Despite the unseasonable weather, college ball is at its height. Boston College faces five games this week alone, including URI on Tuesday evening and Dartmouth Wednesday before a three-game series against FSU. While the true test will be the in-conference match up with FSU this weekend, the two weekday games were important indicators of how the team will fare.
The Eagles looked like they were going to turn their luck around and break a three-game losing streak Tuesday evening against URI. An early run from Gian Martellini and the best pitching of junior Jack Nelson's career left Rhode Island playing catch-up for the first six innings. Freshman Chris Galland stole his 26th base, making him second in single-season bases stolen in Birdball history and third in the country.
However, the Eagles' stunted offensive game and poor relief from Joey Walsh sent the team off course. The Eagles ended up falling to URI 3-1, extending their losing streak to four games.
“I felt good,” Nelson remarked after the game. “When I was throwing in the bullpen, I definitely knew that I had good stuff today.”
The junior right-hander threw for a career-high six innings, hitless for the first few. He struck out five batters and allowed four hits, two walks and no runs.
Red-shirt freshman and LHP Walsh relieved Nelson in the seventh and conceded a triple to Xavier Vargas after only 5 pitches. Head Coach Mike Gambino quickly pulled Walsh, but did not pin blame for the loss on him.
“Honestly, we trust Walsh. We believe he is going to be the guy for us. He just didn’t get it done today, but the loss wasn’t just about him. We had to do a better job offensively.”
Watching Birdball on offense against URI and Dartmouth was like watching two different teams. The Eagles knew that they had to get out of their slump mentality after posting just 10 hits over 4 games. As Gambino so aptly put it, “You can’t steal first.”
Gambino and captain Jake Palomaki were of the same mind when it came to what needed to change for the Eagles. Coach Gambino stated, “[Palomaki] makes our offense go, everybody knows that, but he’s been trying to do too much. He’s been trying to carry the offense.”
In a separate conversation, Palomaki echoed his coach. “People try to do too much, get ahead of themselves, hit a home run when it's not needed," he said, "Just try to have good at bat after good at bat. When we can do that, we’re really successful.”
Against Dartmouth, the Eagles did get back to playing their game. Palomaki recorded a career-high three RBIs, three hits including two doubles, and two runs. He himself described the offense as “really contagious.”
Palomaki’s ability to change his own mentality at bat gave his younger teammates the breathing room to take the same approach when they stepped up to the plate.
Sophomores Joe Suozzi and Jake Goodreau both recorded a career-high of three hits a piece, including one double for Suozzi and two for Goodreau.
Wednesday evening’s win over Dartmouth allows the Eagles to put the past behind them and go into their weekend series confident in their offensive ability. They will face Florida State University and head coach Mike Martin, who is expected to break the NCAA record for most wins in the upcoming weeks.
Breaking the losing streak was important, but there is much more work to be done. Gambino was highly critical of himself and the team after the URI loss.
“I told the guys, we’ve got to break off the rearview mirror and just have one good game. We have to really focus on having a good pregame, really get better on BP. It’s just gotta be all 100% about getting better."
Next up, Birdball takes on FSU at home. Saturday's game, the annual Pete Frates ALS Awareness game, will be played at Fenway Park.
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