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Ayers gets kick out of hit

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- He's faced 300-pound linemen coming at him with bad intent.

But Boston College junior right fielder Johnny Ayers never faced a gyroball. And he never expected to have his image plastered across millions of newspapers around the world.

Ayers is the punter on BC's football team. He's played in front of packed houses around the Atlantic Coast Conference and punted in two bowl victories. And last night he drilled the double heard across the Pacific.

BC's leadoff man made himself a trivia answer when he became the first batter to hit against international pitching sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka.

"I don't know anybody in Japan," Ayers said before the game. "But I had an uncle who worked over there for a couple of years."

During Matsuzaka's initial Fort Myers press conference, he was asked what he would throw for his first pitch as a Red Sox, and said it would be a fastball. Ayers must have been listening.

"I didn't watch that, but one of my buddies was listening and he told me about it," said Ayers. "I didn't want to get in a situation where I'd see the gyroball. That probably would have been embarrassing. I got lucky and saw a first-pitch fastball. And it was in the 90-91-mile-per-hour range. He can crank it up to 96, probably."

Asked to compare his football duties with last night's task, Ayers said, "I think standing in the back of the end zone is a little more nerve-racking. But this was fun. Having an opportunity to play against these guys every year is a great opportunity. And any time you get to go up against a guy like that and have success, it's a tremendous feeling."

Ayers was not sure about the whereabouts of the baseball he hit, but said he thought it might have been put aside by one of the BC trainers.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to face a guy who's coming over here and starting his career," said Ayers. "But I'm not an expert on him. I only saw one pitch."

One pitch. One double.

"I wanted to leave it up to the guys hitting behind me to show that the Red Sox made a good decision spending all that money," said Ayers. "They saw more pitches than I did."

Ayers and his teammates took a 2 1/2-hour bus ride back across the state after last night's 9-1 loss. The Eagles play six more games in Florida before playing at Duke next weekend.

DAN SHAUGHNESSY

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