In the first ACC series of the season, Boston College baseball saw one of its dreams come to fruition and one of its worst fears realized against No. 2 Florida State.
On Friday night, sophomore ace Jacob Stevens outdueled Seminole starter Cole Sands, helping the Eagles to their first win in Tallahassee since 2009. Along the way, Stevens surpassed the 100-inning mark for his career, making him eligible for Birdball’s program record for earned run average—a list on which he now sits first with a 2.34 ERA.
But during Saturday’s doubleheader, FSU’s bats woke up against the back end of BC’s rotation, which, at times, has struggled in the wake of Justin Dunn and Mike King’s departures in the MLB Draft.
In the latter of Saturday’s games, the Seminoles put up seven runs on starter Dan Metzdorf in just 4 1/3 innings pitched. The Eagles’ bullpen didn’t fare much better, as their next three relievers allowed two runs each. At the plate, Jake Palomaki was the only BC batter to record multiple hits. The result was a 13-0 blowout in the series finale, the most runs allowed to a conference opponent since April 2015.
The first game of the doubleheader was nearly as lopsided as the second. Freshman Matt Gill made his third career start for Birdball and lasted only one inning. Gill walked FSU leadoff man Taylor Walls on four pitches, and then Dylan Busby reached on an error by right fielder Donovan Casey. That set the table for Quincy Nieporte, who singled into left field to bring in Walls from second. After picking off Busby on the basepaths, Gill surrendered a double and a walk to load the bases. The 6-foot-5 righty walked his third batter of the inning before escaping the jam with his team in an early 2-0 hole.
Birdball chipped into the deficit in the second inning thanks to a pair of walks and an error. With the bases juiced and one out, first baseman Mitch Bigras pulled one into right field, plating Gian Martellini and cutting the Seminole lead to 2-1. But that’s all the Eagles would get, as Dante Baldelli and Jake Palomaki both struck out swinging to end the inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Gill continued to miss the zone against a dangerous FSU lineup. Following his fourth and fifth walks of the game, he gave up an RBI double which ended up driving in two runs due to a Michael Strem throwing error. Brian Rapp came on to relieve Gill, inducing two ground balls and an infield pop out to end the threat.
While the BC bats went quiet for the next few innings, the Seminoles’ lineup only continued to heat up. FSU tallied two runs in the fourth off Rapp and added five more in the sixth to chase him from the game. With the Eagles down 11-1 and the game out of reach, head coach Mike Gambino turned to an unconventional duo to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. Freshman Jack Cunningham tossed a scoreless eighth and Bigras made his first career appearance on the mound in the ninth. Interestingly, he threw the only 1-2-3 inning of the day for BC.
Friday night’s victory had significantly more bright spots than both games on Saturday combined. Stevens pitching line was marked by his usual consistency, going six strong innings and allowing only two runs and four hits.
Casey had a big night on the mound and at the plate, notching two hits, two RBIs, and his first save of the season. Strem and Bigras also posted two RBIs each, helping fuel a five-run third inning that gave Stevens a comfortable cushion in his first ACC start of the year. A two-run home run by Busby in the bottom of the inning made it a 5-2 game, but Stevens ultimately escaped after his infield turned one of four double plays on the evening.
Second baseman Jake Palomaki sparked a two-run seventh inning for Birdball that provided some much-needed insurance runs. The junior led off with a double and later scored off of a Casey single. Bigras later plated a run with a sac fly to extend the advantage to 7-2.
The Eagles ultimately held on for a 8-5 win, their first road win of the season. It was also the first victory at FSU since Gambino took over.
But the performance on Saturday left Birdball with more questions than answers moving forward. BC pitchers gave up 11 walks in the first game of the double header and hit six batters in the second. Gambino needs to keep tinkering with starters and relievers for the Saturday and Sunday roles until there are viable options after Stevens on Friday. With a slew of nationally-ranked opponents around the corner, though, time is running out.
Featured Image by Michael Sullivan / Heights Editor