What’s that noise? Gasson Bell? SAP tours? Nope. All aboard! Time to ride the Boston College baseball bandwagon. Winners of five games in a row and sixteen total of their last twenty-one, the red-hot Eagles enter a three-game road series against UNC poised to make some noise. No longer an afterthought, BC baseball belongs in the same breath of conversation as football, basketball and, do I dare say, hockey.
Seldom resembling Field of Dreams in the wake of tailgates, winter and April showers, Eddie Pellagrini Diamond at Shea Field opens its bleachers to fans from all walks of life for the first time in what feels like an eternity. Once a storied program after making four College World Series appearances in 1953, 1960, 1961 and 1967, Boston College suffered a thirty-two year tournament drought that finally ended in 2009. Even since 2009, the baseball team struggled mightily. The past two seasons featured teams accumulating an abysmal 34-73 combined record. This included a 2013 squad that failed to win more than four games against ACC rivals.
Slugger Chris Shaw certainly deserves a large slice of the credit for the drastic turnaround. The junior outfielder established himself as one of the best college hitters during his sophomore campaign—a 2014 season highlighted by a .329 batting average and six home runs all while swapping outfield and infield duties. Rather than taking a step back, Shaw blossomed as he settled into a consistent outfielder role in the offseason. His power numbers spiked while sustaining his batting average. In 2015, Shaw started his junior season batting .339, tacking on a .686 slugging percentage to go alongside eleven home runs with plenty of baseball left to play. Those numbers look prettier when factoring on-base-percentage, giving Shaw an OPS of 1.118.
Once a 26th round draft pick by the New York Mets in 2012, Chris Shaw watched his professional stock skyrocket with each passing game. The growing consensus among MLB scouts suggest teams will pick Shaw within the first ten-rounds of the 2015 MLB Draft—making him the first Eagle chosen in the first ten-rounds since 2010. While Chris Shaw’s meteoric rise captured headlines, whispers among baseball circles grew louder and loftier. Tenth round stock? Why not higher? Why not within the first three rounds?
Then, it all fell apart. On April 10th, Shaw exited the game against Clemson due to an early injury. After undergoing multiple tests, the outfielder received a heartbreaking diagnosis: a broken hamate bone. The injury cost the slugger three to six weeks of service-- a sizeable chunk of the baseball season. With their star sidelined, the BC baseball team appeared to reach a dead end, retreating to the cusp of mediocrity’s abyss.
Yet this exaggerated demise of the team never reached fruition. Even that is an understatement: the team caught fire, never looking back once. In the seven games played since Chris Shaw’s injury, the team lost only once. Putting up an average of close to six runs per game in that span, the Eagles’ offense clicked on all cylinders despite a few minor growing pains. Centerfielder Michael Strem and Rightfielder Logan Hoggarth picked up where Shaw left off. Both outfielders anchored the Eagles’ lineup, each batting over .300 while hitting in the middle of the batting order.
While the offense stuck to their status quo, the Eagles’ pitching staff reached their full potential against Georgia Tech. Led by starting pitchers Mike King and Jesse Adams, BC limited Georgia Tech, then-ranked 24th in the nation, to just a single run over the span of their three game series sweep. King and Adams further lowered their ERAs well below 3.00 while the bullpen picked up their own end of the deal admirably.
Who knows what to expect when Chris Shaw finally recovers from injury. Shaw's protection by his supporting cast in the lineup masks any lingering effects of the injury, even if he performs as a shell of his old self. Couple this with a consistently stingy starting rotation and the possibilities look endless. Before you know it, BC fans start leaving games asking one another, “Why not us?” to the tune of Kevin Millar's "Cowboy Up" attitude circa '04:
(Sorry-- had to)
Why not the ACC Championship?
Why not a NCAA Tournament Bid?
Answers to these questions begin against UNC. Play Ball!
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