ACC

10 Years later 2009 BC Baseball shares piece of history

The 2009 Boston College baseball team made history as the first team in program history to reach the ACC Tournament and ended a 42-year drought by qualifying for its first NCAA Regional since 1967. In just its second NCAA Tournament game in over four decades, the Eagles and the top-seeded Texas Longhorns teamed up to make history in the longest game in college baseball history; a record that still stands 10 years later.

On May 16 of this year, BC duplicated a feat of the 2009 team by clinching a spot in the ACC Championship by winning the first game of its final weekend series of the season; a convincing 10-1 victory over visiting Notre Dame at the Harrington Athletics Village. A day later, BC hosted the ’09 Eagles for a 10-year reunion at its new ball field with former head coach Mik Aoki in town coaching the Fighting Irish.

With 10 years to reflect, the loss still stings, but the memories of an unforgettable season live on. Aoki and the Eagles took the time to recall how the 2009 BC baseball team came to be one of the best in program history and what led up to their historic game in Austin.

Sitting at 30-21 overall and 12-13 in the ACC, Boston College was on the verge of reaching its first NCAA postseason in 42 years and needed one win to reach its first ACC Tournament; a necessary hurdle to help its candidacy for an at-large bid.

Barry Butera, Junior Shortstop: Going into it, we knew that if we won one we were most likely in. Going into a three-game series, we knew we wanted to get that out of the way in game one. We came out swinging, played a good clean game against a really good pitching staff that UNC had. A couple of those guys are still pitching in the big leagues like Matt Harvey and Adam Warren. We got an early lead and were able to hold on. I know our closer, Mike Belfiore, came in kind of early to hold on to that lead. We knew what that game meant; what one win would mean for us. We took care of business and it was a big stepping stone for the program.

Harry Darling, Senior Captain: I remember UNC was a stacked team. We beat Alex White, who was one of the top draft picks. They were loaded. We got the win out of the way early; game one of the series. It was kind of a simple win for us. We got ahead early and got a great pitching performance to hold them off. The weekend wasn’t over, but we got something to celebrate early on. We didn’t wait around to make it happen and the excitement and euphoria of making our first ACC Tournament had us over the moon. Getting the job done in game one was exciting to see all of the hard work pay off.

John Leonard provided five and one-third innings of one-run ball and Matt Brazis earned the win out of the bullpen, while Mike Belfiore got the save in the clincher. BC pitchers combined to strand 12 UNC runners on base in a 3-1 win. The No. 4 Tar Heels had the tying runs on base with one out in the ninth before Belfiore, now in his third inning of relief, struck out Dustin Ackley and forced Kyle Seager to fly out to center and send the Eagles into the postseason.

10 years later

Mickey Wiswall, Sophomore Third Baseman: For us, the whole year, we thought we had a really good squad. We tried to compete day-in-and-day-out. It was a normal game. We treated every game as a competitive situation. It was something that we knew we could handle and it propelled us into the ACC Tournament. We wanted to take destiny into our own hands and we were able to do that.

The Eagles arrived for their first ACC Championship in Durham, N.C. looking to lock up a bid to the big dance and had to start its three-game round-robin schedule against top-seeded Florida State before taking on fourth-seeded Georgia Tech and fifth-seeded Miami.

BC bounced back from a 7-2 loss to the Seminoles with the program’s first postseason win in four years; a 7-3 win over the No. 13 Yellow Jackets. Wiswall went 3-for-4 and drove in BC’s first five runs of the day, which included home runs in the third and fifth innings.

Wiswall: I believe coach Aoki came in and said we needed to win two games in the ACC Tournament, which is what we did. We went 2-1 in the round robin and we didn’t get to play in the championship game, but those two wins solidified us a spot. I can remember going back into Conte Forum and watching the selection show and everyone on the squad going crazy.

The Eagles finished second in their division at the 2009 ACC Championship with a 10-1 win over No. 16 Miami and a dominating performance from Pat Dean through seven innings on the hill. The win, Dean’s second over the Hurricanes, improved BC’s NCAA postseason standing heading toward Monday’s selection show.

Butera: We knew that we had a decent case, based on our RPI, to get into the tournament. But we knew that being ensured three games in the ACC tournament, we needed to at least win one or two of them; take care of business. Our mindset going into it was, we wanted to win the tournament. That was the mindset of our team all year. We weren’t happy going in there trying to win just one or two games. We lost a tough game one against Florida State but came out in games two and three against Georgia Tech and Miami, took care of business and went 2-1 in the tournament. After we won two of three, we knew that barring anything crazy happening, we were a lock to make the tournament.

Boston College didn’t have to wait long to find out it was going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 42 years during the selection show on May 25, 2009. BC earned the three-seed in the Austin Regional along with top-seed and host Texas, two-seed Texas State and four-seed Army. For the Eagles, it was their 10th selection to the NCAA Tournament and first since 1967, which resulted in the program’s fourth trip to the College World Series.

