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BC at Clemson Baseball Preview: Q&A with BC Interruption

This week I got to talk with Dan Rubin of BC Interruption to discuss the upcoming weekend series between Clemson and Boston College at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

STS: The people of Boston love the Red Sox. Does that love of baseball translate to Boston College's squad, or do the Eagles kind of play second fiddle once the Sox season begins?

BCI: As great of a baseball tradition the city of Boston has, Boston College, unfortunately, hasn't even been a blip on that radar. People don't really notice college baseball in general. It's not on the radio, and it's not on television. BC doesn't have lights, which means they have to play their home game in the middle of the day, which negates any draw for midweek games and given the lack of knowledge and general appeal of college baseball - limits the draw on the weekend. The hope is that the new stadium announcement will inject more local life into the program, which operates in a way that would shock most ACC fans. It's a totally different culture, but it's one that makes this team tougher and more seasoned than some of the other teams out there.

STS: It's been a rough academic year for BC in the ACC. Was there a lot of pressure on the BC baseball team to get those wins last weekend vs NC State?

BCI: I don't know if there was pressure on the baseball team given what happened in football and basketball, but it definitely breathed life into the fans. I think a lot of people don't notice the baseball team when they're bad, save for a couple of short-sighted people who thought the program should be cut back in 2012 at the lowest low point (coincidentally, those are the same people saying BC should've stayed in the Big East rather than go to the ACC - or gone to the Patriot League with Holy Cross and Army). But now that the team's put together some marquee wins and is receiving some notoriety, the fans are really latching onto it. I think they want a team they can buy into and support as a winner, and I think they have a chance to get that in baseball.

One other element that makes baseball kind of appealing, besides it being the American Pastime, is that it's a pretty big sport in the ACC. Competing in hockey is great, and the women's hockey team being undefeated into the Frozen Four is a huge accomplishment. But there's something about that sport that is more niche. There are only 60 Division I hockey programs, and it lacks the national appeal because the only power conference is the Big Ten (plus hockey itself is a much more niche sport with roots up here in New England and out in Minnesota). Even though a national title would be huge and would absolutely electrify the fan base, there's something about winning in the ACC that fans want.

STS: What are the general expectations for BC baseball? Is the program trending positively or negatively?

BCI: I'm not sure what the expectations externally are, but internally, the goal this year is to get into the ACC Tournament and have a shot at going to the NCAA Tournament. You don't have to finish first  in the ACC to get into the NCAA Tournament since the league gets eight or nine bids. But jumping from 14th to ninth is easier said than done when you're dealing with Clemson, NC State, Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame in your own division.

Mike Gambino has done a tremendous job building this program. When he took over, he really didn't have a recruiting base, so he had to wait for everything to bottom out while he was putting everything together. Given the nature of baseball recruiting, he didn't really get his own guys in until his fourth or fifth year. If you look back, the team really bottomed out in 2012 when it was full of guys he either didn't recruit or weren't ready for Division I baseball. Then things started getting better, with a couple of draft picks and now this is a team comprised how he wants it, in the image he wants it, able to play the game he wants. They were trending down when he took over, but there's no question they're starting to trend up.

STS: Who do the Tiger pitchers need to be weary of this weekend? What do we need to know about BC's weekend pitching lineup?

BCI: If you recall last season, BC had one big slugger in Chris Shaw. This year, they don't really have it. Instead, they have a team that's capable of working counts, running bases, manufacturing runs, and playing true small ball. So you're not going to have a guy that really jumps off the stat sheet as a major threat to go yard. But you'll want to keep an eye on Joe Cronin, who was ACC Player of the Week last week, and Jake Palomaki, who is a table setter hitting first. Michael Strem hits a ton of doubles, and Donovan Casey is capable of spraying to any field. Gian Martellini is turning into an incredible find. He's a catcher, but with Nick Sciortino - who might be the best defensive catcher in the league - starting, he's typically the DH.

In terms of pitching, this is where BC is really good. Mike King is a legit #1 starter, and he's been incredible to open up this year. He also projects to a top 15-round pick. The Eagles bookend lefty Jesse Adams with him and freshman Jacob Stevens. Stevens still hasn't allowed an earned run this year, and he's turning into a phenom through the first 15 games. This is a weekend rotation BC fans couldn't dream about a couple of years ago. Out of the bullpen, Justin Dunn is a pro prospect right in line with King, a legitimate ACC closer also capable of throwing deep innings. But the rest of the bullpen all execute jobs very well. John Nicklas is having a renaissance this year, and Bobby Skogsbergh and Dan Metzdorf are pleasant surprises. Last week, Donovan Casey came into pitch from a spot in the field, and he promptly loaded the bases with a 1-0 lead and nobody out in the ninth. BC wound up having to bring in Nicklas, Metzdorf, and Skogsbergh to go righty-lefty-righty against the meat of the NC State order. They didn't allow the tying run.

STS: Give me a reason why BC will win or lose this series.

BCI: If BC's pitching comes out and does what they did last week, Clemson might not score a run, let alone win the series. King and Stevens/Dunn combined for two shutouts on Friday and Sunday. But if the Tigers can get to the Eagle bullpen and get some runs across, BC hasn't really had to mash the ball against solid pitching. Villanova and Butler really don't come close to the Clemson attack, so while BC's hitters have been great at manufacturing runs, they follow a formula. Score a few runs in bunches, and let the pitching go to work. If there's a concern, it's that they haven't had to win a game against a tough team by playing another style. If they have to change the style, Clemson wins. If they don't, then this is a whole new Eagles team that will really make some waves in the ACC.