Boston College baseball was looking to build off a thorough 13-2 win over Eastern Kentucky before the start of ACC play, and it didn’t need to leave the state to do just that. Behind an explosive offensive surge in the final two innings, the Eagles broke open a close game and knocked off SEC foe Kentucky, 12-3.
In a game defined by chilly weather conditions, with first pitch coming with a frigid temperature of 30 degrees, BC (7-4) was slow to start but eventually clicked. The Eagles were trailing the host Wildcats (8-4), 2-1, after the first seven innings of play. Then, behind freshman phenom Sal Frelick, the bats came alive. BC tacked on four runs in the eighth and seven runs in ninth to put the game away, it’s fourth double-digit scoring output in the first 11 games.
“It was one of the colder games we’ve played in the last couple of years and it came against a really good opponent in a great ballpark,” head coach Mike Gambino told BCEagles.com. “We had chances early, and Kentucky did a great job pitching out of trouble, but we just kept putting pressure on them.
“I know the final score looks big at first glance, but it was a close game till late,” the fifth-year coach said.
The pitching was a group effort for the Eagles, as Gambino opted for a bullpen day after having played their previous game four days ago. Matt Gill opened up the game, hurling a scoreless inning with a strikeout, then was followed by relief pitcher Joe Mancini. Mancini tossed three innings, allowing only one run, which came off a Kentucky solo shot, courtesy of designated hitter T.J. Collett.
Mancini was then relieved by Travis Lane, who was chased in his second inning of work. Lane ran into some command struggles, giving up an RBI single to Jaren Shelby before walking a batter and throwing a wild pitch. Calling upon experience, Gambino turned to John Witkowski, and he finished that inning and then went on to pitch a perfect inning in the seventh. He was the bridge the Eagles needed, as his effort successfully kept the Eagles in the game as they were still only down a run after seven. Witkowski earned the win, while Joey Walsh finished off the game with a comfortable lead.
Offensively, BC started out slow, but finished hot, recording 12 runs off 11 hits and 12 walks. Frelick started the scoring with a solo home run, then kickstarted the late rally with a two-run single. Hitting out of the two-spot, Frelick was the anchor of the lineup and finished the game going 3-for-5 with four RBIs.
“We had a bunch of two-out hits and two-strike at-bats that extended innings. Sal [Frelick], in a big spot, opened the game up with a two-strike battle and beat out an infield-hit to allow two runs to score,” Gambino said. “He drove in the first three runs. The kid is as competitive as they come. He continues to find a way to keep getting it done.”
The Lexington, Mass. native has had a scorching hot start to the year, batting .455 with two home runs, 16 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases on 12 attempts. If he can continue his performance going into conference play—similarly to what All-ACC Freshman and Third Team selection Chris Galland did last year in his first year on the Heights—he’s well on his way to national recognition.
The offensive highlight of the game came from a Brian Dempsey two-run triple in the top of the eighth, which broke open a narrow 3-2 game. It was the start of a plethora of insurance runs from the Eagles lineup, which saw 10 different Kentucky pitchers during the game—five of which took the bump after the seventh inning. The ninth inning was particularly eventful, as the Eagles tacked on seven runs, taking full advantage of walks, wild pitches, and Wildcats’ mistakes.
This was a big win for the Eagles for a handful of reasons. Kentucky had won five straight games, went 19-9 at home last season, and made a run to the Super Regionals back in 2017. The Wildcats’ conference is loaded with talent, so BC’s impressive performance against a team that came in fifth in the SEC West last year is a great momentum builder heading into its first ACC series of the year against No. 8 Louisville.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics