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Rapp, Martellini Help Eagles Avoid Sweep Against Miami

With ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament hopes on the line, Boston College baseball entered Sunday’s series finale against the University of Miami with one goal: Get back in the win column. Excellent defense, seven quality innings from starter Brian Rapp, and timely hitting throughout the lineup combined to earn the Eagles a big 9-2 win to avoid the sweep against the Hurricanes.

BC (17-24, 7-17 Atlantic Coast) didn’t hesitate to jump on Gregory Veliz early, the first right-handed starter Miami (22-22, 21-11) had thrown this weekend. Capitalizing on two early walks in the first, catcher Gian Martellini crushed a home run over the left-field wall, putting the Eagles up 3-0 at the end of the first. Veliz and the Hurricanes, however, refused to break and the next two innings yielded perfect frames for both starters.

The Hurricanes smelled their chance in the fourth to cut into the deficit after Michael Burns doubled into the left-center gap to lead off the inning. Following a well-executed Romy Gonzalez hit-and-run, Burns opened the scoring for Miami on an RBI groundout by Hunter Tackett. Rapp managed to closed the door on the inning, leaving the ’Canes down two.

As the clouds darkened and rain began to fall in the top of the fourth, the Eagles, sensing Miami’s energy, knew that they had to respond. Continuing his hot afternoon, Martellini started the top of the fourth with a leadoff single. Stepping to the plate with men at the corners with one out, Jacob Yish delivered a line drive into the left-center field gap to score the sophomore catcher. But Veliz would again recover and strand two men on base at the innings end.

Feeling little pressure through five, Rapp started the sixth inning with two quick outs. But BC’s kryptonite, Hunter Tackett, kept the inning alive for the ’Canes with a hit by a pitch. That gave center fielder Carl Chester all the opportunity he needed. Slapping an outside fastball the other way, Chester ripped a double down the right field line to score Tackett and make it 4-2 before he ended the inning by recording the third out trying to extend the hit to a triple.

Rapp emerged from the bench to throw the top of the seventh. Despite a wild pitch, he tossed seven complete innings in what was his second-straight polished outing. Veliz, after pitching six full innings, would hand the reigns over to reliever Jesse Lepore for the bottom of the inning.

The Eagles wasted no time exploiting Miami’s move to the bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. Johnny Adams led off with a rocket double down the left field line. After advancing to third on a Dempsey sacrifice, Palomaki drove in the RBI with an opposite-field single. Casey followed Palomaki’s hit with a single of his own up the middle. In an aggressive play, head coach Mike Gambino called for a double steal and his top two hitters answered.

“I gave those guys the green light and they executed,” Gambino said. “That definitely energized the team and put [Miami] in a difficult spot. They pitched Strem different and we took advantage.”  

With runners on second and third, the ’Canes again went to the bullpen and handed the ball to fellow right-hander Albert Maury, Jr. But the Eagles’ bats were hot and Maury, Jr. didn’t fare much better. With the bases loaded, a red-hot Martellini launched one to deep left field to score Palomaki on a sacrifice fly and bring up a struggling Mitch Bigras to the plate.

“Bigras has a knack for taking advantage of RBI opportunities,” Gambino said.

After an 0-for-3 day, Bigras responded to the RBI chance with a line shot to center field that extended BC’s lead to 7-2.

After a poor show by the bullpen in yesterday’s ninth-inning meltdown, John Witkowski executed a flawless eighth inning with the help of a solid BC defense spearheaded by Brian Dempsey. The Eagles scored two more in the bottom of the eighth off the bat of Strem and a beautiful suicide squeeze by Palomaki. Despite loading the bases with two outs, Witkowski struck out Batista to end the game and secure the win for Birdball.

Sunday’s win in Chestnut Hill was huge for keeping the Eagles playoff hopes alive. Rapp provided a bright spot for the Eagles in what was, overall, a somewhat disappointing homestand. The big bat of Gian Martellini, who had four RBIs on the day, as well as the golden glove of third baseman Brian Dempsey both provide excellent launching points for a young Eagles team thirsty for a postseason run.

Featured Image by Jake Catania / Heights Staff

BC Blows Late Lead, Hurricanes Take Series Behind Ninth-Inning Rally

With the tying run in scoring position and Boston College baseball clinging to a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning, head coach Mike Gambino handed the ball to Donovan Casey for the six-out save. He only got four.

After leading for the entire game, the Eagles watched their bullpen collapse in the final two frames. They surrendered two runs in the eighth and nine in the ninth, as the University of Miami (22-21, 12-10 Atlantic Coast) clinched a series win with a 14-5 victory on Saturday afternoon.

Following the loss, Gambino said the mistake came in allowing starter Dan Metzdorf to go back out on the mound for the eighth inning. Cleanup hitter Carl Chester led off with a single and Nico Baldor doubled into the gap, prompting the BC (16-24, 6-17) pitching change. When Casey took the rubber, he was greeted by Hunter Tackett, who drove in his fourth and fifth runs of the weekend with a double that tied the game at 5-5.

“This one was 100 percent my fault,” Gambino said. “Metz did everything we asked him to do, gave us seven innings with a chance to win. [Casey] should’ve started the eighth, and I made the wrong decision.”

After Tackett’s two-RBI double, Casey came back with a strikeout against arch nemesis Edgar Michelangeli, who instigated a benches-clearing brawl with a bat flip and some trash talk during the Hurricanes’ Super Regional win last year. A groundout and a strikeout kept the game knotted before Miami finally broke it open in the last inning.

It started with a breaking ball from Casey that came out of his hand wrong and plunked Michael Burns in the back. Then, Romy Gonzalez went yard to deep center field to give the Canes their first lead of the afternoon, 7-5. Chester followed with a double and James Davison bunted one down the third-base line that hugged the chalk the entire way. With runners on the corners, Casey gave the red-hot Tackett a free pass, loading the bases for Michelangeli.

