With the bases loaded for Boston College baseball and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, No. 3 North Carolina State—protecting a slim one-run lead—made its seventh pitching change on the day. Canaan Silver headed to the mound in his first save situation of the season.
In what turned out to be one of the wilder endings of the season, second baseman Cody Morissette walked up to the plate and laced a ball directly over second, prompting N.C. State’s David Vazquez to reach high above his head for the unattainable ball. The runners on base took off and one scored, bringing the game within a run—but then, in a state of confusion, Jack Cunningham made a beeline for third before changing his mind and returning to second. The problem was, Morissette was already heading to second.
Cunningham was forced to charge toward third, but in a back-and-forth game of pickle with N.C. State’s Will Wilson and Vojtech Mensik, Cunningham was eventually tagged out—sealing a disappointing albeit tightly contested game to the nation’s top-ranked Wolfpack by a 6-5 margin.
The Eagles (14-16, 5-8 Atlantic Coast) nearly erased a pair of three-run deficits, first tying the game at three runs apiece in the eighth, then coming just short in the ninth. N.C. State (28-3, 11-2) bounced back from a midweek loss to South Carolina, just escaping what would’ve been its first back-to-back defeats on the season.
“Honestly, the boys did it man,” head coach Mike Gambino said about the crazy final few frames, “They were doing some matchup stuff to put us in some tough spots and we just believed in our boys and they did a great job.”
The matchup stuff referenced by Gambino was clearly the constant pitching changes. With seven total pitchers for the Wolfpack, it seemed as if the BC lineup was being mentally bamboozled, yet still succeeded in clawing back against N.C. State.
The Wolfpack got the scoring started early against Dan Metzdorf, who struck out a season-high six batters in 6 1/3 innings of work. Vazquez had an RBI single in the second, and Evan Edwards followed with a bases-loaded groundout in the third. Then, after chasing Metzdorf, Jonny Butler recorded a seventh-inning RBI double off Thomas Lane. It wasn’t until the bottom half of that inning that the Eagles scored their first run.
BC finally got to N.C. State starter Jason Parker, chasing him after a wild pitch moved BC’s Joe Suozzi to second. Nick Swiney took over, and Peter Burns greeted him with a single straight up the middle. The extra bobble by the Wolfpack’s Wilson allowed for Suozzi to score BC’s first run. Chris Galland singled to right center, then a throwing error allowed Jake Alu to reach and load the bases.
Another pitching change followed—Baker Nelson entered—and Brian Dempsey brought in a run with a sacrifice fly. In what would be the final pitching change of the inning, David Harrison stepped to the mound and, with two left on base for BC, got Cunningham to swing at the very first pitch, thereby inducing a groundout.
In the eighth, Morissette doubled to right field and was residing at second with Ramon Jimenez on deck. The first baseman stepped up to bat all while Vazquez attempted to pick Morissette off at second, constantly motioning to N.C. State catcher Patrick Bailey. This quiet game of cat and mouse ultimately didn’t mean much, as Jimenez was able to launch a bomb for a triple and tie the game up.
In the ninth, BC saw two reach via walks, and Cunningham followed with a fortuitous bounce. The Eagles’ hopes looked to be for null as the ball rolled toward being foul, but Mensik kicked the ball fair, and Cunningham was able to load the bases. Gian Martellini reached on a fielder’s choice and Galland, who was on third, was able to score on a muffed throw home. That set the stage for the dramatic ending, which ultimately didn’t end in the Eagles’ favor.
“It was a great ball game,” Gambino said. “They just executed better than us.”
It was a promising start to the weekend for BC, especially against an opponent of N.C. State’s caliber. The Wolfpack has had nothing but success in the ACC thus far, and it took a lot of effort for it to escape Brighton with a series-opening win. The Eagles’ bullpen troubles—which have been well-documented thus far—were once again on full display. It’s a group of arms that Gambino will have to hope for better results from in the future.
Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / For The Heights