Stevens Roughed Up in Loss to Virginia Tech

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Following an 18-6 blowout loss at home to Bryant University, Boston College baseball was eager to return to the field. Having recently taken two out of three from then-No. 4 Louisville last weekend, the Eagles were ready to get back on track behind their ace Jacob Stevens in the first game of a crucial three-game series against last-place Virginia Tech. Stevens, however, uncharacteristically struggled, as did the rest of the team as a whole in the Eagles’ 5-0 loss Friday afternoon at Shea Field.

Stevens and BC (21-17, 7-13 Atlantic Coast) made it through the first three innings fairly easily, allowing just one unearned run. After retiring the leadoff man in the fourth on two pitches, Stevens started to get into trouble. He hit the next batter, and Garrett Hudson followed by roping a double down the left-field line, putting two runners in scoring position with only one out. A brief mound visit by pitching coach Jim Foster didn’t help Stevens, as the very next pitch was smacked over the right center field wall by Joe Freiday, Jr., putting the Hokies up 4-0. Stevens was pulled after 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs, four earned, on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Stevens’ tough outing rose his ERA a half run from 1.02 to 1.56 and dropped his record to 3-3.

While the box score seems deceptive with only the one walk and a hit batter, Stevens struggled with control all day. He missed with a lot of pitches, in particular with his fastball, and Virginia Tech hitters were capitalizing on Stevens’ mistakes. The Hokies’ (14-28, 5-17) hitters were hammering line drives all over the field and were able to knock the Eagles’ ace out of the game before the end of the fifth.

“[Jacob] didn’t really have control of all his stuff,” head coach Mike Gambino said after the defeat. “He had some big misses and left some fastballs up in the middle of the plate.”

The offensive woes continued for the Eagles. While they were able to put the ball in play, striking out only three times against Virginia Tech pitching, they couldn’t find any holes in the field to string a few hits together. The Eagles’ biggest threat of the day came in the seventh inning down 5-0. After two quick outs, the Eagles showed some fight. Gabe Hernandez and pinch hitter Scott Braren worked consecutive walks, followed by Jake Palomaki getting plunked by Virginia Tech’s Kit Scheetz, who held the Eagles scoreless. While Palomaki would be Scheetz’ last hitter, Virginia Tech’s Jon Woodcock cleaned up the damage, retiring Nick Sciortino on two pitches as the Eagles left the bases loaded. While he was by no means dominant, Scheetz shut out the Eagles in 6 2/3 innings of work, surrendering just four hits and three walks while striking out only one BC hitter.

“We did a great job with two strikes,” Gambino said. “We’ll score runs. As long as we continue to have good at bats and get good pitches to hit, our offense will score runs.”

Getting ahead of hitters was a major key to Scheetz’ success. Many BC hitters were behind in the count down two strikes and forced to take defensive swings at borderline strikes. The Eagles put the ball in play, but it didn’t matter, as the Hokies had a flawless defensive showing with no errors on the afternoon.

The loss Friday afternoon is definitely a frustrating one for the Eagles, who have now lost three in a row. Virginia Tech entered play last in the ACC standings and last in ERA at 6.68 as a collective unit. While Stevens wasn’t his usual dominant self, the Eagles’ offense once again struggled to get anything going offensively. The Eagles rank last in the ACC in batting average, hitting .262 as a team. All things considered, BC will need to turn it up this weekend if it wants any chance of staying competitive in the playoff hunt.

Featured Image by Michael Sullivan / Heights Editor