Darling: It was a goal when we got here. We moved into the ACC for my second season. We hadn’t been to the postseason yet. We had three or four years of falling short of our goal. To see it all come to fruition and see the years of hard work pay off was my main goal in my fifth year; to see these guys get into the postseason. It was a rewarding experience.

Wiswall: We had a good idea we were going to be in the regional. We didn’t know which one, but then getting the third seed in that tournament against the No. 1 seed Texas was nuts.

Texas was the top seed in the NCAA Tournament and under the direction of long-time head coach Augie Garrido, who retired in 2017 as the winningest coach in college baseball. Before the Eagles could set their sights on the Longhorns, they had to step on to the field at Disch Falk Field against Texas State, which traveled just 35 miles north to Austin from its campus in San Marcos for the regional.

In its first NCAA Regional game in over four decades, Boston College stunned TSU in an 8-7 comeback victory to move into the winner’s bracket in Austin. Down three entering the ninth, BC put together five straight hits to start the inning and ultimately go ahead on a three-run homer from John Spatola.

Mik Aoki, Head Coach (2007-10): That was a big one. It was a come-from-behind win. They had Paul Goldschmidt on it. If I remember right, Johnny Spatola hit a home run late in the game to put us ahead and that was exciting to win game one and go into the winner’s bracket against Texas.

Darling: There’s one moment of that game that stands out above the rest. Johnny Spats hitting that home run. We were down, we were down most of the game. We had some opportunities and sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way, but Spats stepping up and hitting that ball…the minute it was off his bat our dugout just erupted. It was pandemonium. The big game with Texas, the next day, was very memorable, but from that brief moment in time, that home run Johnny hit is something I’ll never forget.

Wiswall: John Spatola’s walk-off homer. Paul Goldschmidt was in that game too and he hit a missile early in that game. Spatola sealed the deal for us at the end and it was a great cap in the first game of the regionals. We knew we had Texas the next night, but Spatola’s home run still stands out to everyone.

On May 30, 2009, Boston College, No. 1 Texas and over 7,000 fans set out to make history at 6:02 p.m. central time in Austin, Texas. The game lasted late into the night and ended early the next morning at 1:05 a.m. with the Longhorns outlasting the Eagles in a 25-inning marathon that was decided by the slimmest of margins at 3-2. Facing a Texas lineup that featured two big leaguers and eight MLB draft picks, BC used eight pitchers on a night that still stands as the longest college baseball game ever played.

Aoki: We started Pat Dean, who that year was probably our best starting pitcher. JB MacDonald was also awfully good, but Pat was the guy that we wanted to throw in what was either the game to put us into the regional championship or was going to stave off elimination. He pitched great and I think gave up two early runs.

Butera: It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were all so excited about it. We welcomed the challenge against Texas in front of a packed house, a hostile crowd. We had Pat Dean on the mound, who was one of our go-to guys all year. We had a lot of confidence in him taking the hill. We faced their number one guy, who they held back in game one of the tournament to save him for us. We had a lot of good chances to go ahead and win that game, but you’ve got to take your hats off to their pitching staff and to our staff, who held them scoreless for so long.

The Longhorns got to Dean for two runs in the second, but the Eagles rallied for a run in the fourth and scored the equalizer in the sixth. Each of the next 36 turns at bat came and went without a runner crossing home plate.

Mike Sudol, Sophomore Right Fielder: It was exhausting. There were so many peaks of excitement. You know, there’s a runner on second and you just think they’re going to get this hit or we’re going to get this hit. It just never happened and the bullpens were great, they were unbelievable. We started the game at over 100 degrees and seven hours later we’ve been trying to hydrate, maybe eat a granola bar and deal with these peaks of excitement. The defense was incredible, the defense and pitching. I think there were three errors total in 25 innings. At that time of the year, we had a fantastic defense and the bullpen really came together.

Texas’s Austin Wood took over on the hill in the seventh innings and went on to throw 169 pitches over the course of a 13-inning, two-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts. Mike Belfiore moved to the mound for BC for the final two outs of the ninth to send the game to extras and remained in the game for 9.2 innings of three-hit, shutout ball with 11 strikeouts.

Darling: Wood and Belf were the story of the game. That game could’ve been over a lot earlier. Texas probably felt like that game was 15 innings too long, but it also speaks to the way that our pitchers battled and our defense stepped up. We held off some high tense, bases loaded moments. It felt like we faced those every inning. We did a phenomenal job as a team of fighting to see another inning and giving ourselves a chance.

Mike Belfiore, Junior DH/Pitcher: I don’t think that [record] will ever be broken. I DH’d the game because I was going to potentially start the next game. As the game went on, we got more involved and made out come back to tie it 2-2. I got in the game and it was a must-win in a sense because if we beat Texas we have leverage in the whole regional. It was a great day, even though we lost. We were a really good team, we bonded together and it’s a game that still brings us together.

Wiswall: Wood and Belfiore were just going back and forth. I think Belf went nine and two-thirds and Wood almost went 13 innings. It was an amazing feat. I had the luxury of playing a little baseball after college too and I’ve never seen something like those two guys going after it inning to inning. It was something special.