He crushed one all the way to the fence in right-center field, but there would be no grand slam déjà vu for Michelangeli. Strem tracked it down for the first out of the inning and Chester tagged up from third to extend the lead to 8-5. The next batter, Christopher Barr, brought home two more with a single to left, chasing Casey from the game. His replacement, Carmen Giampetruzzi, didn’t fare much better, as Randy Batista took him deep for a three-run shot. Seconds later, Burns clobbered one over the fence in the exact same spot, pushing Miami’s lead to 14-5.

By the time the dust settled, the Canes had nearly doubled their run total from the first eight innings, scoring nine times on six hits. BC, which had led for eight innings, was stunned. And Gambino traces it all back to that fateful decision to leave Metzdorf in past the seventh inning.

“I wouldn’t consider it a meltdown on their part,” Gambino said. “I consider that I should have done a better job managing the game.”

At the time, though, keeping Metzdorf in the ballgame didn’t seem like a bad idea. The sophomore lefty was rolling against Miami and seemed slated for another career-high outing. Before their pivotal late-game at-bats, Chester and Baldor were a combined 0-for-6 at the plate against Metzdorf.

But that is little consolation for a team that fought to scrape five runs across the plate, putting itself in a great position to even the series and maybe bounce back for another series win on Sunday. The Canes’ ninth-inning slugfest practically erased the successes of Birdball’s lineup against opposing arm Michael Mediavilla.

Miami’s Saturday starter, whom the Eagles last saw in a 5-3 win during the 2016 Super Regional series, never really found his rhythm and struggled to make it out of the first two innings. Donovan Casey singled to left and advanced to second on a Jake Palomaki sac bunt to start the bottom of the first. Then, Michael Strem put BC on the board with an RBI single to right field.

In the second, the bottom part of the order started the Eagles’ rally in typical fashion. Jake Alu smacked a leadoff double, Jacob Yish walked on four pitches, and Brian Dempsey went opposite field to drive home Alu. Casey plated Yish with a sac fly and Palomaki singled to extend BC’s lead to 4-1 after two innings. In the sixth inning, Yish came around to score after a throwing error, fielder’s choice, and squeeze bunt sent him home. It felt like a classic small-ball, Birdball win—until the last inning, that is.

Rarely does a blowout feel like a close loss. But such is the reality for Gambino and the Eagles, during a season where nothing has felt quite right.

Featured Image by John Evans / Heights Staff

Behind Strong Start by Bargfeldt, Birdball Offense Stifled in Miami Opener

For the first time all season, the Birdcage was rocking—really rocking.

Although officially reported at 652, the Boston College baseball faithful numbered around 1,500, many of whom were students hanging off the roof of Shea Field on the most beautiful day of the young summer season. This series was the one every Eagles fan was waiting for: BC’s reunion with the University of Miami. The Hurricanes took down BC in the Super Regionals last season in a best-of-three series. That series was most notable for its final game, when Miami infielder Edgar Michelangeli hit a grand slam off BC’s Jesse Adams. Michelangeli’s exuberant bat flip and showboating did not sit well with former Eagles catcher Nick Sciortino, and the benches cleared in an ugly brawl.

Friday was the day that everyone circled. Finally, the Eagles—and their fans—could get their revenge. But Miami head coach Jim Morris didn’t put the struggling Michelangeli in the lineup. Instead, the Eagles have a new man to despise: left-handed pitcher Jeb Bargfeldt.

Bargfeldt stifled the Eagles for eight innings and gave up only two hits in a 3-0 Miami victory at home. The JuCo transfer mixed and matched his fastball with a strong spin rate and great life that moved in all directions in the strike zone. Many of the hitters for BC (16-23, 6-16 Atlantic Coast) popped up balls on the lip of the infield grass or in short left-center field. According to head coach Mike Gambino, the strategy was to attack the Miami (21-21, 11-10) lefty down on balls instead of up on them. Unfortunately for his Eagles, that was easier said than done.

“He throws a belt-high fastball, and you’re like ‘How did he get that ball popped up?’” Gambino said after the game. “That’s what Bargfeldt did. … “When you get carved, it feels like you’re flat. But it’s not, it’s just a great outing.”

The Eagles rarely threatened Bargfeldt throughout his shutout performance. In the second, catcher Gian Martellini and left fielder Jake Alu both reached base, via a single and walk, respectively. Both were caught stealing at second base, helping Bargfeldt go two above the minimum in his outing. It was only until Frankie Bartow came in for his 10th save of the year that the Eagles put the pressure on Miami. Freshman Brian Dempsey led off the inning with a single and advanced on an error by third baseman Michael Perez. Yet the Eagles couldn’t cash in. The top of the BC lineup—Donovan Casey, Jake Palomaki, and Michael Strem—went down in order. Those three combined to go 0-for-11, with only a walk by Strem.   

BC’s own Friday night starter, Jacob Stevens, pitched well in his own right, though labored and often got behind batters. In only 6 1/3 innings, Stevens threw 110 pitches, often getting behind batters. He enjoyed control of his fastball, and his sinker was working well—Friday’s home plate umpire, Greg Street, gave Stevens full domain over the lower outside corner. Against Hunter Tackett, however, Stevens changed up his strategy—and it didn’t pay off.

Stevens lofted a first-pitch curveball over the heart of the inner half of the plate. Tackett let it fly deep down the left-field line for the game’s opening run. It was the first extra-base hit of the season for the Miami DH, and it was a pitch Stevens wanted back.

“I was throwing a lot of fastballs at the time, I just wanted to throw him something different and he was sitting on it,” Stevens said.   

