DELAND, Fla. – The Belmont baseball team (32-24, 17-13) defeated #17 Stetson (40-16, 23-7) by a score of 11-5 on Saturday afternoon, handing the Hatters their first Atlantic Sun Conference series loss of the season with two Bruin victories on the weekend. Belmont earns a spot in the A-Sun Playoffs after missing out a year ago, and will be the sixth seed in next week's tournament.
Senior Nate Woods (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) had not pitched a conference contest since April 2nd, when he allowed nine runs on 10 hits in three and two thirds innings pitched in a 13-2 loss to Jacksonville. The captain fell to 2-5 on the mound in that tilt, and has yet to lose a game since then. Before today, Woods had won three straight contests, all coming of the non-conference midweek variety.
Head Coach Dave Jarvis made the decision to give the ball to his senior captain in this quasi must win situation. Woods continued his recent success, earning his fourth straight win after allowing only two runs on four hits and striking out four Stetson batters to lead the Bruins to the 11-5 victory.
The Bruins scored first, just as they did in the first two meetings between these two squads. Senior Derek Hamblen (Plano, Texas) led off the game with a single through the infield, and then scored when senior Matt Zeblo (Raleigh, N.C.) reached base on an error by the Stetson third baseman.
After allowing the Hatters to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom half of the first, Belmont took the lead and extended it to 6-1 over their next two times at the plate. Sophomore Jared Breen (Marietta, Ga.) walked, junior Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) singled to center, and then Hamblen singled to right center, driving in Breen.
Hamblen's second hit of the contest gave him 71 on the season and 281 for his career, making him the all-time leader in career hits at Belmont. He passed former Bruin Wilson Tucker, who totaled 280 during his career from 2004-07. BU scored one more in the second after a ground out by junior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) drove in Mitchell.
It was two straight doubles that got things started for Belmont in the third. Senior Tim Egerton (Smyrna, Tenn.) doubled to left field, recording his 16th of the season. Freshman Greg Brody (Dacula, Ga.) then tallied his team-leading 18th double of the year, scoring Egerton on the play. After a single by sophomore Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.), Breen and Mitchell drove in the next two runs to make it 6-1, with a fielder's choice and an error, respectively.
After the Hatters scored one in the bottom of the third and an empty fourth, the Bruins were back at it in the fifth putting two more runs on the board, making it 8-2. Akers doubled to deep center field to drive in Brody, who had reached on an error in the previous at bat. Akers then scored on a single to center by Mitchell.
The excitement was not over then, as BU put another run on the board in the seventh. Junior Garrett Fanchier (Lebanon, Tenn.) relieved Woods on the mound in the bottom of the sixth, keeping the Hatters off the board, and after Brody led off the seventh with a single, Fanchier came to the plate for his first at bat of the season. The relief pitcher laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, advancing Brody to second. The second baseman advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored to make it 9-2 when Mitchell reached on yet another error by Stetson.
Still holding a 9-2 lead, Belmont gave up three runs in the eighth making in 9-5 in favor of the Bruins. Belmont then added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth, giving BU an 11-5 lead. After Brody reached on yet another Hatter error, sophomore Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) stepped into the batter's box to pinch hit. Turner tripled to right center field in his first at bat of the series, driving in Brody. Mitchell then recorded his third RBI of the day, scoring Breen, who singled to left after the Turner triple.
Senior Jon Ivie (Summertown, Tenn.) then entered the game to close it out for the Bruins. Two ground outs to Brody at second, a walk, and a fly out later, and the Bruins were in the A-Sun Conference Tournament with the 11-5 victory.
Belmont finished with 11 runs on 12 hits and one error. Woods picked up his career-best sixth win of the season after allowing two runs, only one of which was earned, on four hits and four strikeouts. Hamblen led the Bruins with three hits, while Brody, Akers, and Mitchell each tallied two in the win.
Stetson totaled five runs on 11 hits and eight errors. Austin Perez fell to 2-2 on the season after allowing five runs on five hits in two and one third innings pitched. The Hatters were led at the plate by Spencer Theisen and Mitchel Brennan with two hits a piece.
With the win over #17 Stetson, Belmont earns the six seed in next week's A-Sun Tournament. The Bruins will square off with the first ranked Hatters for the fourth straight game on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. CT at Lipscomb University. Second seed Jacksonville will take on fifth seeded ETSU, while third seeded Kennesaw State will play fourth seeded Mercer.