After a 2016 season that brought Boston College to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Baseball Championship for the first time in program history, Birdball is getting ready to take the field again this weekend.
This season, BC Baseball continues its quest to #StrikeOutALS in honor of former captain Pete Frates, ‘07, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2012. The Eagles will play their 6th annual ALS Awareness game on April 22 against NC State, this time bringing the action to Fenway Park. All proceeds from the game will go to the Pete Frates #3 Fund, which helps Frates’ family provide him with adequate care. Frates has been gaining national attention as of late thanks to the ice bucket challenge, winning the NCAA Inspiration award, and Challenge, a book telling the story of his fight with ALS set to come out in October. The NC State Wolfpack will also be playing for a cause close to home, as former player Chris Combs was diagnosed just last May.
The Eagles begin their 2017 debut dubbed as underdogs despite last year’s breakout success. In the ranks, BC stands at 6th in the Atlantic Division in the ACC coaches’ preseason poll, placing them in a tie with Notre Dame. This snub is most likely due to the graduation of Joe Cronin and Nick Sciortino, but the incoming freshman class shows promise that will hopefully put the Eagles back on the road to post-season success.
Cronin, who captained the 2016 team all the way through the Super Regionals, was the lifeblood of the team and a powerhouse at both first and third base. Following his graduation last May, the Minnesota Twins drafted him in the 34th round, a bargain for such a strong leader and on and off the field. His classmate, catcher Nick Sciortino, stayed in Boston with a 17th round pick from the Red Sox. Birdball will definitely be feeling the absence of these key players this season, but the relatively small senior class—just 6 players graduated last year—means that head coach Mike Gambino is returning an overwhelming majority in hopes of another go at the College World Series.
BC Birdball will look to captain Johnny Adams at shortstop and second baseman Jake Palomaki to bolster the infield this season. Gian Martinelli, coming off an impressive freshman season punctuated by two home runs and a .224 batting average, will likely take over Sciortino’s duties behind home plate.
The outfield will be headlined by senior Michael Strem at centerfield, who topped the roster last year with a batting average of .301 while starting every game for the Eagles. Freshman Dante Baldelli (yes, younger brother of the Rays’ Rocco Baldelli) will bring fresh blood to the diamond as a possible designated hitter.
BC began regular season play on Friday, Feb. 17 for a three-game series at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. The ACC circuit, which pits the Eagles against some of the best teams in college baseball, kicks off in mid-March with a series at Florida State and continues until the start of the postseason. The regular season finale will be a home field matchup against Holy War rival Notre Dame. The highlight of the season comes on April 28 when Miami comes to Chestnut Hill for a rematch of the 2016 Super Regional series that knocked BC out of the College World Series.