Eagles Scrape Past Maine in High-Scoring, Eight-Inning Affair

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After starting the season 4-5 in ACC play, Boston College baseball has lost 15 of its last 18 conference matchups. Plain and simple, league opponents have not been kind to head coach Mike Gambino and Co. Non-conference games have served as somewhat of a respite throughout the campaign—well, at least that was the case for the first three months of the year. Before Tuesday, the Eagles’ previous three out-of-league contests were either postponed or canceled. But the rain wasn’t going to axe BC’s home finale against Maine.

This time, the Eagles made it through eight innings of baseball before the weather—a lightning storm—kicked in. The ACC bottom feeders made the most of the opportunity. Led by Brian Dempsey, who tied a career high with four hits, BC racked up nine runs—three more than it totaled in its weekend series against Louisville—in a back-and-forth affair with Maine.

Both teams combined for 18 runs and 20 hits. Ultimately, though, the game came down to the mound. A pair of wild Black Bear pitches plated the Eagles’ final two runs of the evening, breaking the fourth tie of the contest and sealing a 9-7 BC victory.

For the second-straight game, Eagles (17-30, 7-20 Atlantic Coast) reliever Thomas Lane walked away with the win, but he was only part of the story. Gambino burned through six pitchers, and it all started with Matt Gill.

The sophomore’s outing was abbreviated to say the least. Gill only lasted one inning after giving up the game-opening run to a Maine (17-30, 11-10 American East) team that had a hard time materializing any sort of offense the last time it faced off against an ACC opponent back in March. Five pitches in, Jeremy Pena singled up the middle to get things going. Even though Gill fanned the ensuing batter, Herden Sardinas, Pena was still able to swipe second base in the process, setting up Christopher Bec for an RBI single.

Soon enough, the righty got out of the inning, but Gambino was already prepared to turn to Zach Stromberg in the pen. Luckily for the the junior, he’d have a bit of time to warm up. BC clapped back in the bottom half of the inning to knot the game up at one, in large part thanks to Jake Palomaki. The senior shortstop drew a four-pitch walk, reaching base for the 371st time in his collegiate career—a mark that ties Jason Delaney for the most successful at-bats in program history. While watching his teammates go down in order, Palomaki stole second and eventually third, courtesy of a Bec throwing error from behind the plate. From there, he had ample time to trot home after Dempsey singled to left field.

Stromberg sat down three of the first four batters he faced, mowing through the second inning with ease. The next time out, though, he wasn’t as fortunate. It didn’t help that Bec reached first on a Palomaki throwing error after grounding to shortstop. Danny Casals quickly capitalized, blasting a two-run homer over the left field fence. Although Stromberg recorded two punchouts in the final stages of the frame and escaped the jam, his day was done.

A trio of Eddie Emerson walks loaded the bases for BC in the bottom of the third. With no outs, Dempsey logged his second RBI single of the day, and Gian Martellini used a sacrifice fly to tie the game up at three. Like Stromberg, John Witkowski walked to the mound amid an even-keeled game.

Following a Cody Pasic single, Witkowski retired the next three batters, making quick work of the top of the Black Bears lineup. Once again, the Eagles managed to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth, despite a Maine pitching change. Jake Alu tatooed the second pitch he saw to right-center for a double. The extra-base hit slingshotted the Hamilton, N.J. native into scoring position. When Chris Galland ripped a single to left field, Alu scampered home, handing BC its first lead of the game—one that was short-lived.

All it took was one hit, a stolen base, a groundout, and a throwing error for Maine to even the game at four runs apiece. Casals was behind it all, leading off the inning with a single through the left side. Yet, right on cue, BC answered with a one-run inning of its own. Jack Cunningham booked a trip to first with a six-pitch walk, advanced to third on a Dempsey single, and scored on a Joe Suozzi sacrifice fly.  

The teams proceeded to trade scoreless frames, but the excitement was far from over. In the top of the seventh inning, Gambino decided to replace Witkowski with former starting first baseman Mitch Bigras, who had made just two pitching appearances all season. The controversial switch backfired. Bigras—now posting a putrid, albeit skewed, 11.57 earned run average—lasted two thirds of the frame after allowing a double to Brandon Vicens. Before things could really get out of hand, Gambino took the ball away from Bigras and inserted Sean Hughes. The junior failed to bail out his teammate, immediately giving up a two-run shot to Ben Terwilliger down the left field line. Hughes struggled to find his command, walking the next two batters he faced. Sensing danger, Gambino made another call to the pen, bringing in Lane for what would be the final 1.1 innings of play. The junior promptly recorded the last out of the inning and took a seat in the dugout.

Like they had all day, the Eagles responded in the bottom of the seventh. Following a Cunningham walk and a Dempsey single, Martellini blasted a double to left field, scoring both runners and restoring BC’s one-run lead. Still, the two-bagger wasn’t enough to put the Black Bears to bed.

In the top of the eighth inning, Casals went yard, taking a 3-2 pitch to left field for the game-tying home run. It wasn’t long before Lane collected himself and retired the remaining batters to turn over the frame. Tied at seven, the game was in the hands of the Eagles’ lineup—one of the most inconsistent offenses in the ACC.

Changing pitchers at a comparable rate to Gambino, Maine head coach Nick Derba turned to Nick Silva to silence the BC bats. He hardly lived up to the task. Seconds into his appearance, Dante Baldelli singled through the left side. After Alu laid down a sacrifice bunt, Silva walked both Palomaki and Galland. Detecting command issues, Derba used his sixth and final pitcher of the evening: Connor Johnson. The lefty didn’t fare any better.

Johnson’s third pitch hit Cunningham, conceding the go-ahead run to Baldelli. Moments later, another pitch got away from him—this one hit the backstop, allowing Palomaki to scurry home for BC’s ninth and final run of the game. The Eagles could have very well tacked on a few more if it wasn’t for the impending lightning: On the heels of a 23-minute delay, the game was called final.

It was an appropriate ending for what was a chaotic eight-inning affair—one in which a combined 12 arms were used. Few were effective, as both sides made a sizeable dent in the scoreboard. But for the first time in a while, BC caught a break and now heads into the final series of the season on its first win streak in over a month. 

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

About Andy Backstrom 278 Articles
Andy is the sports editor of The Heights. He is from the suburbs of Philly, but has been an Arizona Cardinals enthusiast since the first grade. Every so often, he'll replay Super Bowl XLIII on Madden to exact revenge on his father's beloved Steelers. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyHeights.