Ellen Gerst / Gavel Media

2018 Birdball Preview

If the recent snowfalls are any indicator, the baseball season is finally upon us. Boston College birdball opens play this weekend on the west coast, looking to build upon last year’s late season success.

BC baseball has high hopes for 2018 after finishing the 2017 regular season on a 16-10 run that included series wins over ACC rivals Duke, NC State, and Notre Dame.

Led by Head Coach Mike Gambino, the team hopes to contend in a very competitive Atlantic Coast Conference led by powerhouses Florida State and North Carolina, who met in the conference championship last season. Ultimately, Florida State was crowned as champion and is projected to repeat in 2018.

BC is picked by the ACC head coaches’ poll to finish sixth in the Atlantic Division for a second consecutive year.

This season, the Eagles will be without two-way star Donovan Casey, who was taken with the six-hundred tenth pick in the twentieth round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Casey headlined the bullpen with a lively fastball and deceptive off-speed pitches while also remaining a force in the lineup, swatting 57 hits in 199 at-bats, along with 12 steals in 16 attempts.

The team also lost infielder Johnny Adams to the draft and graduated utility player and pitcher Michael Strem. Adams and Strem both brought speed on the bases, with 11 and nine steals, respectively, in their final seasons.

Besides Casey, Adams, and Strem, Birdball will welcome back a large portion of last year’s team, including senior captains LHP Carmen Giampetruzzi and infielder Jake Palomaki. Giampetruzzi pitched to a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings and will become a key contributor out of the bullpen this season. He may see more late-inning opportunities after losing Casey, who led the team with five saves last year.

When healthy, Palomaki showcased all five tools, batting a fantastic .379 average as a leadoff hitter while maintaining a .969 fielding percentage with 27 double plays turned at second base. This season, Coach Gambino says Palomaki will start at shortstop.

Other lineup standouts include junior sluggers Jake Alu and Gian Martellini. Alu ranked eighth in the ACC in 2017 with a .342 average. Martellini is on track for a huge season, ranking first in almost every offensive statistical category for the Eagles including hits, homeruns, slugging percentage, and RBIs. Alu figures to slot in at left field or second base, while Martellini will stay behind the plate at catcher.

The pitching staff will again be led by right-handed starters Jacob Stevens and Brian Rapp and left-handed starter Dan Metzdorf.

Stevens was arguably BC’s top pitcher in 2017, leading the staff in innings pitched (83), wins (5), and strikeouts (73). He also tied BC’s single season record for most starts in a season with 16.

Rapp and Metzdorf combined for 151.2 innings pitched in 25 starts in 2017. Junior right-hander Jack Nelson will also see some time on the mound as a reliever this season. If all three starters can find consistency, this rotation has the potential to reach elite status in the ACC.

The Eagles will welcome redshirt freshmen Mikey Giordano, Michael Marzonie, and Joey Walsh to the pitching staff, who hope to provide key contributions out of the bullpen after being sidelined last season with injuries.

Only six incoming freshmen and one junior transfer join the team this year, looking to provide depth to both the lineup and the pitching staff.

Birdball will call Brighton Campus its home this season, as the team moves across Comm Ave. to play on a new synthetic turf field. The stadium can seat up to 2,500 people and features a press box, two batting tunnels and bullpens, and eight light poles, allowing the team to play home night games.

It’s an improvement from the “Birdcage” on main campus and demonstrates a massive step forward for the program. BC hopes the new stadium will attract the attention of top recruits and elevate the program to the likes of its ACC counterparts.

The team kicks off the season with a three-game series at Santa Clara on Friday, Feb. 16. From Feb. 23-25, the Eagles play Big Ten teams Minnesota, Indiana, and Rutgers in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida.

BC will make its way around the ACC circuit, beginning with NC State on March 9.

The seventh annual ALS Awareness Game will be played on April 21 at Fenway Park against Florida State in honor of former captain Pete Frates. All proceeds go towards the Pete Frates Home Health Initiative, in conjunction with the ALS Association.

The ACC tournament will begin on May 22 in Durham, North Carolina.

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Matt DeMerlis