Will Craig is arguably the best college player in the country.
Wake Forest’s third baseman entered this weekend leading the ACC in hitting by 17 points, bashing an impressive.433, a number that puts him at seventh in Division-I baseball. He’s fifth in the country in on-base percentage and numero uno in slugging, giving him a whopping 1.418 OPS. For reference, Barry Bonds is the only player in Major League Baseball history to have an OPS that high, and he needed 120 intentional walks to do it.
Boston College, meanwhile, doesn’t have a single player in the top-10 in hitting, home runs, or any other main offensive statistic. Nick Sciortino, who began Friday as the only eligible player in the Eagles’ lineup hitting over .300, barely cracked the top-50. Yet BC still finds ways to hang around with the best of the best.
On Friday, that meant getting to Wake Forest starter Parker Dunshee right away, tagging him for three runs in the first and another in the third while drawing five walks in his five innings. Starter Jacob Stevens, who owns the third-best ERA in the ACC, had arguably his worst stuff of the season, but the bullpen bailed him out early on. The Eagles even minimized Craig’s damage, giving him two free passes and getting him to ground into a fielder’s choice in his first three plate appearances.
But the player that BC (25-18, 9-14 Atlantic Coast) pitchers couldn’t get around, the one that really made them pay for the seven walks and seven hit batters they surrendered, the one that pushed Wake Forest (28-17, 11-11) over the edge for an 8-6 win, was Nate Mondou.
The number-two hitter for the Demon Deacons started the game a perfect 5-5, notching a single, a double, and three more singles before Zach Stromberg finally got him to fly out in the eighth. He also scored two of Wake Forest’s runs and drove in three more. When all was said and done, he had raised his average to .305, up 29 points from where he started the afternoon.
“It’s not surprising,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said. “He had a slow start to the year, but I think he’s a really good player … we’re going to do everything we can to make sure he doesn’t stay hot tomorrow.”
He was the first to get a hit off Stevens in the top of the first, who had hit the leadoff man to start the game. His game plan heading in, as almost always, was to attack the zone, but he just couldn’t hit his spots with either his fastball or curve. He ended up walking three and hitting four more, and Gambino pulled him when Craig came up with the bases loaded in the fourth.
“Overall, we’re just trying to execute pitches the best we can, and we just didn’t really have it today,” said Brian Rapp, who entered that big spot and got Craig to ground out on one pitch. He, too, faltered after hurling a near-perfect fifth, walking two men around a single from Mondou in the sixth. Gambino again brought in a fresh arm to face Craig: this time, John Witkowski.
The freshman proved nearly as effective as Rapp, getting quickly ahead 0-2 and painting a beautiful pitch on the outside corner, which was called just outside. Three pitches later, Craig finally got to BC, knocking a single through the right side to give the Demon Deacons the lead for good.
Home plate umpire AJ Lostaglio received little love from anyone at Shea Field for his strike zone, giving Wake Forest a warning early in the game and later turning to talk back to calls from the BC dugout. He also made a questionable call on a play with two outs in the seventh, on which it looked as though centerfielder Michael Strem had thrown out Johnny Aiello at the plate. The Demon Deacons scored another run later in the inning, two runs that represented the final difference in the game.
BC’s bats continued to work in the final couple frames, scoring a run each in the seventh and eighth and loading the bases in the ninth, but fell just short against Craig—the same Craig who has led Wake Forest’s ’pen with a 2.08 ERA—who picked up his sixth save of the season in a two-inning outing.
Justin Dunn and Mike King will get the ball in a doubleheader tomorrow, scheduled with the aim to dodge the rain showers coming on Sunday. In between games, BC will retire the jersey #3, the one worn by Pete Frates during his years as a player at BC. This event is part of the annual ALS Awareness game, which drew a Shea-record 3,033 people last year.
“Everybody’s extremely excited about ALS Day, it’s such an important day to our program,” Gambino said. “Pete means so much to us, the Frates family and this mission means so much to us.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor