Baseball Entering Home Stretch

Boston College enters the final stretch of the regular season with a chance to make the post-season for the first time as an ACC program. They also have a chance to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 40 years. The final six games of the season will determine the Eagles destiny.

--- For the first time since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Boston College baseball team enters the final weeks of the season with control over its own ACC tournament chances. The Eagles' (29-19, 12-13 ACC) magic numbers to lock down the final tournament spot are 2 over Virginia Tech (28-20, 10-16 ACC) and 1 over North Carolina State (22-27, 8-16 ACC).

"It goes without saying that controlling our own fate here is very exciting," said head coach Mik Aoki. "For a team that was basically out of it going into our last two weekends last year, bringing back pretty much the same crew – to have turned it around and be in a position where it looks like we're going to get a chance to play some postseason baseball – it's pretty neat."

"We maybe even have a chance to be in the NCAA tournament after that for the first time in over 40 years," he continued. "I told our guys the other day, I hope they savor this, because it's part of the reason why you want to compete at a level like this, or play competitive sports in general. You have to love the feeling of playing with those little butterflies in your stomach. If you don't, you should be playing tiddlywinks."

---For the next few days, the ACC gets pushed to the backburner as BC plays three non-conference games after not playing this week due to final exams. The Eagles play LeMoyne on Saturday and Sunday before squaring off against local rival Connecticut on Tuesday.

"At this point of the season, every result is magnified, so these are all important games," said Aoki. "A loss in these games could be pretty costly in terms of an NCAA berth. And [both teams] are pretty good, so we can't overlook them."

LeMoyne, a Jesuit college near Syracuse, N.Y., competes as a Division I independent in baseball. They have amassed a 21-21 record on the season, but they are 13-5 over their last 18 after a rough start to the year.

Aoki describes LeMoyne as an improving team with very good pitching.

"They're a young team, and they went down south at the start of the year and really took some bumps and bruises. But they grew as a team from that, and they've been playing really well recently."

---LeMoyne's game one starter, Jeff Tardiff, is a transfer from Boston College and a native of Framingham. Tardiff is LeMoyne's top starter, with a 5-2 record and a 3.04 ERA. He has struck out 57 while walking only 19.

"[Tardiff], his numbers are excellent," said Aoki. "He's a kid who we recruited. He did his first semester here and it just wasn't the right fit for him, so he transferred. It's nice to see him doing well, but I hope he's not too tough on us."

Opposing Tardiff in game one will be BC ace J.B. MacDonald, with reigning ACC pitcher of the week Pat Dean going in game two.

"We'll start J.B. and Pat Dean against LeMoyne, then I haven't decided if it'll be [Mike Dennhardt] or [John Leonard] on Tuesday against UConn," said Aoki. "Then whoever doesn't start against UConn will open the series against UNC on Thursday, and we'll have J.B. and Pat go on Friday and Saturday so they're closer to their normal rest."

---The Eagles' matchup with UConn will be the second meeting between the two schools this year, with BC emerging victorious 5-4 in Storrs on April 1. The game is important not only because BC-UConn is a traditional rivalry, but also because both teams are in the running to be named the top team in New England, an award voted at the end of the season by the region's Division I coaches.

"It's a goal of ours each year to win [that award]," said Aoki.

"[UConn] is a regional rival, and they've traditionally been a very strong program. They're having another good year this year, so hopefully playing them will get us fully out of exam mode and we'll come out with the right approach."

Aoki said that BC and UConn are two of three teams who are the top contenders for the New England award, along with Rhode Island.

---The Eagles had the week off due to final exams, but they were still able to get in some practice time in preparation for this weekend's games.

"Obviously the main focus this week is for the kids to get their studying done and get their exams done," said Aoki. "They've been putting in the work in the classroom and doing a good job balancing getting their work done in the weight room, too."

"We had a pretty good week, where we were able to work out for about an hour and a half every day. Each day, a few kids would miss it because they had an exam or had to do some studying, but on the whole, we had most of the team in every day for some practicing, in addition to weight room work on their own. So I'd say we had a good week in preparing for these games."


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