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Birdball’s New Era: Previewing the Eagles’ schedule ahead of the 2024 season

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Joey Vetrano is gone. Travis Honeyman is gone. Mike Gambino is gone.

It’s a new era on the Heights as Todd Interdonato looks to establish Boston College as a New England powerhouse and a nationally relevant program.

The Eagles rode a ten-game win streak, including a win over #2 Tennessee in Knoxville, all the way to the program’s first ever top-ten ranking and an eventual ACC and NCAA tournament bid.

There’s no time to rest for a new look Birdball as they play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in school history. The action gets started at the MLB Classic down in Scottsdale, Arizona where they’ll play three games. Teams are yet to be announced but last year’s field was deep, including Arizona, Michigan State, and Fresno State, and San Diego. The road starts there but big time games will continue throughout the spring, both in and out of New England.

Battle for Boston

The Eagles will look to defend their Beanpot Title in a rematch of last year’s championship game on April 2nd when they face Harvard. Boston College won the title game last year on a Nick Wang walk-off home run to give the Eagles the 5-4 victory. The Crimson finished the season with a record of 20-24 (15-6, Ivy), good enough for a berth in the inaugural Ivy League tournament as the two seed. They would place third in the tournament, defeating Princeton in the first round before falling to top-seeded Penn and then losing the rematch with the Tigers.

Boston College will then face whichever team has the same result as them in the second round, either for the Beanpot Championship or in the third place match. The other semi-final pits Northeastern vs UMass Amherst, with the Minutemen traveling to Boston for the matchup. UMass replaces Boston University in the Baseball version of the city’s championship due to the Terriers dropping the program in 1996, after going 12-100 in the programs final three varsity seasons from 1993-1995. Northeastern is coming off of a 44-16 season which saw them reach the CAA Title Game and receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. The University of Massachusetts Amherst continues their rebuild, hoping that key incoming transfers can help them improve off of their 14-35 record last season.

Regional Rivalries.

Unlike most sports and regions, baseball programs in New England can not load their schedule with regional opponents, largely due to the necessity of playing games down South due to the weather. Still, BC made a concerted effort to get as many regional opponents on the schedule as possible. This season they’ll play ten games against schools from across five of the six New England states (No school in Vermont has a D1 baseball program).

In your snow-out favorite of the year, Boston College is currently slated to have their home opener against Maine on February 28th. Yes, we are scheduled to get baseball in Boston in February. Last season’s home opener was not until March 22nd against Sacred Heart (BC did play in Boston the previous day, traveling to Northeastern). They’re original home opener against Holy Cross was snow/rain/winter-weathered out on March 14th.

Maine made a run all the way to the NCAA tournament last season by winning the America East Tournament. The top seeded Black Bears (32-21, 19-5) ran through the bracket, defeating #5 UMass Lowell, #2 UMBC, and #3 (and hosts) Binghamton en route to the title. They return first baseman Jermiah Jenkings, who should be one of the region’s best bats after hitting .362 while driving in 76 with 21 home runs.

In the event the Maine game gets canceled, Merrimack on March 12th will likely serve as the home opener. While not quite the heavyweight matchup it is in hockey, it’s a matchup that still has potential to be exciting. Both teams won their most games in years, with 2023 being the first time the Warriors crossed the 20 win mark since 2019.

Northeastern has built itself into one the top programs in the region and are coming off of a season which saw them finish at 44-16. The Huskies return one of the most talented rosters outside of the power conferences, headlined by potential top-ten selection Michael Sirota who put together an impressive season, batting .346 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. The center fielder’s best tool is his plate discipline and eye, boasting one of the nationals lowest chase rates. Fellow Hyannis Harbor Hawks (CCBL) Dennis Colleran is back in the mix at Northeastern and looking to be a top-100 pick after missing 2023 due to Tommy John surgery. The right hander sits in the upper 90s, with potential to run it up near 100, and mixes in a changeup and slider. The Massachusetts native projects as the Huskies closer but could also be a multi-inning option, out of the bullpen. A pair of rising sophomores could also make some noise this season. Cam Maldonado led the team with a .353 average and was named a Freshman All-American, an impressive campaign highlighted by a cycle against UMass in the Beanpot. Aiven Cabral, while unlikely to pitch in the midweek, was impressive last season as the ace of the staff, posting a sub-2.6 ERA (team leader) and a WHIP just north of 1.