Defensively, the Eagles were sharp as ever, particularly Martellini. The Hurricanes were sloppy on the basepaths—twice, Martellini caught runners stealing, and two Miami runners were picked off. Martellini also made several strong plays at the plate, including one tag to save a run on a throw by Mitch Bigras.

“They were aggressive on the basepaths, and I was just trying to see that opportunity and make a play,” Martellini said.

Gambino had more praise for his catcher, who he believes has been “one of the stories of the year.”

“If you saw Gian play in Oklahoma, you would’ve left saying ‘That kid’s not an ACC catcher,’” Gambino said. “Now, he’s turning into the prospect we all certainly believed he was.”

Yet the pressure is still on for the Eagles. And now, with two games remaining in the series, they’ve got another reason to hate Miami.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

Women’s Tennis Makes Program History, but Splits Weekend Matches

Over the past two years, consistency has escaped Boston College women’s tennis. The Eagles have failed to string together at least a pair of ACC matches since the 2014-15 season. But as soon as BC picked up its first-ever victory over Miami on Friday, it looked as if head coach Nigel Bentley’s group had a very good chance of ending that streak. After all, the Eagles were hosting Louisville on Sunday—a team that they defeated 6-1 last season.

Yet, for the third time this year, BC followed a conference victory with another loss. The Eagles won three singles matches, but without the doubles point, it wasn’t enough to edge the Cardinals, and BC fell 4-3.

Louisville (13-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) took the first two singles bouts, jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Aleksandra Mally downed the Eagles’ (8-8, 3-5) Asiya Dair in two sets—the second of which Mally won 6-0. With the loss, Dair is now 1-5 in her last six matches. Soon after that, Mariana Humberg came back from one set down to outlast BC’s Lexi Borr in three sets.

Kylie Wilcox narrowed the Louisville advantage with a two-set sweep over Abbie Pahz. Immediately, the Cardinals responded. Elle Stokes defeated Dasha Possokhova, snapping the Eagles’ leading wins leader’s three-match winning streak. Meanwhile, Louisville cleaned up in the doubles department, as both Pahz and Humberg and Ariana Rodriguez and Stokes won their respective matches.

While the contest may have been out of reach, BC finished strong, tacking on two singles victories to close out play. Elene Tsokilauri joined Wilcox as the second Eagles freshman to record a win on the day, with a 6-2, 6-1 rout of Olivia Boesing. Emily Safron tallied BC’s third and final point, defeating Tiffany Huber.

But it was the Eagles’ match on Friday that grabbed headlines.

Led by a trio of freshmen—Possokhova, Wilcox, and Tsokilauri—BC came away with five singles matches and the doubles point against Miami, earning its first win (6-1) over the Hurricanes in program history.

Right off the bat, the Eagles took the doubles point. The freshmen tandem of Possokhova and Wilcox defeated Maci Epstein and Dominika Paterova. But the No. 37 Hurricanes (4-8, 3-4) countered with a Ana Madcur and Estela Perez-Somarriba victory, forcing a third doubles match. Dair and Tsokilauri topped Sara Culbertson and Silvia Fuentes in a 14-point tiebreaker, giving BC a 1-0 match lead.

Possokhova extended the Eagles’ early advantage with a 6-4, 6-0 win versus Epstein. But seconds later, Miami swiped a singles point, as Perez-Somarriba put away Dair in two sets. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, that’s the only one they would record all day.

Borr notched another point with a win over Paterova and Wilcox proceed to secure the match, taking down Madcur. Tsokilauri and Safron added to BC’s point total by beating Culbertson and Fuentes, respectively.

Friday was the first time Miami fell to an opponent ranked outside of the top-50 since it lost to No. 73 Florida State in the ACC Championship quarterfinals in April 2015.

BC has shown that it can hang with any team in the nation. Still, it has yet to prove its ability to do so on a match-to-match basis. The Eagles have three more matches on their homestand to take another stab at tying together a few conference wins.

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

BC Drops Eighth Straight Game in Loss to Miami

For the second time in five days, Boston College basketball was giving the University of Miami a scare at the very end of a game—but this time, it was Erik Johnson’s squad, rather than Jim Christian’s. The women, however, did not have any more luck than the men in pulling off a successful comeback, falling to the No. 17 Hurricanes, 58-51.

The Eagles (8-14, 1-8 Atlantic Coast) got off to a slow start, scoring just 18 points in the first half. BC scored nine of its 18 points in the first five minutes of the quarter, slowing down considerably for the second half of the first quarter and the entirety of the second quarter. Only four players scored in the half, with Mariella Fasoula and Kailey Edwards combining for 13 points.

Despite the slow start, BC kept it competitive in the first quarter and part of the second, staying neck-and-neck with Miami (16-5, 5-4)—BC even led for a stretch. A Kelly Hughes 3-pointer and an Edwards jumper gave BC a 9-6 lead halfway through the first. Miami’s Adrienne Motley knocked down a pair of free throws to trim BC’s lead to one point, but the Eagles clung to that lead for more than two minutes. Keyona Hayes and Khaila Prather made one free throw apiece in the final minutes of the quarter, so that Miami led 10-9 heading into the second quarter.

The second quarter was when the Eagles fell behind. With the game tied at 14 all, Hughes fouled Laura Cornelius in the act of shooting. Cornelius made both of her free throws, giving Miami a lead that it would not relinquish again.

The Hurricanes went on a mini-run, quickly building up a 10-point lead over the Eagles. Edwards hit a jumper to reduce Miami’s lead to single digits, but the Hurricanes responded with a pair of 3-pointers, increasing the lead to 14 points heading into halftime.

