Much as pugilists discover their opponents’ weaknesses over the course of several rounds, it looked as though the Boston College baseball team had discovered a means of defeating No. 3 Virginia after weathering two bouts with the national powerhouse. Following an 8-1 loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday, the Eagles had kept their opponents close during the first part of Saturday’s doubleheader, eventually losing in the 12th inning 3-2 after two consecutive hits gave UVA the lead. With one game remaining in the series and the decisiveness of the opposition’s wins decreasing, BC seemed primed to seize its first ACC victory of the season. The boxing ring that was the Cavaliers’ Davenport Field proved too intense of an arena for the visiting Eagles, though,who lost the series’ final game in the bottom of the ninth inning, dropping a 2-1 decision.
The low score was largely the result of a duel between BC right-hander Jeff Burke and UVA southpaw Brandon Waddell, with each pitching through 6.1 frames. Burke yielded only one run during the span: a first inning score by Cavaliers second baseman Branden Cogswell, who darted to the plate after left fielder Mike Papi launched a sacrifice fly. Waddell also was only scored on once: BC catcher Nick Sciortino reached home in the third inning, with sophomore teammate Gabriel Hernandez gaining the RBI on a single.
Aside from allowing these runs, the pitchers were able to work out of the jams with which they were confronted. While the Cavaliers gained six total hits against Burke, the team simply could not plate any runners against the BC starter after the first inning, leaving four men in scoring position. Similarly, BC could not score against Waddell, though he allowed six hits. Even after the starting pitchers retired, the teams’ offensive woes continued: BC pitcher Eric Stevens, who acted as Burke’s substitute, and UVA’s Whit Mayberry, who relieved Waddell, allowed zero hits through the final three innings.
A chaotic ninth inning, littered with errors and pitching flubs, would cost BC the game. Stevens started the final frame by walking UVA designated hitter John La Prise and proceeded to hit Cogswell with a wild pitch. With two men on base, BC third baseman Johnny Adams committed a throwing error in an effort to get a bunting Daniel Pinero out at first. And the bases were loaded-on no hits.
Wary of the situation, BC head coach Mike Gambino positioned a fifth infielder on the diamond, substituting utility man Travis Ferrick for left fielder Nick Colucci. But the defensive precaution failed to prevent a run from scoring: Papi ripped a streaking grounder to first baseman John Hennessy, who bobbled the ball. La Prise rushed home, from third, to win the game for Virginia, 2-1.
“It’s a tough one,” Gambino said. “We had the lead [for] most of game one and had the lead for two innings of game two, and it was tied the rest of the way.”
In the first few games of ACC play, the team has faltered in late innings. Through the team’s first six conference games, against No. 16 Miami and UVA, BC allowed the opposition to score 14 runs during and beyond the sixth inning. Errors have compounded the problem, but Gambino spoke on the effectiveness of his own team’s play, which will eventually mitigate the damage caused by late inning rallies.
“We talk about playing harder than everybody else, smarter than everybody else … and those are things we did all day,” said Gambino. “The boys played with energy, they played hard, they played great fundamental baseball, they were attacking people, [and] they were going out and making plays.”