Two teams that were in contention to be the first ever school to host a regional in New England will face off in a home and home series spread across March and April. Boston College will travel down to Conneticutt to open the season series on March 26th, before hosting the Huskies April 17th in the return game. UConn finished last season at 44-17 and earned an at-large bid after being shocked by Xavier in the Big East Championship. Paul Tammaro is back for his fifth year after leading the Huskies with a .389 batting average and a .504 on-base-percentage.

Rhode Island will make the short trek up I-95 for an early April matchup. Rhody finished 2023 with a 23-29 record and a 13-11 record in the Atlantic 10, where they qualified for the conference tournament for a third consecutive season. Sophomore two-way player Michael Anderson projects to be a top player in the conference. He was one of two Rams to bat over .300 last season and led the team in doubles (18), while finishing second in runs batted in (43) and third in home runs (10). He is expected to take on a bigger pitching role this season after being used sporadically in 2023.

Dartmouth will be the second Ivy that BC hosts in just over a week stretch when the Big Green come to town on April 10th. Dartmouth look to bounce back from an embarrassing 2023 where they finished just 3-38 (2-19). Lone bright spot in the lineup, Elliot Krewson returns for his junior season. He led Big Green with a .309 average (only player over .250) and was second in RBIs (14).

Finally, UMass Lowell come to town on the last day of April, sandwiched between two big ACC series (Virginia and Louisville), as part of a ten game home stand. The Riverhawks finished last season 20-35 (11-13) and qualified for the America East tournament, winning their first game against Bryant before falling to eventual champion Maine and host Binghamton. Fritz Genther looks to provide some senior leadership as he returns to the lineup after leading the team with a .324 average, 9 home runs, and 47 runs batted in..

B1G Clash In Chestnut Hill

Boston College will welcome 2022 Big 10 Champion Maryland for a two game series in the middle of May. The Terrapins finished last season at 42-21 (17-7) which was good enough to earn the #1 seed in the conference tournament, where they would go on to sweep their way to a perfect 4-0 record and the conference crown behind a pitching staff that had a combined ERA of just 1.22 over the week.

Maryland will be tasked with replacing seven draft picks, none more impactful than 13th overall pick Matt Shaw, who became the programs highest ever draft pick. The shortstop compiled one of the best seasons in program history, batting .341 with 24 home runs and 69 RBIs, on his way to being a consensus first-team All-American and Big 10 Player of The Year. He also had won the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Most Valuable Player award, where he hit for a .360 average and led Bourne to a league title.

The Terrapin roster is still loaded with talent, highlighted by southpaw Kyle McCoy. He was relied on heavily as a true freshman, throwing the fourth most innings on the team (53.1) and strikeouts (39). The New Jersey native is a projected first round pick in 2025 due to his upside and command. If the lefty can bulk up this off season (currently 6’6 195 lbs) and add a few miles per hour to his impressive pitch mix, low 90s fastball paired with a slider and changeup in the low 80s, he could be in line for a breakout season with the potential to be one of the nations best starters for the next two seasons.

In terms of bats, outfielder Elijah Lambros is expected to be the star of the lineup. The rising junior arrived in College Park from the University of South Carolina prior to last season and was one of the most impactful transfers in the country. He reached base at a clip of over .400 and added some much needed pop to the lineup, finishing third on the team with fourteen bombs as well as ten doubles and a pair of triples.The former blue chip recruit out of Virginia also has an above average arm and run tool, allowing him to be a difference maker defensively in center field and on the base paths.

Stay tuned for Part Two: ACC Schedule.

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Florida State 84, Boston College 76: Eagles struggle to defend Seminoles

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Boston College fell to Florida State 84-76 Tuesday night in Tallahassee, as despite a quick start scoring-wise the Eagles struggled to defend a similarly-hot-handed Seminoles team that dropped the Eagles to 6-9 in conference play.

It was back-and-forth very early on, with the first missed shot of the game not coming until almost four minutes in. The first half ended in a high-scoring 43-43 knot.