In previous games, BC has struggled coming out of the locker room, often allowing teams to build up insurmountable leads in the third quarter. Against Miami, the Eagles broke this trend. Although they could not completely catch up with the Hurricanes, they fought hard and kept  the game relatively close, trimming the deficit to single digits on several occasions before Miami built it back up to 10 points. At one point, BC only trailed by six points. But at the end of the third quarter, Miami had regained a 10-point lead.

Throughout the last period of the game, BC inched closer and closer to the Hurricanes, eventually tying the game at 45 apiece with a little more than five minutes left. The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but neither could pull away for a comfortable lead. As late as 32 seconds from the end of the game, BC only trailed by three points. But, just as on Wednesday night for the men against the Hurricanes, the Eagles were not destined to complete a successful comeback victory.

Emilee Daley sent Hayes to the charity stripe with 31 seconds to go in the game, and Hayes knocked both shots down. Facing a five point deficit and half a minute remaining, Johnson called a timeout. But the play drawn up during the break was unsuccessful—Johnson wanted Hughes, his sharpshooter, with the ball in her hands, but her 3-point attempt was blocked by Motley. Hayes ended up with the ball, and Hughes quickly fouled her. Hayes missed both free throws—a gift for the Eagles, keeping the game just in reach with 17 seconds to go.

Johnson called another timeout. This time, Daley found the ball in her hands for a 3-point attempt, but her shot was off. Hayes made up for her missed free throws with a layup in the game’s final seconds, sealing the deal for Miami.

Missed free throws once again proved costly for the Eagles. BC shot 11-for-17 from the line, making only 64.7 percent of its opportunities. If the Eagles had been more accurate from the line, they could have left Coral Gables with a victory over a ranked opponent. Instead, BC returned to Chestnut Hill with its eighth-straight loss.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff

Notebook: Missed Opportunities Plague BC’s Comeback vs. Miami

 

Jerome Robinson hit a three at the buzzer, but BC fell a point short of a big road win against Miami. In an up-and-down, back-and-forth game of runs, BC did a lot of things well but couldn’t quite get over the hump in the second half. For this team, every game seems to give a new player to praise, or a new aspect of its game to analyze, but it still has yet to put all the pieces together. Another game, another notebook filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Three Up:

1) Screens, Screens, Screens

 

Robinson is deadly off the screen, and BC’s offense is most effective when Robinson gets the ball up top after one or more screens from the baseline. Usually, Robinson wheels around from the corner and gets the ball at the free throw line for a jump shot, but his shots weren’t falling early against Miami. Instead, Robinson made his mark in the first half as a passer, finding the big men down low for some easy buckets. Add some style points for this smooth no look bounce pass to Nik Popovic, who first gets Robinson open with the screen.

The one play that kept working for BC on the night is Robinson connecting with the big men. Starting under the basket, Robinson gets an off-ball screen from a teammate (Connar Tava and A.J. Turner in these cases) and receives the handoff from the big (Pop or Mo Jeffers), who then rolls to the hoop for the open bucket.

Robinson finished with six assists on the night.

2) Turner Shows Up

The sophomore guard has been getting the starting minutes this season, but he has yet to prove his worth after a lot of hype as a freshman recruit last year. Against Miami, he was just short of a career game with 15 points (12 in the second half) and kickstarted the BC comeback after halftime.

Against North Carolina last Saturday, Robinson and Bowman took turns throwing down fast break slams and energizing the crowd at home. This time it was Turner’s turn for one of the signature slams, which cut the Miami lead to four.

A minute later, Turner gets open at the top of the arc (note the help from the Jeffers screen) and hits the three. Turner kept the hot hand a couple of possessions later, knocking down a deep three over the defender for his 13th point of the game and 10th of the half. Both 3-pointers were crucial, as they were both answers to Miami threes on the other end of the court and kept the Eagles in the game.

BC never seems to get the total package from their starters. Tava might have a great game one night, but Turner will be absent. Against the ’Canes, Ky Bowman was largely absent from the game, but Turner stepped in and got hot, an encouraging sign for someone looking to up his 9.7 points per game.

3) Jerome’s Still the Man

Bowman has burst onto the scene as a freshman—one of just three rookies in the country with multiple 3o-point games this season—and has received a lot of deserved attention. On his red-haired giveaway night against UNC, he completely took over and single-handedly kept BC in the game. But the game against Miami reminded us that Robinson is the one averaging 20 points per game, compared to Bowman’s 12.9. After a poor start, Robinson kept going at it and eventually turned it on, scoring 21 of his 27 points in the second half, including two threes in the final 25 seconds. Robinson continues to lead the team.

Three Down

1) Slow Starts

 

It was truly a tale of two halves for BC, who did not start the game out well. Just compare the stats. First half: 31 percent (9-of-29) from the floor, 20 percent (2-of-10) from the three. Second half: 60.6 percent (20-of-33), 53.8 percent from deep (7-of-13).

Night and day for the Eagles, especially Robinson, who scored ten of his points in the final two minutes of the game. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, shot 48 percent from the field and 44.4 from behind the arc, allowing them to create a eight-point cushion at the half that BC couldn’t quite overcome.

2) Ball (Mis)handling

BC actually recorded its second lowest turnover total of the season against Miami, but the young team continues to struggle with controlling the ball. Especially in the opening five minutes, the Eagles played out of control and couldn’t capitalize on Bowman opening the game with a 3-pointer (BC’s only lead of the night). While the numbers were down, the sloppiness of the turnovers need to be addressed. It’s one thing to have the opponents come up with a great defensive play, but it’s another to just lose the dribble and hand the ball to the other team. Two poor giveaways emphasized BC’s bad start to the game.

Robinson, for all his pretty assists and late scoring in the game, had some trouble taking care of the ball and finished with four turnovers.

The Canes are second in the ACC in turnovers per game, behind the Eagles, and had three more turnovers in the game, but BC wasn’t able to punish Miami as much as the Hurricanes punished BC. Miami held the advantage in points off turnovers (16 to 11) and fast break points (16 to nine) because they were gifted easy transition baskets after careless BC giveaways at the top of the key. The ensuing 2-on-1 breaks ended in easy layups, and-ones, and trips to the foul line for the Canes.

3) Road Woes

This game was a golden opportunity for BC to make a big step in improvement and win a road game. BC has stepped up in Conte behinds its home fans, but needs to start performing as well away from home. The team played well against a ranked team in North Carolina at home, but lose by 13 to a fellow ACC bottom dweller in Wake Forest on the road. The two Syracuse games (a huge home win and bad road loss) are prime examples of BC’s highs and lows this year.

As mentioned above, Miami struggles with turnovers and sits just above BC in the ACC standings, making this Wednesday night game a winnable one for the Eagles. Yet BC couldn’t put it all together and pull away in a back-and-forth game. The opportunity was there, but BC fell just short.

Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Staff

BC’s Thrilling Comeback Falls Short in Miami

Ky Bowman stood at the free throw line. He went through his motions calmly. He shot. Swish.

He went through his motions again. He shot again.

And he missed.

Boston College men’s basketball was now down 76-74 with five seconds to go in the game. Bruce Brown secured the rebound. A.J. Turner fouled him. Brown sank both free throws.

The Eagles were now down 78-74 with four seconds left.

BC inbounded the ball to Jerome Robinson. He took off up the court, pulled up before the 3-point arc, and drained a buzzer-beater trey.

Too little, too late.

At the conclusion of a roller-coaster game, Miami (barely) held on for a 78-77 victory over the Eagles. With the win, the Hurricanes (13-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) officially became 12-1 this season in games they led at halftime, and the Eagles (9-12, 2-6) dropped their fourth straight game.

It was a tale of two halves, with a slow, unexciting first half followed by a thrilling end to the game. In the first half, BC jumped out to an early lead thanks to Ky Bowman, who opened up scoring with a 3-pointer a mere 15 seconds into the game. But before long, Miami had tied the game, and then taken a 5-3 lead of its own. After this point, the Hurricanes led for the rest of the game, although BC clawed back from several significant deficits to almost tie the game.

For several minutes in the first half, the Eagles kept it close. But with just under 11 minutes to go in the half, Miami began to pull away for the first time. Robinson fed the ball to Nik Popovic, who went up hard in the paint to bring the score to 18-13, a manageable five-point deficit. From there, Miami had an offensive flurry to widen the gap, pushing the lead to 28-13 within a few minutes. The Eagles managed to somewhat cut into the deficit before halftime, entering the locker room trailing by eight points with the score at 30-22.

Although Miami has dominated this season in games it has led at the half, the second half opened with a promising run for BC. The Eagles relied on Bowman and Turner at the start of the half. Turner opened scoring for BC with an offensive rebound and a put-back. Seconds later, Bowman sank a three. All of a sudden, BC trailed by only five points, and the energy on the court began to change.

Over the next few minutes, the Eagles attempted to claw back and tie the game, but Miami stayed just out of reach. Mo Jeffers went 1-for-2 in one trip to the free throw line. Connar Tava went up hard for a layup and made it to bring the Eagles within six. Turner stole the ball and took it down the court for a statement dunk. But after each basket for the Eagles, the Hurricanes scored again—ensuring that BC could come within a handful of points, but never actually reach them.

BC’s fortunes changed for the worse with 12 minutes to go in the half. Miami’s Huell Dewan snagged the ball away from Jordan Chatman and took it down the court for a monster dunk. Seconds later, Robinson lost the ball to Kamari Murphy, who found teammate Bruce Brown down the court for a fast-break layup. From there, the Hurricanes built up a sizable lead, and it seemed as though the once-close competition would turn into a lopsided game that BC could not recover from. With just under nine minutes to go, the Eagles trailed 61-44.

But the Eagles had one last comeback attempt in them. It just wasn’t enough, in the end.

BC fought back to a 15 point deficit, then a 10-point deficit, then a five-point deficit. All of the momentum was going its way, and it got a few lucky breaks too. The lucky breaks culminated with nine seconds to go. After Robinson drained a 3-pointer to bring the Eagles within three, they desperately needed a steal to keep their hopes alive. And they got just that. With six seconds to go, Chatman snatched the ball away from Reed and BC had possession again. The ball ended up in the hands of Bowman. He was fouled. And he went 1-for-2 from the free throw line.

Bowman missed the free throw in the final seconds, but he wasn’t the only one to miss free throws on the day. BC converted on 10 of its 15 attempts—66.7 percent—and any one of those shots could’ve sent the game to overtime, while any two could’ve won the game for the Eagles. Miami, meanwhile, shot 75 percent from the line. Its accuracy from the charity stripe ended up being its salvation in the game.

It was almost a successful comeback for the Eagles. It was almost a victory on the enemy’s home court. But “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

With home victories against Syracuse and NC State, BC has shown it can compete against conference teams at Conte Forum. But the Miami loss represents just another in a long line of road conference losses for the Eagles. In fact, the last time BC won an ACC game on the road was March 2, 2015, against Virginia Tech. Until the Eagles can prove they can compete against conference teams on the road, they will find it hard to call themselves a legitimate threat in the ACC.

Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee / AP Photo

Previewing BC Basketball 2016-17: What to Expect Against Miami

By this point in the 2016-17 college basketball season, it is no secret to anyone in the country that Boston College men’s basketball can compete with anyone—that is, if its young backcourt of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson are on point. In the Eagles’ recent game against North Carolina on Saturday, the duo combined for 51 points, including seven 3-pointers from Bowman. BC kept the game close right down to the buzzer in a 90-82 loss against the No. 9 Tar Heels in front of a sold-out, exuberant crowd at Conte Forum. That same night, before a national audience, Jay Bilas declared that the Eagles “[are] no easy out anymore” as he called the Duke-Miami game on ESPN.

BC (9-11, 2-5 Atlantic Coast) will look to ride the momentum of its solid performance against one of the nation’s best teams on Wednesday as it heads south to face the University of Miami (12-6, 2-4). The Eagles have had extremely varied results in conference play this season, with arguably their two worst performances occurring in road contests. On Jan. 3, BC fell 79-66 at Wake Forest as it shot just 36 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point land. A couple of weeks later, the Eagles dropped a road game to Syracuse, 76-53, turning the ball over 20 times and shooting just 39 percent from the field. Wednesday will mark an opportunity for the Eagles to pick up their first ACC road win of the season.

Throughout conference play, BC has fallen victim to several slow starts which have proven to be too much to overcome. Keeping the game close at halftime is crucial, as the biggest halftime deficit the Eagles have overcome this season is a four-point margin against Providence College. On the road, it is especially important to get off to a hot start. While Miami’s home court, the Watsco Center, is the smallest arena in the ACC with a capacity of 7,972, it was, on average, 90 percent full last season. If BC can come out and hit its shots early on, it can take advantage of the 9 p.m. start time, which will make people more inclined to head home from the game early. Miami has had mixed results in conference play this season with its only two wins coming against NC State and Pittsburgh. The Eagles are catching Miami at a good time to put an end to their 11-game winless drought against the Hurricanes that dates back to 2010.

Last time they played: The Hurricanes visited the Heights last January as the No. 15 team in the country. Seniors Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez led the way for the Hurricanes as they handled the Eagles, 67-53. Entering this contest, BC was riding a four-game losing streak in conference play, with an average margin of defeat of 22.5 points. Despite this statistic, the Eagles kept it close in the first half as the Hurricanes led 29-28 at halftime. The second half saw the Eagles shoot a measly 25.8 percent from the field as the Hurricanes pulled away. Miami seven-footer Tonye Jekiri killed the Eagles inside, grabbing 17 rebounds and protecting the paint on defense. While BC fans had little to cheer for, they got a taste of Robinson’s ability to put up solid numbers against high-caliber teams. The freshman tallied 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting while being covered by McClellan, who currently plays for the Washington Wizards.

Miami Scouting Report: One year removed from their second Sweet 16 run in four seasons, head coach Jim Larranaga has them poised to make the tournament once again. After losing three of their five starters from last year in McClellan, Rodriguez, and Jekiri, Larranaga brought in the first top-10 recruiting class in school history. The cornerstone of that recruiting class is Bruce Brown, who hails from Wakefield, Mass., and has replaced McClellan at shooting guard. Junior guard Ja’Quan Newton has also been inserted into the starting lineup at point guard after playing the role of sixth man last year. Brown and Newton have meshed well in the backcourt with three-guard Davon Reed, who is the Hurricanes’ top returning scorer from last year.

Much like BC, Miami relies heavily on its talented guard play to set the tone. Brown, Newton, and Reed have scored 57 percent of Miami’s points this season, each player scoring consistently in double figures. Newton is the primary facilitator on offense for the Hurricanes as he leads the team with four assists per game. Newton is a driving point guard who will look to penetrate and score on layups or dish the ball back out to the perimeter. He has attempted just 27 3-pointers this season. Brown has a similar playing style as he scores mostly inside the 3-point line and collects 6.9 rebounds per game. Brown and Newton will look to kick it out to Reed at the 3-point line who shoots 40.4 percent from downtown. Reed has been the top scorer for the Hurricanes this season, averaging 15.4 points per game.

Miami lacks the presence inside that they had last year in Jekiri, a two-time All-ACC Defensive Team honoree. Forwards Kamari Murphy and Anthony Lawrence will most likely get the majority of the minutes for the Hurricanes on Wednesday at the four and five position. Murphy and Lawrence are 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8, respectively. They do not provide the same shot-blocking ability that Jekiri did last season, and are not particularly talented scoring the ball inside. Dewan Huell, a 6-foot-11 freshman and former five-star recruit, will provide size and scoring ability off the bench if Miami will look to challenge the Eagles’ small frontcourt.

Three Keys to Victory:

  1. Limit Turnovers: While Bowman had 33 points against the Tar Heels on Saturday, he also had eight turnovers. His performance overshined this glaring statistic that hurt the Eagles several times throughout the game. Many of Bowman’s turnovers were unforced errors as he picked up his dribble too early and had no one to pass the ball to. Bowman and Robinson have been prone to turning the ball over all year long, and Miami will have one of the best defensive backcourts that they have played all season. Miami averages allowing 61.1 points per game against, which is 11th-best in the country. BC must take good care of the ball so that they can prevent the athletic guards of Miami from getting out in transition and scoring easy buckets. Miami is much less talented at scoring in the halfcourt relative to BC’s recent opponents.
  2. Make Outside Shots Early: As noted above, Miami is not an especially gifted offensive team. The Hurricanes score 72.3 points per game, which ranks them 217th in the country. Miami is also a team that is prone to scoring droughts. This past Saturday, it led Duke 37-27 before allowing a 20-0 run to the Blue Devils. Miami did not convert a field goal for six minutes, and committed several turnovers contributing to Duke’s scoring stretch. If BC’s guards have the hot hand from the 3-point line, they will set the tone for the rest of the game. Miami likes to run on teams, and if it succumbs to an early deficit, BC should be able to control the pace of the game by milking the shot clock on its offensive possessions. Furthermore, BC’s lack of a strong offensive game inside the paint makes it pivotal that its outside shooters are effective. Throughout the season, BC has not had the ability to rely on getting easy buckets from its big men, which makes it much hard to mount a comeback against a good team.
  3. Limit Second-Chance Opportunities: BC lacks size with its biggest starter being 6-foot-9 forward Mo Jeffers. North Carolina killed the Eagles on the offensive glass in the second half this past Saturday with 10 offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels outscored BC 24-14 in second chance points as a result. Miami does not shoot the ball especially well from the field. With a team field goal percentage of 46 percent, it ranks 101st in the country. The key to the Eagles’ success in this aspect of the game will be keeping Jeffers out of foul trouble. Throughout the season, he has been prone to getting in foul trouble early, and BC has struggled to compete in these games. Most notably, Jeffers fouled out against Wake Forest in just eight minutes. On Saturday, Jeffers was a key contributor as he led the team in rebounds and had three blocks. Another player to be on the look out for will be Garland Owens, as he comes off a strong game against UNC in which he played a pivotal role on the boards.