Aoki: We got two in the middle innings to tie it up. From there until the 25th inning there wasn’t a run scored. Their guy was unbelievable; Austin Wood. He was amazing. He threw the equivalent of a no-hitter. Belf was unbelievable for us. He pitched terrific. We both had chances with runners at second and one out; them more than us. They were so good and honestly, the umpires expanded the zone too. It was amazing. Wood gets a standing ovation. I think we turned some Texas fans into BC fans that night. It went so fast; the whole night. It was just inning after inning. We were hoping to keep Mike for the next day’s game, but we eventually just had to bring him into it.

From the time the game was tied in the sixth, scoring chances were few and far between. Texas got a leadoff single from future MLB catcher Cameron Rupp in the eighth against Dean, but right-handed reliever Kevin Moran was able to escape with the bases loaded.

The Longhorns threatened again in the 13th with a two-out double, but came up empty and an inning later stranded two runners in scoring position after a double steal as Belfiore got the third out on a strikeout. In his 10th inning of work, Belfiore struck out the side in the 18th.

Belfiore: At that point, when you’re in the NCAA it’s just about that day and what you can do to win that game. Usually, after pitching two innings I would be shut down for the next day so I knew once I was past two innings that I was going to just ride it out. At that moment, I think the guy’s name was Austin Wood and he was doing the same. It was just me vs. him at one point and we wanted to ride it to the finish line.

In the 23rd, BC turned to one-time two-way guy Chris Kowalski, who turned in 3.1 innings or scoreless ball on the bump, for an at-bat.

Sudol: We all look back at the opportunities we could have done better. The most exciting part of all of it was a Chris Kowalski at-bat. He’s a pitcher, but he started as a hitter when he came to BC. He’s a big man, 6-foot-6. He played in the basketball team after baseball. In maybe the 20th inning, we ran out of pinch-hitters. We were like, ‘Kowalski hop on up!’. He’s this imposing figure. We’ve seen him in BP before hit balls super far. That man can hit a baseball and he almost got one. It was maybe 10 feet short of the warning track and he just missed it. That was one of those exciting moments in an incredible game.

Aoki: Kowalski came in behind [Belfiore]; I thought he did a really great job. One way or another, he ended up in the lineup and got an at-bat, which he put a pretty good bolt into. He hit it pretty deep to left-center. We had hoped he would run into one for old times’ sake.

Texas scored the winning run in the top of the 25th inning. As expected, Garrido put on a sacrifice after a leadoff walk. A wild pitch moved the runner into scoring position and with the infield drawn in and base hit through the right side plated the go-ahead run.

Wiswall: It was kind of crazy. It was the first time that I played two full games in two different positions. I played nine innings at third base, nine innings at first base and another seven innings back at third in the same game. The thing that stood out the most was that all of the fans stayed the whole seven hours and everyone was involved in every pitch. It was pretty cool and special. They were announcing the records that we were breaking in that timeframe. The support we had from the local Texas fans along with the BC fans that made the trip was special and made it a great night.

Belfiore: I played professional baseball after that. I played in the big leagues. That was probably the most intense crowd I’ve ever played in front of in my life. What it meant. Even a Texas fan is very loyal to their program, but for them to clap after the game for our team and show that respect was one of the coolest moments in my career.

Butera: It was definitely a unique atmosphere. We’ve all played extra innings in our lives. What was unique about this one was there wasn’t an empty seat; even at 1 a.m. It was a lot of intense moments throughout the game. The crowd was in it. There was no let up from both teams. When we lost that game, I wouldn’t say there was relief. We wanted to win it and we knew there was another game the next morning against Army. We turned out sights to get ready for that game, rest and recover.

Less than 11 hours after the conclusion of its epic battle against Texas, BC took to the field for a noon game on an 87-degree day against Army in an elimination contest. The Eagles went ahead early, fell behind in the middle inning, but forced a time game in the seventh. BC outhit Army, 12-8, but came up a run short from extending its season with a 4-3 final score. The Eagles fought to the final out with a Spatola single to lead off the top of the ninth and a sacrifice that put him in scoring position. A single by Matt Hamlet put runners on the corners, Tony Sanchez was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded with one out, but BC’s magnificent 34-win season came to an end with the tying run 90 feet from home.

Aoki: It was a really cool ride. These guys were great kids. We had some really good players on that team with Wiswall and Belfiore and Sanchez, Harry Darling and Mike Sudol. They still stay in touch. It was great to bring this program back to the NCAA postseason after a pretty long drought.

Butera: [Playing in a regional] was something that we set our sights on from day one on campus as a freshman. It was only our third or fourth year in the ACC so we had some ground to make up. To reach that goal of being the first team to reach the ACC Tournament, the NCAA Tournament in a long time, we knew what it meant for the program. Going into it, we had the mindset that we wanted to leave the program in a better place than when we got here.

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