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Baseball Will Rely on Depth, Versatility and Bullpen Strength for 2013 Success

Head Coach Mike Gambino enters his third year at the helm.

Head Coach Mike Gambino enters his third year at the helm.

Feb. 14, 2013

Chestnut Hill, Mass. - The Boston College baseball team opens the 2013 season at the Country Inn and Suites Elon Invitational in Elon, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 15 with an 11 a.m. game against VCU. As the Eagles prepare for another 56-game stretch and a run at the postseason, they will look to use the depth and versatility of the roster, as well as a deep bullpen, to carry them through.

"A lot of whether or not this team is able to make a run into the postseason is going to be based on our bullpen and how our pitchers settle into and embrace their roles," head coach Mike Gambino said. "The bullpen is so important - in college baseball or in the big leagues. We have a chance to have a really good bullpen this year. That group - the guys who settle into that pen - is going to have a huge impact on our season.

"One of the things we've been focusing on in recruiting, and we think we have with this team, is a ballclub with versatility all over the field and throughout the lineup," Gambino explained. "We have numerous positional players that can play multiple positions and play them well. Many of our arms could be great in a starting role but also very effective pitching out of the pen. And on top of that, we have five two-way players. That flexibility helps with the overall depth of the club, gives us many different options, as far as in game moves, and creates length in the lineup.

The Eagles have a full pitching staff for the 2013 season with 14 full-time pitchers and five two-way players. The depth will help the BC staff and the non-conference schedule will help determine roles heading into ACC play.

"One of the exciting things this year is we are at the correct number of pitchers," pitching coach Scott Friedholm said. "We have some depth. We're going to be able to make some moves based on match-ups. Some of the younger guys are really coming along and pushing the older guys. If it comes to positions or roles, we're not quite established yet because it's early and we need to see how some of the younger players are going to react in a game situation."

Junior right-hander Eric Stevens will return to a starting role for the second straight season. Last year, he led the Eagles in wins and winning percentage, going 5-3, and strikeouts with 40. Sophomores righty John Gorman and lefty Nick Poore, who both worked mainly from the bullpen in 2012, will look to carve out starting roles as well.

"Gorman and Poore have had success out of the bullpen for us and we know what we are going to get every single time out of the bullpen from them, which is our safety blanket," Friedholm said. "It's nice to have, but we got to be able to get to them first."

Freshmen left-hander Austin Solecitto and right-hander Jeff Burke also have a chance to break into a starting role as Friedholm noted their abilities. As does redshirt freshman southpaw Andrew Chin, a Newton product who returns to the active roster after Tom John surgery sidelined him for the entire 2012 season.

Senior Jay Jeannotte is also coming into the season healthy for the first time in a long time and will use the hard work he put in in the offseason to fill a role with the pitching staff.

The bullpen will feature mostly returning relievers looking to drive the Eagles into the postseason. Leading the way is graduate student Nate Bayuk, who led the pen with a 2.76 ERA last year and tallied 34 strikeouts, while allowing only four of his 22 inherited runners to score. Also returning are two-way players sophomores right-hander Geoffrey Murphy and left-hander Tyler Hinchliffe, who will both contribute quality innings.

The bullpen goes deep as senior right-hander Hunter, who compiled a 2-8 record with a 6.10 ERA and 35 Ks last year as a starter, will be coming out of the pen after rehabbing an injury. Juniors lefty Steve Green and righty Matt Alvarez and sophomore righty Eric Stone will all look to make an impact from the bump. Freshmen right-handers John Nicklas and Michael Clouthier and classmate Jesse Adams, a lefty, will also see time on a hill as the coaching staff determines their roles for the upcoming season.

"As a coaching staff, it's a double-edged sword because we have the depth but we need to make the decisions," Friedholm said.

The depth and versatility of the outfield also gives the BC coaching staff options to play different combinations of players and lineups in 2013.

"The exciting thing about the outfield this year is our versatility," said assistant coach Greg Sullivan, who works with the outfield. "We show a lot of athleticism across the board with guys being able to move around all over the field, which really gives us a lot of options. We have some good experience out there as well. I think that our players, across the board, have shown a willingness to help out the ballclub in any way with their ability to stay comfortable in any situation that we throw at them."

