Baseball Notes

Boston College baseball heads into a weekend series again conference rival Wake Forest. The Eagles are coming off a big victory over URI and in position to secure a spot in the ACC tournament. This weekend's series is critical to their post-season hopes.

• The Eagles got off to a tough start this week, dropping a 5-2 decision to UMass on Tuesday in the first round of the Baseball Beanpot. But the very next day, BC recovered with a fantastic effort, destroying Rhode Island 10-0 at Shea Field.

The win was BC's 20th of the season, giving them a 20-11 record (7-6 ACC). It took the Eagles until April 22 to hit 20 wins last season, and May 2 to reach that mark in 2007.

It was an important win for BC, as the Rams (17-12-1) have had an impressive season, knocking off ACC teams NC State and Miami.

"That's a big one," said coach Mik Aoki. "Those guys have been playing really, really well… we're happy to come away with that result."

Beyond the benefit to BC's at-large NCAA resume, the win was important for other reasons as well.

"One of our goals each year is to hopefully end up being voted by the Division 1 coaches in New England as being the best team in New England, and that was a big regional win for us," said Aoki.

• Wednesday was designated as a "staff day" for the Eagles, in which the bullpen was emptied out to give the relievers work in the middle of the week. This meant that Aoki was managing strategically right from the first inning – evidenced by the fact that "starting" pitcher Taylor Lasko was pulled in the first inning after he walked the bases loaded.

Kevin Moran came in and put out the fire, then pitched another shutout inning. Dave Laufer came in after Moran to pitch three one-hit innings and get the win. Matt O'Brien, Matt Brazis, and Garrett Smith did the rest, shutting down Rhode Island the rest of the way.

"We did it the week before at UConn and it seemed to work okay," said Aoki. "It gets the guys we use out of the pen a little bit of work in the middle of the week, and we'll probably continue to do that on a Tuesday or Wednesday game each week, and make sure those guys are getting some live innings so they stay sharp for the weekend."

Aoki didn't think the adjustment of treating the first inning like a middle inning in terms of strategizing with the bullpen would negatively impact his team.

"All of those guys are used to coming out of the ‘pen, so I don't know that's a huge adjustment for any of them," said Aoki. "We put in guys who are used to coming in those situations."

"It's helpful to come in to a situation like that," he continued, hoping that increased exposure to important game situations during the early innings mid-week would translate into more experience and confidence to use relieving the starters over the weekend.

• The bullpen has impressed all around lately – most dramatically so in Sunday's dramatic 11-10 comeback win over North Carolina State. In that game, the Eagles trailed 10-2 in the 5th inning before scoring nine unanswered runs to earn the victory.

While a lot of attention has been rightfully focused on BC's powerful offense, the unheralded bullpen were the heroes of that game, holding back NC State, as Bayuk, O'Brien, and dominating closer Mike Belfiore held back the Wolfpack for four innings while the offense went to work.

"They've been working hard to get their jobs done," said catcher Tony Sanchez on the bullpen. "To hold them at 10 [in that situation] is huge. When you score 10 runs in a game, that's usually enough to win you the game, but not when you have our offense… so those guys knew that if they held them we'd have a chance."

• The buzz surrounding BC's wild win on Sunday is still reverberating around campus and around the ACC. The victory gave the Eagles another series victory, and kept them above .500 in ACC play at 7-6. It also put distance between BC and NC State for 3rd and 4th in the ACC Atlantic Division. The Eagles are now tied with Florida State for 2nd in the division, one full game behind Clemson (9-6 ACC).

The top two teams from each division automatically qualify for the ACC tournament; then, the next four teams, regardless of division, also qualify. BC is currently tied for 6th overall in the conference.

"It was a huge win for team morale, a huge win in the divisional standings, and a huge win to get our momentum going," said Sanchez.

"It was amazing – probably one of the biggest wins I've ever been a part of here," he continued.

"We never really felt out of it, because this is the best team we've ever had since I've been here. With our offense, we knew we could do it. When we were down 10-2, coach gave us a speech. It came exactly at the right time. He told us we just needed to put hits together… and with our team that's always possible."

• The Eagles are now in Winston-Salem, N.C, preparing for a three-game weekend set with Atlantic Division foe Wake Forest. Wake (18-13, 5-10 ACC) is in fifth place in the division, three games back of BC.

"It's an ACC game, so that means it's incredibly important, because we're trying to get to the ACC tournament at the end of the year," said Aoki. "This weekend gives us the opportunity to put some distance between us and Wake."

But he cautioned that Wake Forest would not be an easy matchup.

"They've won two series in a row, and they've begun to win a lot of their midweek games… they're starting to play with some confidence," he said.

The Deacons beat Virginia Tech 2-of-3 over the weekend before splitting their two games this week – putting up huge offensive numbers in both games. They beat South Carolina-Upstate 20-14 on Tuesday before dropping a tough game to Coastal Carolina, 16-13 on Wednesday.

"By looking at their scores and their results, they seem to be swinging the bat extremely well," said Aoki. "In their two midweek games, they put up a combined 33 runs … and put quite a few runs up on the board against Virginia Tech the weekend before. Certainly their offense is pretty good."

"When they get some pitching, which they're starting to get out of their weekend guys -- they've made some adjustments there, with [Austin] Stadler working himself into the rotation --- they've been pretty tough."


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