They call it “ride or die”, and Saturday night/Sunday morning in Austin Texas two teams rode two stallions as far as they could go in the longest game in NCAA history. The most impressive of the feats to come out of the 3-2 Texas win over Boston College is the dueling performances by the two teams’ closers: Longhorn lefty Austin Wood and BC’s Mike Belfiore.
Wood came into the game with one out and a runner at second base in the seventh inning. He then pitched 12 1/3 straight innings without giving-up a hit, and ended his night with 13.0 scoreless frames with a whopping 14 strikeouts. It goes without saying the Ks were a career-best. It could take some closers three weeks to rack-up 14 punch-outs.
Belfiore’s feat was a little more human. All the BC junior did was pitch 9 2/3 innings without yielding a run after taking the mound in the ninth inning. He fanned 11 on the night.
Two pitchers, 22 scoreless innings, 25 strikeouts, just 4 walks, and a total of 298 pitches.
A complete game in any game is a valued commodity. A complete game in a double-elimination post-season tournament is pure GOLD. Although neither gets credit for a complete game, they each tossed the equivalent and then some.
Talk about taking one for the team. Whatever these guys are getting in scholarship money their coaches should double it.
Texas is a program with national championships. Big things are expected when you sign-on to wear the burnt orange, and Wood came-up big at the biggest of times. (And you think his team’s not ecstatic that after they finished just after 1 am they got to sleep-in for a 7pm game rather than getting-up for a Noon elimination game vs. Army?)
The two hits Wood gave-up are more hits than Angelina Jolie’s had over the last couple years, but she might have more adopted kids than his 13 IP. Longhorn head coach, Auggie Garrido, called Wood’s performance “the best by an individual” he’s seen in his 41 years on the bench. Pretty big praise for a guy with national titles at Texas and Fullerton.
Boston College ended-up in that elimination game after the 7-plus hour marathon. (By the way, you can fly from Boston to London in less than seven hours. You can also drive from Austin to Baton Rouge in about that time, or you could drive from Austin to Ft. Worth and back and have time eat a steak along the way.) BC lost 4-3 to Army in Sunday’s elimination game, but that doesn’t discount Belfiore’s guts.
He’s a two-way player, and finished just 1-for-9 at the plate in the marathon, but his one RBI was more than he allowed in his 9-plus innings on the hill.
Boston College should erect a statue to Belfiore and plant it outside Eddie Pellagrini Diamond at Shea Field in Chestnutt Hill, MA. Boston College is in it’s first NCAA Tournament since Yaz became the last player to win the triple crown. We’ve had eight presidents, 250 Star Trek movies, two Red Sox championships, and Seinfeld has come and gone since then.
Q: What lies in the shadow of Belfiore’s statue? A: Belfiore’s cohones. BC freshmen must hence forth carry a tooth brush and a can of Brasso to keep it clean.
Win or lose Saturday or Sunday, Belfiore’s 9 2/3 scoreless innings vs. Texas are the most important Eagle innings since before Neil Armstrong and his Eagle landed on the moon.
No matter what he does for the rest of his baseball career, or the rest of his life, Belfiore will always be that BC pitcher in that game.
Maybe the Dropkick Murphys will write a song about him: “Belfiore! Mikio Aoki shouted, we’re not here to mess around…” (Sung to the tune of “Tessie”.)
Or maybe not.
Aoki is in just his second year as Boston College head coach. If he goes 39 more he’ll never see another Eagle match Belfiore, and none of us will ever likely see a duel effort like Wood and Belfiore gave us Saturday night.
Let’s get the ball rolling. I’ll donate the first $5 to the Mike Belfiore statue project. You in?