Featured Image by Keith Garrett / Heights Staff

BC Snaps Winning Streak with Losses to Florida State, Miami

Heading into the weekend, it looked like Boston College volleyball was finally on the upswing. After suffering 13 straight losses, BC had managed to win three straight matches in what head coach Chris Campbell described to BCEagles.com as “not really a streak yet, let’s call it a trend.” Unfortunately for Campbell and the Eagles, any upward trajectory was rerouted after two tough losses against No. 18 Florida State and Miami.

Miami (13-15, 7-9 Atlantic Coast) and BC met earlier this season, and—to put it nicely for BC—it wasn’t pretty. Miami had previously routed BC (8-18, 3-13) this season, taking the game in three dominant sets. Early in the first set, the Eagles appeared to have learned from their previous mistakes. Miami and BC exchanged points early and, thanks in large part to aggressive offensive play from Julia Topor and Cat Balido, BC clung to a lead in the set. Just when it looked like BC would take the early advantage, the Hurricanes went on a 9-1 scoring run to take the set and the early momentum for the game.

The Hurricanes carried their success into the second set as Miami quickly went up 10-5. The Eagles, not wanting to let another set slip through their fingers, responded with resolve. The Eagles went on an 8-3 scoring run, punctuated by back-to-back serving aces from Camille Oemcke to tie the game 13-13. BC kept the score close, but Miami eked out a second set win with the help of five errors committed by the Eagles as the set came to a close.

With Miami now up by two sets, it was now or never for the Eagles. The third set was kept close with neither team ever leading by more than five points. Whenever one would surge slightly ahead, the other would push back to tie the game and build its own lead until the process repeated itself. BC found itself on the right side of this cycle, as the Eagles won the set 25-23 despite a late 5-2 run by the Hurricanes.

The third set had required grit and courage on the part of BC—which is exactly how the Eagles like to play. Unfortunately for the Eagles, this playing style can often prove exhausting. Miami was not about to allow a come-from-behind win on the part of the Eagles. For its part, BC seemed too worn down by the excitement of the previous set to put up much resistance. Miami took an early 7-1 lead and never looked back. The one bright spot for the Eagles was the outstanding play on the part of Sol Calvete, who had seven kills in the last set alone. Calvete had the highest hitting percentage for BC and secured 10 much needed points for the Eagles. Her play, especially in the fourth set, was crucial for BC, but it was not enough to stop the momentum of Miami, as the Hurricanes went on to take the set—and with it the match—25-14.

Miami, once again, was too much for the Eagles, as they were forced to face the fact that history does  repeat itself. The same sentiment held true earlier in the weekend as BC faced Florida State in an ACC rematch.  

At the start of the first set, BC appeared to have carried the momentum from its three previous wins going into this match. Led on by excellent play from McKenna Goss and Topor, the Eagles staved off early advances from the Seminoles. As the first set progressed, neither team established a rhythm due to both teams’ incapably holding possession for more than three serves at a time. As BC lead 23-22, the tension was felt throughout Power Gym. In these moments when tensions are high and nerves are running rampant, controlling anxiety is important to avoid making undue mistakes. BC did just that, as the set came down to an attack error by Florida State to give BC the first set.

The Eagles had just accomplished something that they haven’t done all season: win a set against No. 18 Florida State. This achievement was short-lived. The Seminoles found the spark that they lacked in the first set to quickly take a 10-6 lead. As the second set progressed, the Eagles kept the Seminoles close, but could not catch up. BC couldn’t pull back Florida State as the Seminoles went on to capture the second set 25-17 to tie up the game.

The third set very much followed in the footsteps of the second. The Seminoles took a big lead early, and the Eagles clawed back but never tied the game or established any lead. Despite the less-than-stellar play by the Eagles as a unit, Goss and Jill Strockis shined in the third set. Goss recorded six kills in the third set on her way to setting a season-high total of 16 kills on the day, while also leading the team with a .387 hitting percentage. Strockis also had an impressive day, as she completed her third double-double on the season by recording 12 kills and 15 digs. Despite these season-defining performances, the Seminoles pulled away from BC in the third set as they went on to take it 25-17.

The excitement and momentum of the first set was long gone for the Eagles by the beginning of the fourth set. Florida State again took an early lead and never looked back. Despite continued outstanding performances from Goss and Strockis, the Seminoles’ momentum was too much for the Eagles to overcome. While the score came within two at points in the set, the outcome was never really in doubt. Florida State went on to take the fourth set 25-18 and with it the match, ending BC’s winning streak.