Things stayed even until roughly the halfway mark of the second half when FSU went on a 10-0 run that gave them a 70-61 advantage, the largest lead of the entire game for both sides. That ended up being the deciding factor, as the Eagles were unable to get within less than eight from that point on.

BC had four players in double-figures for scoring-wise, getting just eight points from the bench. Jaeden Zackery led the way with 19 on 3-for-3 from 3-point range, while Mason Madsen hit four 3s and put up 14. Quinten Post tallied 15 with seven of those points coming from the charity strike and Devin McGlockton also put up 13 points. The lone starting five member not in double-digits was Claudell Harris, who went just 1-for-5 from beyond the arch inducing just seven points out of him.

Boston College will continue the road trip and take on NC State Saturday in Raleigh at 2:00 p.m. ET, with the Eagles hoping to avoid the double-digit mark of losses in ACC play. The Wolfpack are losers of three out of their last four, however.

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Takeaways: BC Defends Homecourt against Louisville and Miami

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Mason Madsen hitting one of his seven threes. Photo Courtesy of Canes County

Recap:

Last week, the Boston College Men’s Basketball team was able to defend home court twice: on Tuesday night against Louisville, and on Saturday afternoon against Miami. Late Tuesday night, the Eagles were able to overcome a sluggish start, and an empty Conte Forum, and beat the last-place Louisville Cardinals 89-77. The Eagles saw six players reach double figures in scoring, led by Claudell Harris Jr.’s 20 points,  Devin McGlockton’s 19 points, and Quinten Post’s 17 points. This win was especially crucial for BC, as they were coming off consecutive losses to FSU and Duke, and allowed the Eagles to stay in contact with the middle tier of the ACC. 

After taking down Louisville in a desolate Conte Forum, the Eagles returned to their home court on Saturday to a much different scene. With a much more fan-friendly tipoff time of 4PM, Conte played host to an excellent crowd for their matchup against Miami. And, to the delight of the Eagle-faithful, BC got off to a scorching hot start, taking an 18-7 lead early on. While the Hurricanes were able to even the score at halftime, and take as much as a five-point lead late in the second half, Mason Madsen’s hot hand, and Post’s dominance in the paint were enough to propel the Eagles to an 85-77 victory. 

Offensive Excellence:

After scoring just 62 against FSU and 65 against Duke, I was beginning to lose faith in Coach Grant’s offensive system. However, these past two games have been excellent offensive showings for the Eagles. Against Louisville, BC scored a remarkable 89 points on 56.7% from the field, and 47.8% from behind the arc. And it wasn’t that the Eags were knocking down uncharacteristically difficult shots. Grant’s offense was actually able to generate great looks for open shooters, racking up 21 assists in the process. 

While it might not have been surprising to see the Eagles rack up 89 points on the last place team in the ACC, it was certainly encouraging to see them follow up with a similar performance against Miami. In Saturday’s game, the offense put up 85 points on similarly efficient splits of 47.5% from the field and 50% (15-30!) from three. Madsen and Post led the way offensively, accounting for 15 of the Eagles’ 28 converted field goals. If Grant can keep the offense humming the way it has for the past two outings, each of the six games remaining on the schedule look very winnable. 

Madsen Madness:

Since being inserted into the starting lineup against Duke, Mason Madsen has been an absolute revelation for the Eagles. In the past three games, the Eagles are 2-1, with their lone loss coming away at Duke. Throughout that three game span, Madsen has led the Eagles in scoring, averaging 17 points per game. And the highlight of this stretch came in his 25-point performance against Miami, where he hit (possibly) the most important three-pointer of the Eagles’ season. 

Madsen absolutely torched the Hurricanes from behind the arc, knocking down a career-high seven three pointers en route to the win. With Madsen’s latest hot streak from three, he is now shooting 45.8% from beyond the arc, which is well above the 90th percentile in Division One. With Madsen now in the starting lineup, the Eagles now have three serious threats from behind the arc, with Post hitting 46.1% of his attempts, and Harris Jr. hitting 38.9% of his. The spacing and offensive flow of Grant’s new-look starting five is enormously better with Madsen in for Aligbe, but we will see if the Eagles can survive without Aligbe’s size and added rebounding. 

