Eagles Take Game One In Regional

In what may be the biggest victory in the history of BC baseball, the Eagles roared back in the ninth inning to beat Texas State 8-to-7. The Eagles scored six runs in the top of the ninth to advance to the winners bracket. They face #1 Texas tonight at 7:00 PM.

In pre-game interviews, Boston College head coach Mik Aoki said that Friday's NCAA tournament opener against Texas State would come down to two key factors: defense, because Texas State's powerful offense couldn't be given any more outs, and capitalizing on offensive opportunities, because their pitchers tended to give up a lot of base runners, but bear down to keep them from scoring.

For the first eight innings of Friday's game at Disch-Falk Field, the Eagles were guilty on both counts. Through eight innings, BC had committed two errors. They left two men on base in each of the second and third innings, and Tony Sanchez hit into a critical double play in the eighth just as BC seemed to be mounting a comeback.

Through eight innings, BC also had seven hits.

But after the ninth, BC had 14.

In what has become the biggest win in program history, the Eagles rallied back from a 5-2 deficit to score six runs in the ninth and take an 8-5 lead. Closer Mike Belfiore was shaky in the home half of the ninth and allowed the Bobcats to make it 8-7, but he was able to close out the game, pushing BC into the winners bracket, where they will now face Texas on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

"You just try to go up there with a good approach and stay relaxed," said Aoki. "I thought we were a little tense early on and we got relaxed later. When we put the first two batters on in the inning, we felt like we were in a pretty good place."

Barry Butera started the ninth inning rally with a base hit off of reliever Tyler Brundridge. Andrew Lawrence followed up with another base hit, putting runners on the corners.

Still, Texas State stuck with Brundridge while closer Michael Russo tossed in the bullpen. Mike Sudol brought out the hook with a double to left that brought home Butera and put the tying runs in scoring position with nobody out.

Brundridge then gave way to Russo, who proceeded to give up the most memorable home run in Eagles history.

John Spatola smacked Russo's offering to right field, hitting a no-doubt, line drive home run that instantly turned the game around and put BC up 6-5.

"I wasn't thinking home run when I was up at bat," said Spatola, who went 2-for-4 on the day. "We started off the inning with three base hits, and with runners on second and third, down by two with no outs, you just want to put the ball in play. If you get a hit, that's even better because you can score both of them. But there was really little I could do that wouldn't be successful, so I was mainly just relaxed."

"In the third inning when I got a single, that was the biggest hit of my life because this is an NCAA regional," he said. "Then the home run surpassed that."

The Eagles weren't done in the ninth, pounding out two more runs, which would prove to be crucial. Rob Anston singled after Spatola's homer. One out later, Tony Sanchez got his first ever NCAA tournament hit, a double to right that plated the speedy Anston and put BC up 7-5.

Mike Belfiore singled home Sanchez to make it 8-5, then had to turn himself around right away to come in and pitch the bottom of the ninth.

As always seems to be the case with Boston College athletics, it was an adventure – but Belfiore escaped a ninth inning jam to preserve the win.

A two-run home run by Paul Goldschmidt made it 8-7 with nobody out. Pinch hitter Adam Witek then worked a walk and was pushed up to second base on Spenser Dennis's sacrifice bunt, but Belfiore got the next two men to end the game, striking out Lance Loftin for the game's final out.

BC starter J.B. MacDonald had some trouble against the potent Texas State offense, giving up five runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings. Kevin Moran allowed an inherited runner to score, but Nate Bayuk and Chris Kowalski saved the day for the Eagles, combining for 1.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief preceding BC's comeback.

Kowalski (4-1) got credit for the win.

BC never led until Spatola's homer cleared the fence in the ninth, falling behind 1-0 in the first inning. They tied the game in the third on a Mickey Wiswall RBI single, but fell behind again in the fourth, 2-1.

"Texas State did exactly what we expected them to do," said Aoki. They competed like crazy in the batter's box. They put a ton of balls in play. They didn't strike out much, and they kept the innings going. But I think on the flipside, we did a good job of keeping it within striking distance because they put a lot of pressure on us through those first six or seven innings."

With Texas's 3-1 victory over Army in the night game, BC will face the hosts – currently ranked #1 in the country – in Saturday night's game. Pat Dean will pitch for BC.

Boston College alumni are hoping for a repeat of 1976, when the Eagles' unheralded football team beat #1 Texas 14-13 to stun the college football world and open eyes around the country to the Jesuit school from the Northeast.

"I'm hoping that we can carry a little momentum into tomorrow," said Aoki. "But at this stage of the game there are no let-down games."

"You're playing for a national championship, and this is the first stage of it."


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