Junior Tom Bourdon will be a mainstay in centerfield. Earning All-ACC second-team, ABCA All-Northeast Region first-team and NEIBA All-Star honors, he led the Eagles in eight offensive categories, including batting average (.324), slugging percentage (.529), hits (79) and RBIs (37) and also recorded a team-high three outfield assists.

"He has been an anchor out there in center," Sullivan said of Bourdon. "He quarterbacks our whole outfield and he has a really good feel for adjusting to hitters and where the outfielders should be positioning. He is that quiet leader; he goes about his work every day. I think that we are going to lean on him in the outfield and throughout the season as being a leader and someone we can rely on."

Senior Matt McGovern started 33 games last year, mainly in right field. He tallied a .239 batting clip with 18 RBIs. Sullivan noted he can play all three outfield positions, giving the Eagles options to move other players around. "Not having Govs limited to one particular position really helps us. His athleticism and ability to move around in the outfield is awesome," Sullivan said.

Many of the Eagles position players are in the mix to take the third position in the outfield. Sullivan notes that some of the infielders - sophomores Travis Ferrick, Murphy or Hinchliffe - have shown the athleticism to move from the infield to the outfield. Senior Koury Hajjar, junior Jimmy Dowdell and redshirt freshman Nick Colucci will also be vying for that third spot.

"I think that depth makes for some really good competition during practice and intrasquads and it's really putting our program on the right track," Sullivan said. "We've always said since we started that until we have that internal competition, we are not going to reach our full potential and we are starting to see that now across the board."

The addition of three freshmen infielders, along with a core group of returners, continues to give the Eagles many options in the lineup on a daily basis.

Senior Matt Paré will again be the first-string catcher for the Eagles in 2013. He started 43 games behind the plate last season and led the Maroon and Gold with a .411 on-base percentage and was second on the team with 24 walks. The left-handed hitting catcher also caught 18 base runners stealing and made his first career error after 235 chances.

"Matty won the job behind the plate, both for what he does on the field and for his leadership qualities off the field, as our captain. For all those things, it makes it pretty clear he is our guy," Gambino said.

Junior Nate LaPointe and freshman Stephen Sauter will batter for the second spot behind the plate. LaPointe batted .270 in 27 at bats last year with two home runs.

"We have a pretty good fight right now for who would be that number two spot," Gambino said. "I think it's going to take a little while to settle in and see who is going to step up and be that guy."

Sophomore Blake Butera will move from second base to shortstop. He tallied a .267 batting average and led the Eagles with 31 walks. He was third on the team with 32 runs and 29 RBIs and tied for third with 52 hits.

"Our infield is going to be so young, but Blake has gone through a whole season and played 52 games last year and he has separated himself," Gambino said. "He has the experience to control an infield, as well as make all the routine plays at shortstop. He's turning himself into a very good ACC shortstop."

Freshman Chris Shaw will most likely take over at first base. Gambino noted that the Lexington, Mass., native worked hard his senior year and into the fall and this preseason to become a good defensive first baseman. The Eagles will also look for his powerful bat in the lineup.

Hinchliffe, Murphy and Gorman could also see time at first. While their work on the mound could determine how much they will play in the field, Gambino likes the options they give him at first.

Junior John Hennessy and sophomore Travis Ferrick bring experience to the infield. Hennessy started 36 games, batting .271 with 14 RBIs and 31 runs. Ferrick recorded 13 hits and 10 runs in his first year donning the Maroon and Gold.

"Both of them have experience and have played in the conference," Gambino noted. "Henn has really become a good leader for us and can give us a left-handed option at all three positions. Travis has really played well defensively in the preseason; he's worked himself and molded himself into a good defender."

The infield core also boasts three freshmen - Gabe Hernandez, Joe Cronin and Logan Hoggarth - who can play second, third and short. With each bringing their own talents to the positions, the coaching staff can, again, put together combinations to tally victories.

"They each give us different strengths and they have all shown they can play in the infield at an ACC level," Gambino said. "I think we're going to have a lot of good options and I think it's going to take a while to let that settle in. Because they can all do different things and give us that versatility in the lineup, there is going to be switching and movement in the infield a fair amount."

Gordon is ahead of schedule for his projected return date after having hip surgery in the offseason. As mentioned, he will move from a starting role to a relieving one, to limit the number of pitches he throws each outing early in his return.

Freshman right-hander and infielder Luke Fernandes will redshirt the 2013 season after needing arm surgery. Fernandes was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012.

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