Facing a three-game losing streak, Boston College baseball’s Jack Nelson turned in the best performance of his collegiate career. The junior pitcher threw a career-high six innings, striking out five batters, while allowing just four hits and, most importantly, zero runs, in Tuesday evening’s game against Rhode Island. But, in just an hour and a half, his shutdown outing went to waste.
Following the sixth, Nelson took a seat and Joey Walsh—who, entering the mid-week matchup, had given up nine runs in his last 11.2 innings of work—approached the mound. The redshirt freshman lasted all of five pitches before conceding a triple to Xavier Vargas. The freshman lasered the ball into the right-center gap and, without skipping a beat, rounded second. Luckily for the Rams, Jack Cunningham’s throw to Brian Dempsey was a tad late, meaning that Vargas had ample time to slide into third safely. The leadoff extra-base hit was just the start of a late-game scoring spurt that’d ultimately spell doom for the Eagles.
It was only a matter of time before URI pushed Vargas across the plate. From there, the Rams tacked on two more runs, thanks to a pair of singles and a timely Mitch Bigras error. Even though URI didn’t reach base in the final two frames, its three-run lead was more than enough to hold off a BC lineup that has recorded just 11 hits and two runs in the past four games. Three days removed from clinching their first A-10 series victory of the season with a doubleheader sweep of Massachusetts, the Rams (11-25, 3-9 Atlantic 10) defeated the Eagles (12-23, 5-13 Atlantic Coast)—another New England rival—3-1.
Nelson opened the game with two Ks and fanned three of the first six batters he faced, pitching a couple of hitless innings to start the day.
“I felt good,” the junior said with a smile on his face. “When I was throwing in the bullpen, I definitely knew that I had good stuff today.”
For a minute, it looked as if he and the rest of the staff were finally going to get some run support too. After Nelson retired the side in the top of the first, BC immediately plated a run. With two outs, Gian Martellini took a 3-1 pitch to right-center for a double, setting up Cunningham for an RBI single to right field. Unfortunately for head coach Mike Gambino and Co., those were the only two hits the Eagles logged all game.
Soon enough, Jake Walker settled into a groove. Clearly leaving the first frame in the rear-view mirror, the left-handed pitcher strung together two-consecutive one-two-three innings before issuing his first walk in the fourth. The sophomore’s command was really the only thing holding him back. Although the Eagles couldn’t seem to figure him out over the course of the next few innings, they were able to book a few free trips to first base—one too many according to head coach Raphael Cerrato.
In the bottom of the sixth, Walker pitched four-straight balls to Chris Galland to kick off the inning, prompting the fourth-year coach to call on Mark Silvestri to finish off the frame. Before he could even retire Martellini, the ensuing batter, Galland took off, stealing second. One stolen base shy of tying the single-season program record, the freshman was yearning to advance to third. Moments later, Gambino sent him, only to watch Galland get thrown out for the first time all year.
“Chris Galland is a base stealer,” Gambino said. “The basketball term is shooter shoot—I want him running, and I want him making aggressive mistakes. It means sometimes he’s going to get thrown out. But this is the first time he’s gotten thrown out all year … I want him going, and I want him going every chance he gets.”
Two-consecutive groundouts, and Silvestri escaped the inning unscathed. He’d have about a half an hour before he’d have to do it all again—without Nelson on the bump, URI’s bats finally came alive. The Rams gave Walsh fits as soon as he stepped onto the field, starting with Vargas’ leadoff triple. Perhaps attempting to set up a double play, Walsh walked Matt Daller. Despite going down 0-2, the next batter—Mike Foley—got the barrel on a sacrifice fly that scored Vargas from third, knotting the game up at one run apiece. URI wasn’t stopping there either.
Laurence Hill roped a single through the left side, getting the best of an outstretched Jake Alu. Galland’s throw from left field wasn’t even close, and Daller trotted home. Doing his best Galland impression, Hill swiped second, moving into scoring position. Despite the fact that Walsh proceed to strike out Austin White, Gambino had seen enough—he walked out to the mound and handed the ball to Thomas Lane.
Two pitches in, Jordan Powell ripped a pitch directly toward the right side of the field. Without hesitation, Eagles first baseman Mitch Bigras dove to make the stop. While he got a piece of the ball, he fumbled on his way back up and not only missed the throw to first, but also botched the delivery to home. As a result, Hill scored, recording the Rams’ third and final run of the evening. Lane quickly found his footing and got out of the inning, but Walsh’s blunders left a mark.
“[Walsh’s] gotta be a guy for us, and we believe he’s going to be a guy,” Gambino said. “He just didn’t get it done today, but that wasn’t the reason why we lost—we had two hits today. We’ve got to do a better job offensively”
Aside from a trio of walks, the Eagles’ lineup was absolutely helpless in the last three innings of play. Gambino, who is renowned for his go-getter attitude, was far from pleased.
“If we’re going to get beat, I want to get beat aggressively, beat going after people,” he said. “I kind of thought we were feeling around for stuff today. And that’s part of what happens when you go 11 hits in four games—you stop letting yourself go. We need to get back to that.”
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor