Coach Aoki surveys the Little League Field in Chestnut Hill known as Shea Field...
FTRS: I guess first off, how's this season gone for the Eagles? We saw that y'all started the season on the road for the first 19 (+1) games. Did the Eagles recover from that stretch?
Joe: This season has been up and down for BC. As you may recall, the Eagles made the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since LBJ was in office, and despite losing some key players (Tony Sanchez and Mike Belfiore most notably), I think we expected them to build off of last year's success. It hasn't quite happened like that as they sit at just 28-24.
As I have outlined through the course of the season on my own site, pitching has been the direct cause of many of BC's problems. The Eagles' team ERA is 6.46 for the season -- last year, for purposes of comparison, it was 4.65. In 2009, BC had acceptable starting pitching and the bullpen could at least hold their own (case in point, the BC bullpen held their own against Texas for 17 straight innings last year in that 25-inning epic before finally giving in). This year, it's not so. Pat Dean (BC ace) has done his job pretty well with an ERA in the 3s, but Mike Dennhardt, another BC starter, seems to have taken a step backwards this year and Kevin Moran, one of BC's key arms out of the bullpen, increased his ERA from 2.75 to 8.55 in 2010. Not much feels right about this bunch and they're clearly one of the lesser pitching staffs in the ACC.
Offensively, they've been alright, but a little less potent than last year. That 2009 team hit .304 with 6.93 runs per game, but the 2010 Eagles hit .295 with 6.62 runs per game. Not a huge difference, though with the way BC is pitching this year, I'm not sure an extra .009 on the team batting average would make a huge difference.
BC recovered from their 7-12 opening road trip, and I wasn't too sure they would give thanks to the pitching. Last month, BC rolled off a ten-game win streak to get back over .500 for good, but over the course of the year, they've also had a lot of clunkers in there.
FTRS: Second, let's talk individuals. Who are the big sticks in the Eagle lineup? Who's pitching on Thursday against our ace Deck McGuire? And who are the top 2010 draft prospects on your roster?
Joe: Boston College does have some nice bats. Robbie Anston, the leadoff man, has an OPS into the mid .900s thanks to his team-leading 20 doubles, and Anthony Melchionda has done a great job leading the team with a .350+ average, but the homer hitters are John Spatola and Mickey Wiswall. Wiswall was a preseason second-team All-American who continues to hit well and Spatola has essentially replicated Tony Sanchez's big numbers from last season. Some of the new guys have filled in decently as well, which is why the offense has been close to where it was in 2009. Overall, I'd say this lineup is the least of BC's problems and they can certainly hit.
BC has not released their weekend rotation yet but I would bet the Eagles will match ace for ace and put Pat Dean in there. I would also expect to see Taylor Lasko and perhaps John Leonard or Mike Dennhardt getting the ball this weekend, though Dennhardt pitched Tuesday (and got bombed).
Mickey Wiswall is certainly the first name I'd think of with regards to draft prospects, and Pat Dean is another guy. Both have continued their good work this year and I expect them to be rewarded. Some bloggers online have also been taking a look at Kevin Moran, though I think his performance this season will hurt him.
FTRS: Finally, what's the state of the program? Are BC fans satisfied with the performance of the Eagles under Coach Aoki?
Joe: I've been to some BC baseball games before as a student broadcaster and a fan, and I can tell you that these games weren't well-attended at all when I went there, and I doubt they're well-attended now. I have a feeling we're a very different program from most of the others you'd encounter in the ACC. When I see ACC baseball on TV, I see real stadiums with fans in the seats. Boston College's current setup, however, is more like a little league field where you can just walk up and find a seat in the bleachers. Not many people do: a few hundred at most.
In my four years there from 2004-2008, I don't remember once where BC Athletics called any attention to the program. I would not be surprised if most Boston College students didn't even know we had a team, and I bet I couldn't find ten students at the whole school who can name five players on the roster -- aside from the student sports broadcasters or the players themselves. Just because they're virtually non-existent to the school at large, however, doesn't mean they can't haul in some talented players. Many of these guys are local or regional products and BC does fine with what they bring in.
I can only speak for myself, but I think Aoki has done alright. He got off to a slow start but last year was special, even though BC lost out in the NCAA Tournament pretty early. This year has not lived up to expectations, though the most recent Bracketology has BC as the very last team in the tournament. If you ask me right now, I personally think they're out, but who knows what BC will do this weekend or in the ACC Tournament if they should get there.
FTRS: Any predictions for the series?
Joe: I think there is a good chance BC will get swept. Best-case scenario for the Eagles is stealing a game like they did against Florida State in their last ACC series. Overall, though, GT is just a much better team, and I think it's going to show -- I think the Jackets take 2 games minimum.
Thanks to Joe for helping us out. We'll probably be hitting him up come hoops & football season (if the Eagles face Tech in Charlotte).