CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Boston College won even before the first pitch in this year’s NCAA baseball tournament was thrown.
The Eagles were 31-20 and on the proverbial bubble to make the 64-team field. But when their name was called, the players erupted in jubilation — BC had earned its first regional playoff berth in seven years.
“That was true emotion,” BC junior right-hander Justin Dunn said. “That’s how we felt. We’ve been dealing with people doubting us for years.”
Now, after three straight victories in regional play, the Eagles are two wins from what would be their first College World Series berth in 49 years.
BC (34-20) will start a best-of-three series against No. 3 national seed and super regional host Miami (48-11) on Friday afternoon.
Miami, which has won four national titles, is considered a significant favorite over the Eagles, who are still seeking their first CWS championship.
The Hurricanes, who have made the NCAA postseason a record 44 consecutive years, knew for weeks they would be in the field of 64.
BC, meanwhile, will be playing its first Super Regional, a format that began in 1999.
“To be two wins away from Omaha is awesome,” Dunn said. “But we’ve got work to do — Miami’s a good team.”
Here’s some things to look for in the BC-Miami series:
ACC RIVALS, SORT OF: Although they are in the same conference, Miami and BC haven’t played each other since 2014, when the Hurricanes pulled off a three-game sweep. Miami leads the all-time series 18-6.
PITCHING MATCHUPS: BC is expected to start Dunn (4-1, 1.49) followed by Mike King (7-4, 3.21). Freshman right-hander Jacob Stevens (4-3, 2.14) would be the third starter if needed. Miami is set to start sophomore left-hander Mike Mediavilla (10-1, 3.18 ERA), junior left-hander Danny Garcia (9-3, 3.50) and sophomore right-hander Jesse Lepore (9-0, 2.20). Mediavilla will be making his first career start in the opener of a series. “I’m keeping the same mentality I’ve had all year,” said Mediavilla, who had been Miami’s No. 2 starter prior to Friday. “Of course, there are bigger stakes. But I’m not going to worry about that.”
STAR WATCH: Miami junior catcher Zack Collins and BC’s Dunn are the players to watch. Collins was named a first-team All-American and one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench award given to the nation’s top catcher. Dunn, who made 10 of his 17 appearances this season in relief, was named a third-team All-American. His fastball ranges 92-95 mph, and he has touched 99 mph. His slider is also a plus pitch, with control his only issue. Miami also has junior closer Bryan Garcia, who set the program career record with 41 saves. The right-hander is 2-0 with 16 saves and a 2.04 ERA this year.
INJURY WATCH: Lepore left Sunday’s start after just three innings due to shoulder tightness. “He’s getting ready to pitch,” Miami pitching coach J.D. Arteaga said. “How far he’ll go, we’ll see. It’s a day-to-day thing.” In a perfect scenario for Miami, the Canes sweep BC and don’t need Lepore until the CWS, when he would be more rested.
ON THE OFFENSIVE: Shortstop Johnny Adams was the MVP of the Eagles’ regional. But the Eagles are hitting just .265 for the season, averaging 4.9 runs. They have no one hitting over .305. Miami is hitting .297 and averaging 6.9 runs. The Canes hitters are led by center fielder Carl Chester, who was the MVP of their regional; shortstop Brandon Lopez, who leads the team in hitting (.392); and right fielder Willie Abreu, who has 12 homers and a knack for dramatic hits. The Canes have hit 43 homers to BC’s 18.
FOR THE DEFENSE: The team ERAs are similar — 3.55 for Miami and 3.58 for BC. But the Canes have an advantage in fielding percentage, .983 to .971.
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