Dunn Saves Eagles, Validates Draft Projections
By Anthony Iati
What more can one say about the importance of Justin Dunn to Boston College Baseball? The junior right-hander from Freeport, NY, has been indispensable to the Eagles all season. After spending the first month and a half working out of the bullpen as a flame-throwing closer, Dunn adapted seamlessly to an April transition into the starting rotation.
Entering a crucial three-game home series against the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers, Coach Mike Gambino tabbed Dunn as his Saturday starter going forward. The right-hander responded by making six starts down the stretch, with BC winning all but his April 16 outing at Notre Dame. No Dunn start was as important as his outing in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at No. 22 Georgia Tech. With Boston College’s ACC Tournament hopes hinging on a potential sweep of the Yellow Jackets, all Dunn did was throw a complete game in the daycap. Needing just 106 pitches, he dominated a formidable lineup to the tune of 3 runs (1 earned), 6 hits, 0 walks, and 9 strikeouts. His ability to pitch the whole game saved BC’s bullpen behind Jacob Stevens for the all-important finale.
While it would not become clear that Dunn’s gem prolonged the Eagles’ season until after BC’s 7-6 win in the later game, it was immediately obvious that Dunn has answered every task given to him this year. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 37th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Dunn chose to forego pro ball in favor of pitching for Boston College. As a reliable reliever with a very live arm (to say the least), Dunn’s progress up MLB draft boards through his first two seasons at BC was slow and steady.
That all changed once he was converted to a starter. Sandwiched in between the freshman Stevens and fellow junior right-hander Mike King, Dunn showed tremendous potential as he helped carry the Eagles to wins over some of the ACC’s best lineups. To say Major League organizations noticed is an understatement. Each of Dunn’s starts was a spectacle for scouts, as they lined themselves across the first three rows of bleachers behind home plate at Eddie Pellagrini Diamond, radar guns at the ready. As Dunn cruised through outing after outing, never yielding more than one earned run in an appearance, his rise up draft boards became meteoric.
Recently, prognosticators’ buzz about Dunn has vaulted him into the first round of prominent mock drafts. Speaking on the May 19 edition of Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight Podcast, ESPN’s Keith Law gave Dunn a glowing review on the national stage. When discussing most organizations’ decision to shy away from drafting high school pitchers in the first round, Law cited Dunn as a college pitcher teams have looked upon favorably instead: “The one name who is hot is Justin Dunn at Boston College … [since becoming a starter] he has held his velocity, he’s a good athlete, teams think he can stay as a starter in pro ball,” said Law.
According to Law, the Seattle Mariners, whose scouts have been noticeably present at multiple Dunn outings at the Birdcage, could take Dunn as high as 11th overall in the June draft. Law claims it is hard to see Dunn falling further than the Dodgers, who pick 20th in the first round. Los Angeles’s interest in Dunn is quite transparent, given that they drafted him three years ago. “It’s just shocking for a guy who to start the season was in the bullpen and was on nobody’s list. He wasn’t on anybody’s radar as even a top two or three rounds pick. Now there’s a chance he goes as high as 11th overall,” Law continued.
With that being said, any potential Dunn appearances in the ACC Tournament this week might be his final games as an Eagle. With a first-round draft status comes a lucrative contract offer and signing bonus. Whichever team selects BC’s flamethrower will do whatever it can to pry Dunn away from his senior season. From Boston College’s perspective, one could argue the Eagles would not have made the postseason for the first time since 2010 without inserting Dunn into the rotation. Although Jesse Adams is a fine and more than serviceable option as the Saturday starter, credit Coach Gambino for finding a way to maximize the amount of important innings thrown by his best arm.
Best of luck to the Eagles in the ACC Tournament, and hopefully beyond, and best wishes to Justin Dunn, wherever his baseball career takes him after this week in Durham. Looking to the ACC Tourney, the Eagles squeezed in as the #8 seed and will face the same Yellow Jackets (#9 seed) from whom they just won the crucial series. A win on Tuesday would propel BC into pool play over the next three days.
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