A beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon brought the crowds out in force to the Birdcage, creating a vibrant, energetic environment for Boston College baseball to welcome Virginia Tech for the second game of its weekend series. The allure of an unclouded spring day, however, was not the only contributing factor to the uniquely special ambience of the game. Birdball played host to members of the United States Military in honor of the Wounded Warrior Project. Donned in full camouflage jerseys, the Eagles (22-17, 8-13 Atlantic Coast), led by starting pitcher Justin Dunn, defeated the Hokies (15-29, 5-18) 2-0.
Dunn, whose starts always draw a sea of radar guns from scouts from all across the majors, had a top-notch day on the mound. The right-handed junior threw a career-high 111 pitches and collected a career-high six strikeouts. Dunn additionally only gave up three hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings on his way to earning his second win of the season. In the few instances when a Hokie happened to end up on third, Dunn used his overpowering 96-mph fastball (which maintained its velocity into the sixth inning) to quash any hopes of scoring.
“I was just coming out trying to give my team a shot to win,” Dunn said when asked about his performance. “My job was to get as many innings as I can, and put up as many zeroes as I could.”
The most nerve-wracking moment of the game for the Eagles came in the top of the sixth when a tired Dunn loaded the bases with two outs. Head coach Mike Gambino summoned sophomore Bobby Skogsbergh from the pen in an effort to keep Virginia Tech off the board. In only two pitches, Skogsbergh got Hokie catcher Joe Freiday Jr. to foul out to the catcher in order to preserve the shutout. Skogsbergh relieved ably, hurling 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief before senior Jesse Adams would come in to record the final two outs for the Eagles. The BC pitching staff as a whole only surrendered six hits and five walks as it combined for the shutout.
On the offensive side, Birdball had trouble getting anything going against Virginia Tech sophomore Packy Naughton. While it has been a turbulent year for Naughton, who came into the day sporting a 7.50 ERA and a 2-6 record, today he certainly looked far better than his stats would suggest. With effective spotting of his fastball and good movement on his changeup, Naughton kept BC off balance. But Birdball took advantage of its opportunities with timely hitting.
The Eagles notched one run with two outs in the bottom of the second when sophomore Mitch Bigras shot a ground ball over the glove of the diving first baseman to score junior Johnny Adams. The Eagles tallied one more in the fifth when junior Michael Strem came up on the winning end of a marathon at bat, shooting a single into left field in order to bring home Jake Palomaki. The two runs would prove to be all the Eagles needed to support the dominant pitching staff and leave Shea Field with a win.
Gambino noted the impact of the large crowd on the game, while also highlighting today’s special guests: the Wounded Warriors.
“The atmosphere in the Birdcage this year has been awesome,” Gambino said. “Our boys get so fired up seeing all these students out there. We’ve got a huge home field advantage. … They believe they honoring those men and women who gear up everyday… and they are proud of that.”
The Eagles will need to continue to find sources of inspiration as the season winds down, and the race for a spot in the ACC postseason tournament heats up.
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff