DELAND, Fla. – The Belmont baseball team (30-24, 15-13) fell to #17 Stetson (40-14, 23-5) by a score of 7-4 in the first contest of a three game Atlantic Sun Conference series on Thursday night. The Bruins will need to win one or both of the next two games against the Hatters in order to earn a berth into the conference tournament.
The Bruins got on the board first with one run in the opening half inning of the game. Senior Derek Hamblen (Plano, Texas) led off with a double to right center field for his 14th of the season. He then stole third base and scored on a ground out by junior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.).
The Hatters scored seven runs over the course of the first three innings, including a four-run third inning. Belmont starter Chase Brookshire (Chattanooga, Tenn.) gave way to freshman Blake Harvey (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), who put the Stetson offense down in order in his first inning of relief.
Harvey kept the Hatters scoreless again in the bottom fifth, before Belmont inched closer with two runs in the top of the sixth. Hamblen connected on his third hit and second double of the game on a shot down the left field line. Two batters later senior Nate Woods (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) hit his 11th home run of the season over the left field wall to make it 7-3 in favor of Stetson.
BU got within three of Stetson with one more run in the top of the eighth. Hamblen reached base for the fourth straight time, earning a walk to lead off the inning. After Craig also walked, Woods scorched one at the third baseman, who committed the only Hatter error of the game, allowing the ball through the infield. Hamblen scored on the play, picking up his team-leading 60th run of the year to make it 7-4.
Harvey helped keep Belmont in the contest with a total of four scoreless innings. He finished with only three hits and one walk allowed, while striking out two in four and one third innings pitched. It wasn't enough though, as the Hatters shut the Bruins down in the ninth to come away with the 7-4 win.
Belmont totaled four runs on seven hits and one error. Brookshire fell to 4-4 on the season after allowing seven runs on eight hits and walking two batters. Hamblen led the Bruins at the plate, going three-for-three with two doubles and three runs scored. Woods added two hits, including the two run home run.
Stetson finished with seven runs on 11 hits and one error. Lindsey Caughel picked up the win, improving to 6-1 after allowing only three earned runs on seven hits. Jake Boyd went two innings in relief, allowing no hits and no runs, striking out three.
These two teams will play two more games over the next two days, beginning with a Friday contest set for 5:30 p.m. CT. If the Bruins win both tilts, they will clinch a berth in the A-Sun Tournament. If they win one over the Hatters, they will need Lipscomb to beat FGCU in one of their final two contests in Fort Myers. If BU loses both of the remaining games, the Bruins will need the Bisons to take the final two contests against the Eagles.