Defensive Concerns:

While the offense was clicking on all cylinders last week, I cannot help but be a bit concerned about the Eagles’ defense. In an interesting contrast to Grant’s first two seasons, where the Eagles hung their hats on their ability to defend, this iteration of the Eagles’ roster is much more capable offensively, but has shown some cracks on the defensive end. For example, BC gave up 47 first half points on 51% shooting against Louisville. While Louisville has shown some ability to score, there is no legitimate reason to allow the last place team in the ACC to run up the score like that. Thankfully, the Eagles woke up on defense in the second frame, only allowing 30 second half points. 

Next, against Miami, at times it felt like the Hurricanes could get whatever look they wanted on offense. The Hurricanes shot 56% in the first half, and frankly, it could have been much worse. The Eagles seemed flummoxed by the Hurricane’s pick and roll, and whenever Post was switched off of Miami’s Norchad Omier, it seemed to always result in an open shot. Though I will give Grant credit for switching to his “amoeba” defense down the stretch. While Miami was able to exploit the Eagle’s man-to-man defense, they struggled with the matchup-zone look in the waning minutes. BC’s defense down the stretch was the key to igniting their 17-4 run to end the game. 

Outlook on the Remaining Schedule:

Thanks to the Eagles’ 2-0 homestand, they are now in contact with the middle of the ACC. After falling to 13-10 (4-8 ACC) after Duke, they were in real danger of dooming themselves to the basement of the ACC. But, with eight teams within two games of each other in the ACC standings, the Eagles will have several opportunities to continue climbing the ladder. BC’s remaining schedule consists of road games against Florida State and NC State, a homestand against UVA and Pitt, and a pair of road games against Miami and Pitt.

The good news for the Eagles? All six of these games are extremely winnable. The bad news? All six of these games are also losable. The margin for error is razor thin in this final stretch of the regular season. But, if the Eagles can find a way to win 3-4 of these games, they could be in contention for a first round bye in the ACC tournament, and perhaps a bid to the NIT. 

What’s Next:

Boston College returns to action Tuesday night at 7PM, when they will take on the aforementioned Florida State Seminoles. After losing a gut-wrenching 63-62 game to the Seminoles in Conte Forum, the Eagles will be looking for revenge. This game also has severe implications for the ACC standings, as FSU holds a one-game lead over BC in the standings. The Seminoles open as 4.5-point favorites against the Eagles. 

A win would go a long way towards securing that first-round bye, but even more so for the energy surrounding the program. We just saw what a packed Conte Forum can look like against Miami. So it is imperative that the Eagles return home with some kind of momentum, and get fans invested in the team’s stretch run.

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Boston College 85, Miami 77: Mason Madsen hits career-highs in Eagles win over Hurricanes

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Mason Madsen had a day to remember for Boston College Saturday, as he led the Eagles past Miami with a career-high seven 3-pointers and 25 points. BC won, 85-77, as they kept the momentum from a quick start all the way through.

The Eagles were ahead fast and early, jumping out to an 18-7 lead just five minutes into the ballgame. Miami eventually caught up to them though in a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle — the Hurricanes tied it at 29-29 with 7:41 to go in the first half. They battled until the end of the half, when it was tied 41-41 after 20 minutes of play.

It remained back-and-forth but Miami began to gain an edge about halfway through the second half. They then held on to a lead from the 12-minute mark all the way to the three-minute mark, but the Eagles’ deficit didn’t get further than four points away from the Hurricanes. A Claudell Harris Jr. layup with three minutes to go made it 74-73 Eagles, and they added on from there. Madsen knocked down a 3 before a pair of Devin McGlockton converted free throws put them in front by six with a minute to go, and they held on to that lead with a few baskets made from both sides to give BC the 85-77 victory.

Quinten Post had 23 for the Eagles, a big night for him after he had been struggling the past few outings, also knocking down a trio of 3-pointers. Harris Jr. had 15 while Jaeden Zackery added 11 to go along with seven assists. McGlockton picked up a team-best 10 rebounds.

BC moves to 6-8 in conference play Tuesday night in Tallahassee as they take on Florida State with a 7 p.m. ET tip. They continue the road trip with a matchup against the Wolfpack a week from today, as NC State plays hosts to BC next Saturday afternoon in the 2:00 p.m. ET slot.

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