Belmont Drops Final Game of Illinois State Series, 3-1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Freshman James Buckelew (Suwanee, Ga.) gave up only two runs in seven innings, but the Belmont Baseball Team (2-2, 0-0) dropped a 3-1 contest to Illinois State (2-2, 0-0) on Sunday afternoon. Senior Vinny Casha (Nashville, Tenn.) recorded the only run for the Bruins, connecting on a solo shot to right field in the fifth inning.
"If you're a baseball fan and a purest, you had to enjoy today's game," Head Coach David Jarvis said following the final game of the four game series. "The fans were treated to an extremely well played baseball game. To have two freshmen on the mound opposing each other, and for them to do the jobs that they did today, it certainly made for a great game."
Buckelew, who started the first game of his college career, gave up two runs on six hits, with two walks and two strikeouts in seven innings on the mound. The freshman was credited with the loss but showed why the Bruins have confidence in the lefty as a starting pitcher this season.
"James Buckelew's performance was tremendous, and it was a great way for him to come out and show us exactly what he's capable of doing," Jarvis continued. "I also give a lot of credit to Vinny Casha, and the way that he handled [Buckelew] throughout the game. Vinny has played four tremendous games for us over the past three days. He had the homerun today to tie the game up, which I thought was huge. Kudos to Vinny, not only at the plate all weekend, but also handling our pitching staff."
After four scoreless innings and two outs in the fifth for Belmont, Casha stepped up to the plate and tallied his first homer of the season to tie the game at 1-1. It was one of only two hits Illinois State starter Dan Savas allowed in six innings of action.
The Redbirds countered in the next half inning when a single through the left side of the infield by Zach Amrein scored Kevin Tokarski to make it 2-1 in favor of Illinois State. Tokarski led off the inning with a single before reaching second and third on a sacrifice bunt and ground out from Chad Hinshaw and Matt Mirabal, respectively.
ISU added one more run in the eighth to get the 3-1 victory. The Redbirds finished with three runs on seven hits and no errors, while Belmont totaled one run on six hits and no errors. Savas picked up the win, while closer Kenny Long recorded his first save of the season after allowing no runs with five strikeouts in two and two thirds innings.
With the win on Sunday, Illinois State tied Belmont 2-2 in the four game series in Nashville. "It was very competitive between the two teams," Jarvis said about the series. "Illinois State is an extremely talented club, and when you look at their performance, it's easy to understand why they won the Missouri Valley Conference last season."
The Bruins will next head across town to take on Vanderbilt on Wednesday, February 23 at 4:00 p.m. The Commodores came into the season ranked fourth in the nation. "The thing you're always going to see against Vanderbilt is tremendous arms, both starting the game and coming out of their bullpen," Jarvis said looking forward to the next Belmont contest. "We're going to see great pitching from the Commodores. [VU Head Coach] Tim [Corbin] also does a great job creating pressure offense that will cause our defense to have to react. It's going to be a real challenge for us, but I like my club, and I think they're up for those types of challenges."