Birdball Swept by Notre Dame, Playoff Chances Hurt

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There are things that transcend the game of baseball, things that make a win or loss irrelevant even to the most competitive of players. Saturday was one of those days for both Boston College (18-13, 5-10 Atlantic Coast) and Notre Dame (20-12, 10-2). The two teams played an ALS Game dedicated to Pete Frates, a former BC baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012. Current Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki coached Frates during his time as coach of the Eagles, and started this annual game when he started coaching the Fighting Irish. This is the fourth ALS game that Notre Dame has hosted, and all of the funds went directly to the Pete Frates No. 3 Fund. The Fighting Irish wore special jerseys to honor Frates, who is just one of many links between the two storied programs.

The last game of the series may have been the most exciting, at least for the viewers and crowd in attendance. The game was filled with ties, lead changes, and clutch hits, and BC ultimately lost 11-9. The Eagles jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the first run scoring on a bases-loaded walk to freshman Gian Martellini that brought Jake Palomaki in from third. Nick Sciortino then scored on a base hit to right field from Johnny Adams. The Fighting Irish came right back and scored three in the bottom of the inning off of a three-run home run from senior Ricky Sanchez.

The Eagles came back to score five in the top of the second, starting with a leadoff double from Dominic Hardaway to left-center field. Fighting Irish pitcher David Hearne got Palomaki out at first, before walking the next three BC hitters. Martellini popped up to shortstop for the second out, and then Logan Hoggarth walked to force in a run. Notre Dame brought in Hale to pitch, who gave up back-to-back singles to Adams and Anthony Maselli before striking out Hardaway.

The next four innings were surprisingly uneventful after the two-inning slugfest. The Fighting Irish put up one run on an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, and the Eagles scored one in the top of the sixth on an RBI triple from Martellini that scored Sciortino to make the score 8-4. BC scored one more in the top of the seventh when Adams hit a home run over the left-field fence.

The one thing that teams always try to avoid is a bad inning that gets out of hand, and unfortunately the Eagles couldn’t stop the Fighting Irish from putting up five runs in the bottom of the seventh, four of them coming with two outs. This allowed Notre Dame to tie a game that seemed out of reach just a half-inning before, and deflated a BC team that had played a very strong game up to that point. Notre Dame put up two more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, its first lead since the bottom of the first, and held on despite a brief bases-loaded threat from the Eagles in their last at bat.

On Saturday, BC and Notre Dame played a tough pitchers’ duel, but the Eagles fell 4-1. Junior pitcher Justin Dunn made his second start of the season and went 4 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and two runs (one earned) to go along with four strikeouts. He kept the Fighting Irish on their heels for the first four innings before allowing a leadoff walk and a single. Redshirt sophomore Bobby Skogsbergh came in the game in relief, and Notre Dame infielder Kutsulis hit a sacrifice fly to score the first run of the game.

Skogsbergh got the next batter, Matt Vierling, to pop up in foul territory, but second baseman Palomaki was unable to corral the ball, and it dropped uncaught. As it usually goes, the batter made the Eagles pay by smacking a home run over the left-field fence to make the game 3-0. These two unearned runs decided the game. The Eagles put a dent in the score in the top of the sixth on a Sciortino home run to left, but couldn’t capitalize on any more opportunities.

In the bottom of the seventh, Notre Dame added to its lead on an RBI single up the middle that made it 4-1. BC escaped a one-out, runners-on-the-corner jam to end the inning. Skogsbergh got a popup to shallow right that Palomaki chased down and caught. He then turned and fired home to get the runner Shepski out at home.

BC lost the first game of the series on Friday 4-1. Freshman Jacob Stevens pitched a strong game against a potent Notre Dame offense, but the Eagles only mustered three hits off a dominant start from Fighting Irish pitcher Peter Soloman. Stevens pitched six innings, struck out seven, and allowed no walks, but gave up a season-high four earned runs and seven hits.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, with both pitchers showing their best stuff with strong defenses behind them. The Fighting Irish struck first with a leadoff single from Jake Shepski followed by a double to right field from Zak Kutsulis that put runners on second and third. Stevens got a strikeout for the first out, but Sanchez grounded out to third and plated Shepski. Nick Podkul then ripped a single to leftfield that scored Kutsulis to put Notre Dame up 3-0.

The Eagles got one back in the seventh, loading the bases on two walks and a single from Strem. Braren then hit a line-drive single to right field that scored one run. But BC left three runners stranded as two strikeouts ended the inning and the Eagles’ momentum.

Notre Dame scored two more runs in the bottom of the seventh to bring the score up to 4-1. Back-to-back doubles to left-center and down the right-field line from Podkul and Kyle Fiala scored one run, and a single up the middle brought Fiala home to plate a second run. Freshman John Witkowski then loaded the bases on a walk and another single. Dan Metzdorf was brought into the game and struck out the first batter he saw before getting the next one to pop up to end the Fighting Irish threat.

After taking 2-of-3 from No. 16 Virginia, getting swept by Notre Dame was not what BC was looking for, and it appears that consistency will be the key for this team over the last third of the season.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor