Eagles Take Two Of Three From Florida Gulf Coast

By Robert T. Balint

The baseball team continued its tour of the Sunshine State this weekend in Fort Myers, Florida, where the visiting Eagles took two wins from a three-game series against hosting Florida Gulf Coast University (6-5). Boston College (6-3) used unhittable pitching to take Friday’s game, a 3-0 win, and exploded offensively to win Saturday in an 11-8 slugfest, but came just short of a series sweep Sunday, when a ninth-inning rally was cut off by the home team.

On Sunday afternoon, Eagles starting pitcher Matt Alvarez got into a jam in the first inning. The right-hander loaded up the bases after walking two Gulf Coast batters and hitting a third. Alvarez then pitched Gulf Coast’s Mike Reeves into a double play ball, but first baseman Spenser Payne bobbled the throw, which allowed Gulf Coast’s Ryan Gebhart and Brandon Bednar to score.

The Eagles tied it up in the top of the second, also with the help of some mistakes in the field. Leadoff hitter Marc Perdios got to first base on a throwing error, and Gulf Coast starter Brandon Bixler hit Matt Pare with a pitch. John Hennessy laid down a bunt to advance his teammates, but found himself safe at first thanks to an overthrow by Bixler on the play, which scored Perdios. Matt McGovern’s groundout to short drove in Pare and tied the score at 2-2.

Gulf Coast added two more runs in the bottom of the third, and then sprung forward to an 8-2 lead with a four-run sixth inning. Alvarez got stuck with the bases loaded for a second time, and with one out Nate Bayuk came in from the bullpen to relieve the starter. Gulf Coast’s hitters quickly figured Bayuk out. Andrew Valencia, the first batter he faced, scored two with an RBI double. A groundout to short and a single to center field later, the home team sat on top with a six run lead.

The Eagles made a final bid in the ninth inning to tie up the score. McGovern led off the inning with a solo shot that cleared the right field wall for his first home run of the season. Tom Bourdon, Anthony Melchionda, and Andrew Lawrence slapped three consecutive singles, with Bourdon scoring from third off of Lawrence’s hit. Payne then grounded into a double play that scored Melchionda, and Perdios followed with a double to left field. But Gulf Coast closer Danny Patrick got Pare to ground out for the third and final out to grab an 8-5 win.

“We really needed one more big hit, but I like the way the boys battled,” head coach Mike Gambino said in a phone interview on Monday.   

On Friday, the Eagles got their offense going much earlier in the game, and it paid off with an 11-8 win. A six-run second inning helped the Eagles weather a sixth-inning Gulf Coast grand slam, countering with three runs of their own in the top of the seventh, thanks to a bases-loaded double by McGovern, who went 3-for-5 at the plate with three RBI.

Gulf Coast narrowed the scored to 11-8, but Eagles closer Matt Brazis iced the game in the ninth with two strikeouts in a clutch three-up, three-down performance.

“Brazis has been absolutely dominant, there isn’t another word to use,” Gambino said. “Having him at the back of games, he gives the boys so much confidence.”  

Thursday’s game saw six different Eagles take the mound over nine innings. Gambino frequently uses this strategy of “bullpen by committee”, as it allows him to keep his pitchers fresh by reducing individual workloads.

“We’re really conscious of taking care of these guys’ arms,” Gambino said. “With four games in four days, we had to make sure we had guys available for Saturday against the Red Sox, so we made Thursday night a bullpen night.”

The division of labor suited the Eagles’ hurlers just fine, as they collectively silenced Gulf Coast hitters for the first nine innings of the series. Freshman Nick Poore put in three scoreless innings to get credited for the win, the first of his collegiate career. As a whole, the Eagles struck out 12, allowed just six on base, and retired every batter from the second to the seventh inning.

Backed by dominant pitching, the Eagles offense peppered Gulf Coast with 12 hits over nine innings. A triple by Payne in the second inning put the senior in position to score off of Tyler Hinchliffe’s double that followed. One frame later, with two on and one out, Melchionda punched a single through the left side, driving in McGovern from second base and doubling the Eagles’ lead to 2-0.

Melchionda did some more leg work in the seventh inning, as he drew a walk and then earned a free ticket to second base off of a balk by reliever Kevin Bryant.  Payne hit a single to score Melchionda, capping a 3-for-4 day at the plate with an RBI. Over the weekend, Payne saw his hitting streak extend to eight games. Brazis took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and earned his first save of the weekend with two strikeouts.

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