continue to repeat. They’re just playing good baseball. Have quality starts and catch the baseball and you have a chance to win every game.”
Gambino understated senior John Gorman’s start on Saturday. A “quality start” is defined as at least six innings and three or less earned runs allowed. Gorman tossed seven innings of one run ball while fanning eight and walking none. GT center fielder Daniel Spingola roped a double to lead off the game, but Gorman stranded him on third and proceeded to mow down Yellow Jackets after that on the back of his filthy slider and improved fastball command.
“[Associate head] Coach [Jim] Foster has been working with me a lot on getting my fastball glove side,” Gorman said. “I’ve been struggling with that a lot this year, so that was huge for me today. [Foster] did a great job of getting me to locate my fastball and [catcher Nick Sciortino] did a great job behind the plate.”
Gorman ran into a little trouble in the sixth frame, with two runners on and one out with cleanup hitter Kel Johnson and his OPS over 1.000 striding to the plate. Gorman limited the damage, as Johnson drove in just the one run on a groundout to short before Gorman sat down A.J. Murray and Thomas Smith on a punch out and a weak grounder to second. Gambino came to the mound the next inning to apparently relieve the senior, yet left him in to face Spignola with two outs and a runner on second.
“[Gambino] said, ‘this is your last batter,’” Gorman said, “ ‘I want you to get this guy right here and we want Justin Dunn to have a clean inning for us in the eighth and to go finish the game for us.’ Knowing that your coaches have that confidence in you, that’s huge.”
Gorman tried to end his day with a 1-2 backdoor slider but left it a little outside to the lefty Spignola, so Gorman came back with a fastball that Spignola smoked to right. Eagles right fielder Donovan Casey, however, got a good jump on the ball and rewarded his teammate’s strong outing with a nice grab to end the threat from the visitors.
Dunn blew away the meat of Georgia Tech’s order in the eighth and worked around a double in the ninth to finish the job. Dunn works fast and throws faster, with a wipeout slider to boot, and his coach is thankful to have him. “That’s a premium, premium arm,” Gambino said of his sophomore reliever.
BC supplemented its stellar run prevention by delivering runs in each of the middle innings. First baseman Joe Cronin belted a solo home run in the fifth, his second of the year, but the rest of the runs came in, as Gambino said, a more repeatable manner.
Without star slugger Chris Shaw, the only starting position players for BC on Saturday with a slugging percentage over .364 were Michael Strem and Scott Braren, and Braren had only 14 at bats entering Saturday. The Eagles approach at the plate reflected that, and that approach got results. Gabe Hernandez worked two 3-2 walks and scored on both. Sacrifice bunts from both Johnny Adams and Casey moved up runners that eventually scored. Stephen Sauter came around to score on a wild pitch after a leadoff walk. Blake Butera and Adams both delivered two strike, two out RBI hits up the middle with compact strokes.
“Everyone would always rather have Chris Shaw in your lineup. But sometimes when you have Chris Shaw in your lineup, you just sit back and wait for Chris Shaw to do what he does, because he always does that,” Gambino said. “[But] whether it’s Johnny Adams having an awesome two strike at bat or whether it’s Blake getting a huge two strike hit. Our lineup has got some length to it. It’s tough outs, tough at bats, all the way through, and that’s awesome.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor
Photos by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor and Alec Greaney / Heights Editor