Mason Pelio’s Strong Start Leads Eagles Past Clemson

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After back-to-back losses to Clemson—the product of shaky starting pitching—Boston College baseball handed the ball to freshman Mason Pelio as it attempted to avoid a series sweep. Behind nearly seven innings of work from Pelio, timely hitting, and a “bend but don’t break” day from the Eagles’ bullpen, BC came away with a narrow 3-2 win over the visiting Tigers.

Pelio hurled a great game for the Eagles (12-11, 3-6 Atlantic Coast), lowering his season ERA to a team-best 2.15. In his 6 2/3 innings of work he struck out a career-high eight batters, working around four hits and five walks. His first strikeouts came in the second, and he had seven by his fifth inning. Pelio held Clemson (18-6, 6-3) to one unearned run, when a bases-loaded double play plated a run after an error earlier in the frame.

“Mason was awesome… there’s such a confidence with Mason when he’s on the mound,” head coach Mike Gambino said of the San Diego, Calif. native. “He doesn’t look like a freshman out there. He’s throwing the ball so well and it’s just such a trust factor.”

BC’s Joey Walsh pitched the final 1 1/3 innings of the game, registering his second save of the year. It wasn’t without tense moments, though, as he entered in the eighth with the bases loaded and needed to induce a popout of All-American shortstop Logan Davidson to preserve a one-run lead.

Sean Hughes, Zach Stromberg, and Travis Lane all spent time on the mound as well. Stromberg lasted just three batters, replacing Hughes in the eighth and quickly putting two runners on. Lane also struggled, issuing two walks in a tough 24-pitch stint, additionally allowing an inherited runner to score as the result of a groundout.

All five of BC’s pitchers performed well against the Tigers, a welcome sight for Gambino. Combined, the Eagles kept Clemson 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-3 with bases loaded. When all was said and done, they only allowed two of 16 baserunners to score.

The Tigers, who are sixth in the conference in scoring, only managed two runs against the Eagles after piling up 17 in the first two games of the series. They struck first with Sam Hall in the first inning, as Hall reached on a Jake Alu fielding error and came home when Kyle Wilkie laced a single right up the middle.

The Eagles rallied behind Pelio, though, as Alu led off the bottom of the frame with a single. After a passed ball and a sacrifice bunt from Sal Frelick, Alu was just 90 feet away, and he raced home on a Brian Dempsey groundout to short.

It wasn’t long before Clemson starter Keyshawn Askew gave up another run—Gian Martellini took the third pitch of the second inning and launched a solo home run. It was Martellini’s first homer of the season and the 12th of his BC career, and proved to be pivotal later in the game. Askew would go on to finish with five innings of two-run ball, but he failed to register a strikeout against a contact-happy Eagles side. In fact, BC’s hitters ultimately went without a strikeout for the first time as a team since 2004.

The Eagles padded their lead in the seventh inning with a much-needed insurance run against Tigers’ reliever Sam Weatherly. Lucas Stalman was hit by a pitch, and Chris Galland followed with a one-out single, setting the stage for Alu to come up big again. With runners on both corners, Alu laid a bunt down the first base line, making it safely first base and getting Stalman in from third. Alu went 2-for-4 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot, and his lone RBI would prove to be crucial.

“I just love how the players reacted, how they played, and the little things they did offensively,” Gambino said. “We played just good clean baseball.

“There’s been a couple times this year when things don’t go well, they don’t react well right away—so we just have to focus on playing the game and doing what we’re doing.”

With the win, the Eagles snapped a four-game skid in conference play, gaining important momentum as they head into a midweek matchup with a tough Connecticut team and a weekend series with No. 19 Florida State. They’ve proven that they can win with Pelio on the mound—he guided them past Louisville for their only ranked victory of the year—but Gambino will need more consistency from the rest of his staff if they’re to avoid falling below .500 again.

Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / Heights Staff