It was a cold, windy, and shadowy day at Shea Field on Wednesday, and all seven pitchers who took the mound took advantage. There were a combined sixteen pitchouts and just two walks between both Boston College and UMass as pitching and defense dominated most of the afternoon’s Beanpot semifinal.
BC’s middle of the order finally manufactured a winning edge in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, Eagles’ center fielder Michael Strem clapped a base hit through the left side before taking second and third base on a steal and pass ball, respectively. Cleanup hitter Joe Cronin fell behind 1-2 to UMass first baseman-turned-reliever Mike Geannelis. But the senior worked the count well, taking advantage of a down-and-away slider to drop a blooper into right that knocked in Strem and gave BC (18-11, 5-8 Atlantic Coast) the decisive 2-1 lead. Cronin added a diving stop at third in the top of the ninth as Jesse Adams—the Eagles’ starter-turned-reliever who earned two wins over the weekend—picked up an easy save to send the Minutemen (7-14, 2-4 Atlantic-10) back to Amherst. The Eagles will advance to take on Northeastern in Northborough, Mass. for their second-consecutive Beanpot final.
“I was just chasing breaking balls down pretty much all day,” Cronin, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts before his game-winning hit. “You know coming up in the eighth there with two bases open that you’re gonna see more breaking balls, especially with that kid, he had a good slider so I anticipated slider away and with the way I was feeling at the plate, which was not great, I was just trying to slap it the other way, just get it out there.”
The game was still tied in the eighth despite BC giving the Minutemen a few chances to break it open earlier in the game. Thomas Lane, Zach Stromberg, Brian Rapp, and John Witkowski all hurled well on a day when the Eagles desperately needed a strong bullpen performance. But UMass’ meager showing on the scoreboard is also due in large part to the work of catcher Nick Sciortino.
UMass leadoff hitter Brett Evangelista reached base in the first on an infield single and then tried to steal second. Sciortino established a no-fly zone for the rest of the game by hosing him down with a good step and a half to spare. Lane later issued a leadoff walk in the fifth but his catcher took care of that for him by picking off said runner at first base after a failed bunt attempt. The junior also stymied a couple rallies by framing some questionably low strikes well enough that home plate umpire Rob Healey almost always ruled in favor of Sciortino’s pitchers.
“I think he’s the best defensive catcher in the conference and I think he’s in the conversation for best in the country,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “It’s awesome having him back there.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor