Super sophomores
Baseball America|February 2021
Boston College’s trio of preseason All-Americans has the Eagles envisioning a trip to Omaha

For Boston College, the goal is simple: Get to Omaha.

That’s easier said than done, though, for a program that’s only made the NCAA Tournament eight times since 1949. It takes a special culture over an extended period of time for a team with that

kind of track record to break the stigma and separate itself from its history. Ahead of coach Mike Gambino’s 11th season at the helm, the Eagles’ process of finding and developing uber-competitive players with those intangibles is paying dividends in outfielder Sal Frelick, infielder Cody Morissette and righthander Mason Pelio.

BC’s three standout third-year sophomores were all voted Preseason All-Americans by major league scouting directors—Frelick and Morissette on the second team and Pelio on the third. They all project to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft in July, but that isn’t distracting them from the opportunity ahead in the 2021 season.

“Looking at this year, even our fall scrimmages were extremely competitive,” Morissette said. “It’s been the inner competition that’s really helped us develop. This year, especially with us being the leaders and the freshmen and sophomores looking up to us, I feel like that’s why we’re able to develop.”

BC reached the College World Series three times from 1960 to ’67, but then didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament again until 2009. Gambino returned to his alma mater a year later as head coach and guided the Eagles back to regionals in 2016. They won the Oxford Regional as a No. 3 seed, beating Utah and Tulane to advance to super regionals for the first time in program history.

The Eagles haven’t been back to that level since but in 2019 fought their way to the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. They were expected to make a jump in 2020 and return to regionals, but the abrupt cancellation of the season following the coronavirus pandemic thwarted those hopes. BC was just 6-9 in the early going, but had played only one home game and faced a challenging schedule.

Overall, the program has built momentum in recent years. After long inhabiting one of the worst stadiums of any power-conference program, BC has opened new facilities—Eddie Pellagrini Diamond in 2018 and the Pete Frates Center in November. Since 2015, no ACC program has produced more big leaguers than BC.

The program’s on-field success is attributable in part to the type of players Gambino has sought out.

Frelick and Morissette were driven, multisport stars in high school. Pelio was always set on baseball, but Gambino dubbed the way the young pitcher developed his game and trained off the mound as “maniacal.”

“For us, the three-sport kid is a kid who spends a lot of time learning how to be part of a team, learning what it means to be part of a team, learning what it means to compete, learning what it means to help a team win,” Gambino said. “Those are all things we value here.”

For Frelick, that stream of year-round athletics between football in the fall, hockey in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer is a large part of what shaped him into the top-of-the-order lefthanded hitter he is today.

His focus was directed toward becoming the best athlete and competitor he could in high school to maximize his potential down the line. The advanced techniques and nuances of baseball would always be there for him to learn under capable coaching staffs in college.

“Coming into college, I remember seeing these big-name guys on other teams, and we’d go play them my freshman year and the lights turn on and they kind of fold just because they’re not competitors,” Frelick said.

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