With the tying run in scoring position and Boston College baseball clinging to a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning, head coach Mike Gambino handed the ball to Donovan Casey for the six-out save. He only got four.
After leading for the entire game, the Eagles watched their bullpen collapse in the final two frames. They surrendered two runs in the eighth and nine in the ninth, as the University of Miami (22-21, 12-10 Atlantic Coast) clinched a series win with a 14-5 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Following the loss, Gambino said the mistake came in allowing starter Dan Metzdorf to go back out on the mound for the eighth inning. Cleanup hitter Carl Chester led off with a single and Nico Baldor doubled into the gap, prompting the BC (16-24, 6-17) pitching change. When Casey took the rubber, he was greeted by Hunter Tackett, who drove in his fourth and fifth runs of the weekend with a double that tied the game at 5-5.
“This one was 100 percent my fault,” Gambino said. “Metz did everything we asked him to do, gave us seven innings with a chance to win. [Casey] should’ve started the eighth, and I made the wrong decision.”
After Tackett’s two-RBI double, Casey came back with a strikeout against arch nemesis Edgar Michelangeli, who instigated a benches-clearing brawl with a bat flip and some trash talk during the Hurricanes’ Super Regional win last year. A groundout and a strikeout kept the game knotted before Miami finally broke it open in the last inning.
It started with a breaking ball from Casey that came out of his hand wrong and plunked Michael Burns in the back. Then, Romy Gonzalez went yard to deep center field to give the Canes their first lead of the afternoon, 7-5. Chester followed with a double and James Davison bunted one down the third-base line that hugged the chalk the entire way. With runners on the corners, Casey gave the red-hot Tackett a free pass, loading the bases for Michelangeli.
He crushed one all the way to the fence in right-center field, but there would be no grand slam déjà vu for Michelangeli. Strem tracked it down for the first out of the inning and Chester tagged up from third to extend the lead to 8-5. The next batter, Christopher Barr, brought home two more with a single to left, chasing Casey from the game. His replacement, Carmen Giampetruzzi, didn’t fare much better, as Randy Batista took him deep for a three-run shot. Seconds later, Burns clobbered one over the fence in the exact same spot, pushing Miami’s lead to 14-5.
By the time the dust settled, the Canes had nearly doubled their run total from the first eight innings, scoring nine times on six hits. BC, which had led for eight innings, was stunned. And Gambino traces it all back to that fateful decision to leave Metzdorf in past the seventh inning.
“I wouldn’t consider it a meltdown on their part,” Gambino said. “I consider that I should have done a better job managing the game.”
At the time, though, keeping Metzdorf in the ballgame didn’t seem like a bad idea. The sophomore lefty was rolling against Miami and seemed slated for another career-high outing. Before their pivotal late-game at-bats, Chester and Baldor were a combined 0-for-6 at the plate against Metzdorf.
But that is little consolation for a team that fought to scrape five runs across the plate, putting itself in a great position to even the series and maybe bounce back for another series win on Sunday. The Canes’ ninth-inning slugfest practically erased the successes of Birdball’s lineup against opposing arm Michael Mediavilla.
Miami’s Saturday starter, whom the Eagles last saw in a 5-3 win during the 2016 Super Regional series, never really found his rhythm and struggled to make it out of the first two innings. Donovan Casey singled to left and advanced to second on a Jake Palomaki sac bunt to start the bottom of the first. Then, Michael Strem put BC on the board with an RBI single to right field.
In the second, the bottom part of the order started the Eagles’ rally in typical fashion. Jake Alu smacked a leadoff double, Jacob Yish walked on four pitches, and Brian Dempsey went opposite field to drive home Alu. Casey plated Yish with a sac fly and Palomaki singled to extend BC’s lead to 4-1 after two innings. In the sixth inning, Yish came around to score after a throwing error, fielder’s choice, and squeeze bunt sent him home. It felt like a classic small-ball, Birdball win—until the last inning, that is.
Rarely does a blowout feel like a close loss. But such is the reality for Gambino and the Eagles, during a season where nothing has felt quite right.
Featured Image by John Evans / Heights Staff