For BC volleyball, the two games this weekend can either be a bump in the road or a turning point in the season. If the Eagles can return to their winning rhythm and put these two games behind them, the season may still be salvaged. If, however, the Eagles return to the mindset they held during the 13-game losing streak, they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy incapable of winning even when the situation and talent demand it.

“We have got to make sure that we keep our focus on what we have been doing these last two months and keep addressing the areas we have to improve in practice,” Campbell told BCEagles.com.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

Birdball’s Magical Run Ends in Game Three of Super Regional

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Edgar Michelangeli stood and watched.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Michelangeli swung hard at a Jesse Adams pitch. The ball sailed through the thick, Miami air, over the left-center field wall, just to the right of the scoreboard at Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park. As he jogged around the bases, Michelangeli, the No. 9 hitter for the University of Miami, kept his right hand raised in the air.

As he rounded third, the trouble started. Michelangeli high-stepped into home plate, beating his chest and jumping in the direction of Nick Sciortino. The catcher responded the same way many of us would: “F—k you.”

Benches cleared. Screams and shoves ensued. And tensions ran high throughout the stands. No ejections came from the scrum outside first base, but stern warnings to both benches and police intervention came immediately. Yet none of the extracurricular activity changed one simple fact: a game that was once squarely in reach in the late innings was now a blowout.

The dream run is over. But you can’t say Boston College baseball didn’t have fight in it until the bitter end.

With seven RBIs from Michelangeli on two home runs, the No. 2 Hurricanes (50-12) advanced to their 25th College World Series following a 9-4 victory over the No. 20 Eagles (34-22). The BC loss marks the conclusion of the University’s 2015-16 athletics season, as well as Birdball’s best season since 1967. Though his disappointment in the outcome was clear, head coach Mike Gambino was nothing but proud of how far his team had come.  

“I’m just thinking about how much I love these boys and how much they love each other,” Gambino said.

Both teams sent out freshman pitchers running on fumes. For the Eagles, it was Jacob Stevens, a future face of the program who hasn’t made it to the sixth inning of a ballgame since April 22 against Louisville. The Hurricanes put Andrew Cabezas on the bump—the young right-handed pitched 2 1/3 in relief on Saturday and wasn’t expected to last long.

After a laborious first, the big right-hander for BC got into trouble in the second. Johnny Ruiz scored following a double and RBI single by Jacob Heyward. Then, after a miscue by first baseman Mitch Bigras on a bunt, the Hurricanes had runners at second and third with only one out. That brought up Michelangeli, who smacked the first pitch he saw from Stevens—a fastball right down the middle—over the left-field wall for a three-run home run. Just like the previous two games, a big fly from a Miami player put BC in an early 4-0 hole.

Yet, just like in the previous games, BC knew exactly how to answer. Logan Hoggarth and Bigras got a rally started in the top half of the third with a single and walk, respectively. Later on, with the bases loaded and two away, Donovan Casey delivered again for the Eagles. His two-RBI single cut Miami’s lead in half with plenty of time remaining, knocking out Andrew Cabezas and convincing Gambino to give Stevens one more inning. After the game, Casey reflected that the inning represented the attitude of the Eagles all season.

We like to stay in any game no matter what,” Casey said. “Keep chipping away, and get base runners and clutch hits wherever we can.”

After trading runs in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth, Miami head coach brought in setup man Frankie Bartow for an extended relief appearance in a 5-3 game. The freshman put up a solid outing, giving up one run on four hits in 3 1/3 innings. Bartow, along with Miami reliever Thomas Woodrey, kept up their impressive performance despite bending heavily—the Eagles consistently got runners on, yet left them on the bags, nine in total.

But the doors were blown open in the eighth off the Michelangeli grand slam and the following scuffle. Though he was upset that the incident happened in the first place, Gambino stated that he liked how his team handled itself.

“We always talk about character, toughness, and class,” Gambino said. “I think our boys play hard, they play the right way, and they respect the game. You never want to see the benches clear but I am glad to see our boys had each other’s backs. It falls on those core values.”

BC’s rally in the eighth only yielded one additional run, the first career RBI for pinch hitter Chris Balogh. Once Miami turned to closer Bryan Garcia, BC had no more magic—a 1-2-3 ninth sent the raucous and fiery crowd at Mark Light into a frenzy.

While the Hurricanes celebrated the continuation of their season after the game, the Eagles looked fondly on all they had accomplished. In one way, their season helped to prove their self-worth to a University and athletic department that has not given this program proper funding based on their Atlantic Coast Conference competitors. The Eagles play at Shea Field, an overglorified lot with only a few metal benches that is more famous for its football season tailgates than for baseball games. Plans have swirled for a new stadium on the Brighton Campus, hopefully ready by 2018, and Gambino has more than proven himself capable and worthy of the best facilities possible.

BC’s run also gives hope for New England baseball schools, capping off an incredible year for the nation’s most underrepresented region. Bryant, Fairfield, Rhode Island, and Connecticut joined BC in the tournament—the first time five schools from New England have gotten to the NCAAs. While the others bowed out in the Regional round, the Eagles pushed on.

Most importantly, the season represents BC’s overarching message of never giving up. Inspired by Pete Frates, a former captain of the Eagles, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the program has brought awareness to the disease to the national forefront. While facing adversity of their own, the Eagles’ can’t-die attitude lifted them through the gauntlet of the ACC. For team captain Joe Cronin, who, as a freshman endured a 12-40 campaign hampered by an inability to practice anywhere, this season was beyond special.

“I am proud of my class,” Cronin said. “I am just sad that it’s over. Like Coach said, you leave it better for the next guy. I think we did that.”

A Super Regional run, a first-round pick, awareness for ALS, and capturing the heart of the entire nation. Hard to leave it any better than that.

Featured Image by Cai Thomas / Heights Staff