Coming into Tuesday night’s matchup with Massachusetts Lowell, Boston College baseball had lost five of its last six contests. To say the Eagles needed a win against the nine-win River Hawks would have been an understatement. In the early going, though, it appeared that BC was going to be dealt another tough blow, as UMass Lowell led, 3-0, after the first four innings. Eventually, the Eagles’ bats came alive in the fifth inning with a four-run outburst. From there, both teams traded runs with BC narrowly coming out on top, 6-5.
The Eagles’ (20-22, 7-14 Atlantic Coast) achilles heel—pitching depth—gave the team an early deficit. The River Hawks (9-28, 7-9 America East) struck out in both the first and fourth innings. Robert Gallagher kicked off the contest with a single and proceeded to steal second base. Andrew Roden grounded out, but Gallagher advanced to third. A sacrifice fly by Cam Climo allowed UMass Lowell to draw the first blood.
John Witkowski pitched the first two innings for the Eagles before giving way to Jack Nelson. While Nelson hurled a clean third inning, he ran into significant trouble in the ensuing frame. Nelson walked the leadoff batter in Steven Passatempo. Vinnie Martin then singled and stole second, which put both runners in scoring position. Nelson then recorded two quick outs to keep the River Hawks at bay, but he struggled immensely to find the third and final out. Facing Mark Tumosa, Nelson threw a wild pitch, allowing Passatempo to score. Tumosa singled, which drove in Martin.
Nelson’s difficulties did not end there. Tumosa stole second, and Gallagher walked. Nelson threw yet another wild pitch, allowing the runners to move to second and third. Nelson then gave up his third walk of the inning as he sent Roden to first, loading the bases. At this point, head coach Mike Gambino had seen enough. He sent in freshman Joe Mancini to relieve Nelson, and he did just that. Mancini forced Climo to ground out, ending the threat.
Meanwhile, BC was held scoreless through the first four innings. The Eagles weren’t without opportunities—they ended up stranding three runners in scoring position. Whenever BC managed to put a man on base, its bats went cold. Right-handed pitcher Joshua Becker did a great job in silencing a normally explosive Eagles offense.
While BC’s attack was kept dormant for a while, it eventually exploded in the bottom of the fifth inning. Becker ran into trouble early, as he walked Dante Baldelli and gave up a single to Chris Galland. The next batter, Jake Alu, notched a single of his own to load the bases. Sal Frelick, who entered Tuesday night’s matchup sporting a team-best .372 batting average, came through with a much-needed hit. The freshman delivered a single to center field, scoring Baldelli to give BC its first run.
Becker was subbed out for Blaise Sclafani, but the pitching change failed to stop the bleeding. Brian Dempsey battled Sclafani to a full count and walked, driving in another BC run. First baseman Jack Cunningham then launched a sac fly to right, which gave the Eagles yet another run. Finally, Cody Morissette followed up with another sac fly, putting the bow on an impressive fifth inning.
At this stage of the game, BC held a one-run advantage, and it maintained this lead for the next two innings. Mancini pitched quite well, and while a River Hawk made his way to third off of two errors, the freshman escaped the inning unscathed. The Eagles went three-up, three-down in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Travis Lane came into to pitch for Mancini, and he displayed solid poise in grabbing two quick outs. Lane walked Ciaran Devenney and then conceded a single to Tumosa. Devenney blistered his way to third, and Tumosa stole second soon after. Lane then committed an error on a hit by Gallagher, which allowed UMass Lowell to knot the game at four runs apiece. Will Hesslink replaced Lane and saw Tumosa steal home. He then walked Joey Castellanos on four pitches. Following this series of events, Matt Gill came in to record the final out on a fielder’s choice.
BC responded with a two-run inning of its own. Gian Martellini smashed a single to kickstart the effort, but Morissette and Ramon Jimenez went down on a foul out and strikeout, respectively. Baldelli then came up to a plate, and he blasted a triple to drive in the tying run. Galland was up next as he hit a single to give the Eagles the lead. Thomas Lane came in for the save and, besides walking Martin, Lane shut down the River Hawk offense and sealed the victory for BC.
This should have been a comfortable victory for the Eagles, but it was anything but that. While BC’s offense has been phenomenal in tallying 407 hits this season—fourth-best in the ACC—its pitching has been a major weakness. The Eagles are currently posting a 5.38 ERA, which is fourth-worst in the conference. It’s clear that BC’s bats can keep the team competitive in any contest it finds itself in. But the pitching staff has created insurmountable deficits and has prevented the Eagles from achieving any semblance of consistency all season. Yes, BC can notch wins against teams like the River Hawks, but it will be hard-pressed to earn series victories against conference foes.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff