It was inevitable. Win or lose, Boston College baseball’s season was going to come to an end following its ACC Tournament pool play game against North Carolina on Thursday. BC—the lowest seed in Pool B—had already lost to North Carolina State on Tuesday, effectively eliminating it from championship contention.
Essentially, the Eagles were playing for pride—something that was tainted back in April when the Tar Heels poured on a program-best 48 runs over the span of three games at Shea Field. UNC’s unprecedented scoring spree capped off the Eagles’ dismal 1-14 start in conference play.
Fortunately for BC, its series against the Tar Heels served as the turning point of its season. The Eagles won 10 of their last 15 ACC games, en route to securing a spot in the ACC Tournament. Throughout the latter portion of the regular season, BC looked like a different team—one reminiscent of last year’s group that made a trip to the NCAA Super Regional. But on Thursday, it reverted back to the one we saw in April.
Thanks to Tyler Baum and four different relievers, UNC shut down the Eagles offense. The Tar Heels only allowed two hits on the day—both of which came in the first frame. On the other hand, the UNC bats could not have had a better day at the plate. Inning after inning, the Tar Heels added to their hit total and, more importantly, their lead. Because of the tournament’s 10-run rule, the game was halted after the seventh inning, with UNC up 10-0.
For the second time this season, Dan Metzdorf took the hill against No. 2 UNC (44-11). Just like his first outing against the Tar Heels, the lefty was rattled right from the get-go. Leading off, Brian Miller took an inside pitch and blooped a single to center field. The ensuing batter, Logan Warmoth, followed that up with a single of his own—the first of his four hits on the day.
With two men on, Ashton McGee blasted one to right field. The ball hit off the wall and took an odd bounce, allowing Miller and Warmoth to score, as well as McGee to reach third. Then, Kyle Datres hit a groundball to shortstop. Johnny Adams had to settle for the force out at first, as McGee easily scored from third. Eventually, Metzdorf closed out the inning, but the damage was already done. In just one inning, he had given up three runs off of 31 pitches.
BC (25-27) retaliated with its only offense of the game in the bottom of the first. Jake Palomaki singled to center to start things off for the Eagles. One batter later—as Palomaki was on his way to swiping second—Michael Strem drove a ball through the right side. Palomaki advanced to third on the play. But he would never get any farther. Baum fanned Gian Martellini on three pitches and then forced Jake Alu into a groundout, ending the inning and stranding two Eagles on base.
From that point forward, UNC dominated the box score. The Tar Heels accounted for the remaining hits, runs, and even errors in the contest.
Metzdorf ran into more trouble in the third inning—so much so that Gambino had to make a call to the bullpen. Right off the bat, he walked Datres. Not too long after that, Zack Gahagan doubled to left field, bringing home the sophomore. To make matters worse, Tyler Lynn singled through the right side, scoring Gahagan.
Trailing by five runs in the third, Gambino turned to Brian Rapp—one of the more reliable Eagles pitchers as of late. In most cases, teams would shift to panic mode in this situation. But BC had nothing to lose and no one to rest. Rapp immediately escaped the jam, forcing Cody Roberts to ground out into a double play.
The Tar Heels’ scoring peaked in the fourth frame. Back to the top of the order, Miller dropped a bunt toward the third base line. Rapp scurried to fetch the ball, but by the time he got to it, Miller was already well on his way to first. Warmoth and McGee proceeded to hit back-to-back singles, loading the bases for Datres. And the bases would stay loaded for a few more batters.
Datres singled through the left side, scoring Miller and increasing the UNC lead to six. Rapp then walked Brandon Riley on five pitches, all but handing the Tar Heels another run. Next, Gahagan hit a fly ball to center field, enabling McGee to tag up and score. Additionally, it gave Datres enough time to advance to third. Rapp continued to struggle to command the ball. He misfired once again, but this time the ball got past Martellini, and Datres sped home.
Only three and a half innings in, UNC led 9-0. All the more of a reason why head coach Mike Fox decided to pull Baum. Unlike BC, the Tar Heels’ season’s end wasn’t anywhere in sight. No matter how far they go in the ACC Tournament, they are all but a lock for the NCAA Tournament. For Fox, preserving arms for postseason play becomes a priority, especially when his team is up by nine runs.
So, for the next four frames, UNC turned to four different relievers—Taylor Sugg, Austin Bergner, Bo Weiss, and Rodney Hutchison, Jr. And each one of them executed to perfection. The four combined for five strikeouts and did not give up a walk, hit, or a run.
The Tar Heels tacked on their 10th and final run in the fifth inning. There’s no telling how many more they would have added if the 10-run rule didn’t go into effect following the Eagles’ scoreless seventh inning.
It was an abrupt ending to BC’s season, but not nearly as abrupt as it would have been if Gambino and Co. never even made it to the ACC Tournament. The Eagles’ late push will keep fans wondering about what could have been if their team had played to that standard all season long. Luckily for BC, it will return the bulk of its lineup and rotation next season. Come February, this group will have a chance to build upon its largely successful tail end of the 2017 campaign.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff