It’s official: Boston College baseball is the king of small ball.
The Eagles (33-20) plated all four of their runs without a conventional RBI base hit, instead relying on fielder’s choices, bunts, walks, and even a double play to score in their 4-3 comeback win against Utah (27-27) on Saturday.
The Utes roughed up BC starting pitcher Mike King in the first inning, stringing together a few base knocks to take an early 2-0 lead. They would add one more in the fourth inning, but a Johnny Adams double scored Joe Cronin from third and cut the lead to 3-1.
As a dark rain cloud covered Swayze Field and the skies opened up in Oxford, Miss., Utah began to crumble. A leadoff double, passed ball, and hit by pitch put runners on the corners for Gabriel Hernandez in the seventh inning.
Head coach Mike Gambino, who leaned heavily on small ball tactics during a regular season in which tight, low-scoring games were all too frequent, called for the safety squeeze. Hernandez’s bunt popped up before falling at the feet of Utah reliever Hunter Rodriguez, who airmailed the first baseman and extended the rally for the Eagles.
Palomaki, the next hitter, was plunked to load the bases for Michael Strem. The No. 3 hitter chopped a grounder to the third baseman, who threw home to get the force out. With the bases still loaded, Nick Sciortino drew a walk to tie the game at 3-3.
It looked as if that was all Gambino & Co. would get in the seventh, when Donovan Casey hit a routine double-play ball to the Utah shortstop. The infielder mishandled the ball, however, allowing Casey to beat the throw at first and give his team its first lead of the game.
BC’s bullpen tandem of John Witkowski and Jesse Adams shut the door on the Utes, preserving the one-run advantage and sending the Eagles to Oxford’s Regional Finals—its first appearance since 1967.
King’s poise in the middle innings and patience of the BC bats spoiled a stellar outing by Utah starter Dalton Carroll, who surrendered only five hits in six innings of work.
Seeking a third straight win in the NCAA Tournament, Gambino will turn to freshman standout Jacob Stevens tomorrow. Given Birdball’s track record, the regional finals will most likely be low-scoring, and probably just as close.
Don’t discount the power of small ball, especially in a tournament with stakes this big.
Featured Image by Joshua McCoy/BC Athletics