Baseball Notes

The Boston College baseball team heads into the weekend sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division. They have the sixth best record in the league, a half game ahead of Florida State and one game ahead of Duke. This weekend they host 17th ranked Virginia.

Two weeks, two games against UMass, two losses. Chances are, Mik Aoki and the BC baseball team will be happy to not face the Minutemen again this season. One week after dropping the Beanpot semifinal to UMass in Brockton, the Eagles fell to the Minutemen again, 12-8 on Wednesday in Amherst. With the loss, BC split their midweek games. They beat Harvard 9-5 on Monday in the Beanpot consolation game.

"We didn't pitch the ball very well at all," said Aoki. "But in spite of that, we still had a chance to win the game. We had some opportunities to score some runs, but we left… 8 or 9 runners in scoring position. We didn't capitalize on our opportunities."

And just like last week, "when we didn't make good pitches, they made us pay for it."

It was a "staff day" for BC, with six bullpen pitchers throwing against UMass. Only one – Dave Laufer – escaped unscathed, pitching a scoreless 7th inning. Taylor Lasko gave up 3 runs, Matt O'Brien 4, Chris Kowalski 3, and Matt Brazis and Garret Smith gave up 1 each.

"For the most part, we've been really solid on the mound," continued Aoki. "It's one of those things where we had a bad day. Wednesday is a day we have struggled with our pitching a little bit. Our bullpen will be fine. Obviously, our starting pitching has been pretty good for the most part."

Nobody has exemplified BC's recent strength on the mound more than JB MacDonald, senior captain and ace of the Eagles' rotation. MacDonald came close to a no hitter last weekend at Wake Forest. He no-hit the Deacons through eight innings before yielding two runs in the ninth during BC's 23-2 shellacking of Wake last Saturday.

The Eagles' powerful offense actually made life harder for MacDonald in his no-hit bid, scoring six runs in the top of the ninth while MacDonald waited on the bench.

"We were joking around about how he was a little bit upset about that," said Mike Belfiore, who hit 4-for-6 with three RBIs and three runs scored in the game.

"JB is our leader," Belfiore continued. "I can't say how much he means to our team. He's been the guy for us all year long… he really stepped up his game this year and became an ace."

Aoki credits MacDonald – as well as strong mid-week work from Pat Dean – for the fact that BC has avoided losing streaks this year. The Eagles have not lost more than two in a row all year, and even that has only happened twice (March 4 and 6 at Florida Gulf Coast and Florida State, and a doubleheader sweep on March 28 at the hands of Clemson).

"I'd say that more than anything, our [avoiding losing streaks] is because of MacDonald and Pat Dean," he said. "Those guys give us a chance to win every time they pitch."

But Aoki also credits the rest of his team for their resiliency.

"Our kids really like playing the game," he said. "They've got some talent, and they work hard. When those things combine, good things will usually happen."

After a busy schedule last week, playing 3 games in 2 days at Wake Forest before flying home to play Harvard at Fenway Park one day later, Aoki and the Eagles are thankful to be in Massachusetts all week. The Eagles (23-13, 9-7 ACC) host the University of Virginia this weekend, in an important three game set against the 28-7-1 Cavaliers (9-6-1 ACC).

"It's always nice to be home, in familiar confines," said Aoki. "It looks like the weather will be nice, too, knock on wood."

The pitching matchups this weekend:

Friday: JB MacDonald - BC (4-3, 2.70) vs. Danny Hultzen – UVA (5-0, 2.39)
Saturday: John Leonard – BC (1-1, 6.88) vs. Andrew Carraway - UVA (4-0, 2.98)
Sunday: Pat Dean - BC (4-2, 3.67) vs. Robert Morey - UVA (0-0, 3.63)

Pat Dean remains in the weekend rotation for the second straight week after continually impressing during midweek starts.

This week, Baseball America's NCAA tournament projection placed BC as a #3 seed in Cal State-Fullerton's bracket. Meanwhile, another site – a "rival" to the Scout network – predicts BC as a #3 seed in Arkansas' regional.

While there is still much baseball to be played, even being in the NCAA conversation is quite a feat for a program that hasn't made the tournament since 1967.

"It's something that we do talk about a lot," said Aoki, "because it's where we want to be at the end of the year. Things like [being in the NCAA picture] don't happen by accident – so it's something you have to talk about."

"But we're focusing on the big picture. We've got 19 games left this season, and we're facing UNC for three of them, Miami for three of them, Virginia for three of them… we'll be facing a very good Duke team – though they aren't ranked, they're playing really well. We have an opportunity to play in the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament, but these last games are going to determine whether we can do that or not. If we can come out of these last nineteen games somewhere in that sort of 12-7, 13-6 area, we should go [to NCAAs]. If we come out .500, we're a borderline team, and if we go less than .500, I don't think we deserve to go. So these last 19 games are going to make or break what opportunities we have."

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