Last season, Brian Rapp’s first start for Boston College baseball lasted just two and two-thirds innings. He needed 46 pitches, laboring against Bethune-Cookman—he gave up three runs on three hits, walked two, and threw three wild pitches.
His first start of 2018 was quite the opposite.
The senior threw six no-hit innings, striking out a career-high 10 batters and retiring 13 Santa Clara hitters in a row at one point. He left with a slim one-run lead, but an Eagles bullpen that had struggled the day prior was up to par.
Despite running into issues in the eighth, BC’s bullpen beared down to preserve the slim lead as they took two of three against the Broncos, finishing off the weekend with a 3-1 win.
“Unbelievable day for us,” Rapp said afterward. “Defense played great as always. That’s what we do—we pitch and play defense.”
After three scoreless innings, the Eagles (2-1) broke through against Santa Clara (1-2) starter Alex Waldsmith. Jake Alu walked, stole second, and moved to third on a throwing error from the catcher. An RBI groundout from Gian Martellini followed.
Four innings later, BC added some insurance. Brian Dempsey drew a leadoff walk and moved around the bases, eventually scoring on a RBI double from Dante Baldelli. Jake Palomaki drew a walk in between, then scored on a lineout to center field from Alu.
The Broncos rallied in the eighth, though. Stromberg gave up a bunt single, then back-to-back singles. He got a pop up, but couldn’t escape untouched as Joe Becht knocked in a run with a single to left field. Thomas Lane, fresh off of an impressive Saturday night outing, inherited a bases loaded situation.
He quickly got the first out, then up strode Santa Clara’s Jake Brodt, who hit three home runs in Saturday’s blowout win. Lane struck him out on four pitches, getting him to chase a pitch in the dirt to escape the jam. It was a gutsy performance from the reliever, who worked a scoreless ninth for the save.
In the series opener, BC starter Jacob Stevens looked the part of a Friday night starter. The junior right-hander went five shutout innings, striking out eight and allowing just four hits. Stevens needed just 76 pitches and kept the Broncos on their heels throughout, letting just two runners reach second base.
Meanwhile, the Eagles offense backed up their starter. They scored in each of the first three innings and tacked on another run late, building a 5-0 lead that was more than enough with Stevens dealing.
“The bats came out strong,” Stevens said. “That makes it a lot easier to go out and attack the hitters. It was nice to get outside and finally play.”
Palomaki went 3-for-5 at the top of the BC lineup, driving in three runs—two coming on a second inning home run to left field.
The Eagles bullpen impressed, as the trio of Sean Hughes, Zach Stromberg, and Carmen Giampetruzzi allowed a lone unearned run over four innings of work, striking out four and allowing just two hits.
On Saturday, BC took a 9-6 lead into the seventh inning, only to watch Santa Clara erupt for a 14-run inning to take the 20-9 win. Four different Eagles pitchers surrendered home runs, with Brodt hitting a pair of grand slams in the fateful seventh.
Brodt finished with an impressive 10 RBIs and three home runs, lifting his team to the convincing win to even the series. The two grand slams in the same inning was just the seventh time it’d happened in NCAA history, a rare occurrence that paved the way for a Santa Clara rout.
Tasked with protecting a four-run lead, the Eagles bullpen struggled mightily. Mike Gill surrendered a solo home run in the sixth, then the combination of Jack Nelson, John Witkowski, Jack Cunningham, and Mitch Bigras struggled in the seventh. They hit seven combined batsmen, gave up two grand slams, and watched the lead dissipate.
“Our pitching staff has a chance to be very good,” coach Mike Gambino said. “I think they got a little ahead of themselves. You hit 10 guys and walk 11, and with a guy like Jake Brodt in the middle of the order, they’re going to make you pay.
“I think this team and this staff have a chance to be very good, but this game will humble you.”
Lane impressed, hurling three hitless innings with a lone walk. Outfielder Dante Baldelli had a career-high four hits and three RBIs on a 4-for-5 day with a run, a stolen base, and hit by pitch. Meanwhile, Palomaki continued his torrid start to the season, hitting a pair of doubles and adding a triple in the loss.
As Gambino put it, Saturday’s loss was an example of a team that got complacent. The bullpen lost all semblance of control, and a Broncos team with a tough lineup lit into them. Still, the team showed their veteran roster the next day, riding the strength of dominant pitching and a few timely hits to come out of the season-opening series a game above .500.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Senior Staff