NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont baseball team (20-17, 9-9) finished their sweep of ETSU (22-12, 11-8) in dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon, coming back from an 8-2 deficit in the seventh to defeat the Buccaneers 9-8 in extra innings.
Senior Derek Hamblen's (Plano, Texas) two-run homer tied the game at 8-8 in the bottom of the ninth, while a sacrifice fly by senior Vinny Casha (Nashville, Tenn.) scored senior Nate Woods (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) in the bottom of the 11th to give Belmont the 9-8 victory.
Hamblen started the Bruin rally, driving in sophomore Jared Breen (Marietta, Ga.) with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh. Breen, who led off the inning with a deep double to right center field, advanced to third on a bunt single by junior Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.).
Belmont then scored three runs in the eighth to come within two runs at 8-6. This time it was freshman Greg Brody (Dacula, Ga.) with the sacrifice fly that started the scoring, driving in sophomore Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.), who led off the eighth with one of his two singles on the day. Breen then singled through the infield to score senior Matt Zeblo (Raleigh, N.C.), before senior Tim Egerton (Smyrna, Tenn.) scored on a passed ball by the Bucs.
Junior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), who leads the Bruins with a .338 batting average but was hitless in his first five at bats of the day, came through at on of the most critical points in the game. The Belmont centerfielder led off the bottom of the ninth with a single through the left side of the infield to give Hamblen a chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat. And so he did. Hamblen took a pitch from Atlantic Sun saves leader Bo Reeder the opposite way and out of the park to tie the game at 8-8 and put it into extras.
After an empty 10th for both squads, Woods beat out a chopper to third base, which put the winning run at first. A single by Akers, off of long time friend in ETSU's Reeder, advanced Woods to third. Then it was Casha who came to the plate in his first and only at bat of the game. Zeblo, who started the game at catcher today, was replaced by sophomore Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) in the ninth as a pinch runner. Casha then took Zeblo's spot behind the plate in the 10th and came to bat for the first time in the 11th.
With one ball and two strikes, Casha drove a line drive to short center field. Woods came off of third base a few steps in case the ball dropped in safely, but then had to return to the bag once it was caught by the Buccaneer outfielder. After tagging up from third, the Bruin captain sprinted home, beating the throw, and giving Belmont the 9-8 victory.
On the other side of the story for BU, were a few great pitching performances from the Bruin staff. Sophomore Josh Davis (Fayetteville, Ga.) started on the mound, pitching three innings of no hit baseball before a couple of throws gave ETSU the advantage. At one point Davis had retired nine straight batters, but in the fourth inning he gave up a single, and back to back homers on only four pitches.
The Buccaneers took a 5-2 lead in the fourth, and then extended it to 8-2 with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. Freshman Blake Harvey (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) recorded two outs in the sixth, allowing one unearned run on two hits, before junior Garrett Fanchier (Lebanon, Tenn.) came in to close it out with a strike out. Fanchier then pitched a scoreless seventh and two outs of the eighth before loading the bases on a hit batsman, a single and a walk.
Senior Jon Ivie (Summertown, Tenn.) then came in to get the Bruins out of that jam with a three pitch strike out of his own. The Belmont closer went on to tie a career high of three and one third innings pitched, earning the victory for BU. Ivie allowed only one hit while pitching scoreless ninth, 10th, and 11th innings for the Bruins. He improves to 3-1 on the season with the victory.
Belmont finished with nine runs on 15 hits and two errors. Hamblen's home run and three runs batted in, as well as doubles by Woods, Brody and Breen, led the Bruins at the plate.
ETSU totaled eight runs on 10 hits and one error. Buccaneer starter Bo Burton went eight innings, allowing six runs on 10 hits. Reeder, who leads the conference with 13 saves, was dealt his first loss of the season after giving up three runs on five hits in two and two thirds innings.
BU, who swept the series after topping the Bucs in both games on Saturday, will next travel to Tennessee Tech on Tuesday for a non-conference tilt before heading to Campbell for a three game Atlantic Sun series this next weekend.