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Super Regionals: Miami vs Boston College. Get to know the Eagles with BC Interruption

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Boston College is an upstart program making their first appearance in Super Regionals. Get to know them a bit with BC Interruption.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

For more information on the Boston College Eagles, be sure to visit BC Interruption or like them on Facebook. To learn more about the baseball squad up in Chestnut Hill, we sat down with Dan Rubin, one of the contributing editors, to discuss the program. I've worked with Dan a couple times in the past, and it's always been a lot of fun. So, he and I got together to have more fun and talk some baseball. What could be better?!

Oh yeah, and before we get started, I fulfilled the other half of this "home and home" Q&A series for Dan and BCI. You can read my side of things right here.

Here we go...

State Of The U: Coming into the season, what were your honest expectations for the Boston College baseball team in 2016?

BC Interruption: There is not a single person who predicted Boston College would be in a Super Regional with a real, legitimate shot to make it to Omaha. But that doesn't mean the expectation wasn't there, if that makes sense.

Setting expectations for this team was next to impossible before the season. Head coach Mike Gambino said he believed this team had a real shot to get into the tournament and make it to Omaha at the annual Baseball Night in Boston event, but there's not a person alive outside of the program who believed him. The team lost Chris Shaw to the first round of the draft, and they didn't really have a way to replace him. You looked at the lineup and thought, "well even with good pitching, they're going to be a punch-and-judy type team." It was very hard to see through a traditional lens that this team could win. You had to buy into small ball and pitching with defense. That's incredibly hard to do unless you go into it 700%. You guys know as well as I do how hard that is.

But the one thing we knew they would have was pitching. We knew Mike King was a legitimate Friday starter in the ACC, and we knewJustin Dunn was a legitimate closer. We had NO WAY of knowing that Dunn would turn into the supernova that he is, but that's all part of the surprise.

I did, however, believe there was a chance. Last year, an injury to Chris Shaw and an injury to starting pitcher Jeff Burke derailed their chances at making the tournament. Once those guys went down, BC never really recovered and missed the road. When I was told before the season that there was a chance, I bought in, hook, line, and sinker, and so did one or two other guys like Mike Lananna up at Baseball America. Nobody else gave this team a fighting chance, though.

Even with those expectations, though, nobody saw last week coming. BC wasn't so much good in Oxford as they were flat out dominant. When we saw that unfold and develop, I think people are ready to believe anything about this team.

State of the U: Obviously coaching plays a major role in team success. Can you tell us the effect that Mike Gambino has had on rebuilding the Eagles' program?

BC Interruption: It's hilarious to me at times how fast the entire Boston College community has now turned to support Mike Gambino when as recently as last month people thought he should be fired.

When he took over in 2011, he was dealt a really bad hand. They had been to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and had been to the ACC Tournametn in 2010, but they were losing ground. The team didn't have that much ACC talent, and he had to tread water for a couple of years until he got his recruits into the program. That's not to say he didn't have guys who busted their ass off for BC, but he just didn't have a team that was going to win that many games. It took time, and he knew he had to do it while the team got absolutely throttled. He finally got his first crop of players into the program pipeline in 2013, and because he had to play all those guys as freshmen, the team went 12-40. They wound up losing their first 20 ACC games that year until they ran into some team from South Florida...I wonder who that could be, hmmm?

Since then, it's been slow and steady growth. Coach Gambino's told me that someone he respects and trusts very much told him, "You'll need to build a program, not a team." So he's had to build the team based off the kind of guys that would succeed at BC - smart, down-to-earth guys who enjoy playing the game and playing the game together. At a place like BC, you're never going to be able to compete on talent alone, and don't even get me started on facilities and the parking lot the team plays on (literally). So he had to recruit and build a team of dirt dog type players who simply enjoy getting their jersey dirty for the guy next to him.

This is really the first year where he has all of his recruits on the team, and look what they've done.

It goes so far beyond that, though. When I first started covering this team, I only saw wins and losses. Then I realized this team was building something so much different. It's the community work that they do to fight ALS, and it's the way people respond to this team. He's managed to really build a team of guys who grow together as teammates and brothers, and he's helped create something that we refer to as Birdball - a real family atmosphere that everyone respects when they come into contact.

That said, as great as one trip to the Super Regionals is, he's not satisfied. He wants to be able to do this year-in and year-out or at least be in a position to compete at this level, both on the field in competition and off the field in player development.

State of the U: Boston College has never made it to Super Regionals before in program history. What has been the change to help the Eagles make this run? 

BC Interruption: During the week before the Virginia series in April, pitching coach Jim Foster sat down with his staff and decided to propose a shift in the rotation. Mike King was moved to Sunday to have a more favorable pitching matchup, and wonder kid freshman Jacob Stevens, who didn't allow an earned run in 30 innings, was moved to Friday. At the same time, Justin Dunn, who entered the season as a legitimate closer, began stretching his pitch counts and moved to the rotation as the Saturday starter. Jesse Adams, who was the Saturday starter to that point, swapped with Dunn and became the closer.

I can't count the number of ways all of this helped BC. Dunn became arguably the best pitcher in the nation, let alone the league, and he began to draw the kind of attention reserved for first round picks, which he's going to be this year (or already is, depending on the time this is running). You'll see him on Friday during the playoffs because he'll be the #1 starter now, and I hope he's on his game for everyone to enjoy. He's the type of guy who can still throw 95 mph with movement on pitch 105.

Stevens stepped up to the plate and elevated his game, though he took a couple of lumps in facing the best of the best and his performance gradually leveled off. King continued his dominance on Sundays, and he put together one of BC's most successful seasons as a starter since 2010.

As for Adams, since he wasn't concerned with what he was pitching in what situation, he became more of a thrower. He was a decent starter, and I always felt he was just the odd man out, but he was viciously good for the Eagles out of the bullpen, saving a handful of games during the season and extending that during the Regionals.

It made BC almost unbeatable. They lost only one ACC series after the switch (to Notre Dame), and they started destroying teams with their pitching. They didn't sweep anyone but they didn't lose series, and they went from 13th in the league to eighth over about two months time.

State of the U: The pitching staff for the Eagles has been lights out. Who are the leaders of that group?

BC Interruption: By this point, you know pitcher number one is Justin Dunn. He throws a fastball that sits between 92-94 and can hit 98 with a slider and curveball that breaks in the worst possible ways on hitters. He's developing a changeup which he considers his out pitch, but he didn't throw it up much in Oxford because he didn't need it.

Mike King is a switch. He's a two-seam sinker-slider type pitcher with a fastball that tops out low-90s and a sinker that rolls off the plate. He relies a lot on his defense, where he'll get help up the middle from Jake Palomaki and Johnny Adams. Those guys put together a ludicrous amount of assists when King's on the hill, and if he allows base runners, he lets catcher Nick Sciortino do his thing in throwing guys out - which he does with regularity.

Jacob Stevens, if you see him, is a heavy-ball pitcher. Guys hit balls in the air off of him, but they die in humid weather. Groundballs are also a big thing with him him. He won't strike out that many, but he also doesn't have to.

Out of the bullpen, Adams has an explosive fastball that handcuffs lefties, and his breaking stuff is nightmarish on righties. He also has a motion that hides the ball nicely on hitters so they don't see it until it's coming out of his hand.

You'll also see guys like John Witkowski, who came out of nowhere in the bullpen as a freshman, and Bobby Skogsbergh. Skogsbergh is the bread-and-butter out of the bullpen, and he's a real grinder on the mound who can be pretty overpowering with his pitch selection.

State of the U: Who are the leading hitters that could potentially propel the Eagles past the Canes? 

BC Interruption: It's hard to tell because BC is designed to be a 1-9 lineup. Johnny Adams won the MOP for the Oxford Regional after he went 4-4 in the final against Tulane. He's been on fire lately, but he hits in the seven hole. He also looks like the kind of guy who drinks a giant glass of milk before he steps up to the plate.

Jake Palomaki does nothing except get on base. I've made it a running joke this year that when he gets on base, I come up with a different analogy. I'm running out of ideas and they've been getting pretty dumb because he got on base so often.

Nick Sciortino has the ability to do whatever's asked of him. The same goes for Michael Strem, who is a doubles machine. Joe Cronin, the team captain, is going to keep drives alive and put runs across.

The guy who is the X factor is Donovan Casey. He was injured against Virginia and only returned to the lineup to hit last week (he returned as a pitcher earlier in the year after breaking his non-throwing hand). He's a total dirt dog.

The point is that with this team, no one guy is going to kill you. That's both really good and really bad. If they're on, it's a nonstop barrage of singles, doubles, stolen bases, and guys going from first to third on singles to the outfield. When they're off, it's a two-hit shutout.

One thing that will drive BC fans crazy, though, is this team's tendency to bunt. Like I said earlier, Coach Gambino embraces small ball and with this lineup, you absolutely have to buy in all the way. If you played any station-to-station, you'd lose every game. That drives people insane, and I can't count the number of times people have snapped at me, the BC baseball Twitter account, or on message boards to talk about bunting. I stay out of that one.

State of the U: Ok, hypothetical scenario time: How can Boston College need to do win the Super Regional? 

BC Interruption: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. If Miami suffers the same fate as Utah and Tulane, they won't get enough guys on base, and once they finally do make their run, it'll be way too late to win. We're really hoping that Miami's power outage from the regional carries over into the Supers.

State of the U: Hypothetical scenario two: How can Boston College lose the Super Regional?

BC Interruption: Absolutely zero hitting combined with shoddy defense. If BC pitchers get into a jam, they need to rely on a double play ball or a key defensive play. If the team is making errors, the pitching will start to overthrow or, worse, get racked around a little bit. Extra outs are an absolutely forbidden thing to allow.

In terms of hitting, if they can't get the bats going, they could lose a game 1-0. I've seen that happen before.

State of the U: What's your prediction for the Miami vs Boston College Super Regional?

BC Interruption: To hell with the games being played over in Gainesville - this could be the best baseball series in the state of Florida. Miami is an amazing team, and they have some absolutely tremendous players. They're a team we, as Boston College fans, wish we could be year-in and year-out. Our compete level will likely be off the charts, and we hope that can power us through against Miami.

The only thing that might separate BC from Miami is their team chemistry. On sheer talent alone, Miami wins this running away. But BC has chemistry and a team built on 25 guys piling into one cab, not 25 guys in 25 cabs. This is a family, and with what it means to everyone, they aren't going down there to be a token team. That doesn't mean they don't get blown out in two straight, but it just shows that they're not going to give it to Miami just because they're happy to be there.

I don't question Miami's desire or their quest for a national title, but after 45 national tournaments in a row or some ungodly number, it's an expectation to make it this far. At BC, this means so much more, and this is the potential jumping off point for the start of something everyone's really excited about. I don't think anyone can fathom what it means to the Eagles or to the Birdball family. There's something to be said for that.

I hope that was vague and ambiguous enough for you.