NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont baseball team (6-5) earned its fourth victory in its last five games, defeating Butler (3-7) by a score of 8-2 to win the three game series on Sunday afternoon.
"We've won four out of our last five," Head Coach Dave Jarvis said following the game. "A big key to that success is that we've continued to have good pitching, we've continued to play good defense, and now our offense has ignited."
A huge part of the offensive outburst has been senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.). The second baseman went three-for-four with two runs scored, two RBI, a stolen base, and his first home run of the season. In his second season with the Bruins, Mitchell leads Belmont with a .500 batting average, two triples, a .794 slugging percentage, .605 on base percentage, and five stolen bases.
"He has become the straw that stirs our drink," Jarvis said. "He does a tremendous job of getting hit by a pitch, drawing a walk, hitting a double, or hitting a home run for us, like he did today. He steals a bag, he moves up on a pitch in the dirt when we need it. All of those factors have allowed our offense to come around the way it has over the past few games."
It was Mitchell who led off the three-run third inning with a bunt single to get the rally started. He advanced to second on a single down the left field line by senior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), and then scored on a double to left by junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.).
In the sixth inning, as Belmont held a 6-1 advantage over the Bulldogs, Mitchell came up big again. After freshman Jamie Ritchie (Buford, Ga.) singled to center field, the Bruin second baseman drove him in on his first homer of the season. Although it was only his third career home run, that kind of power is something we are familiar with after watching Mitchell hit a similar shot against Mercer in last year's Atlantic Sun Tournament (5/27).
The improved play by the Belmont offense would have gone for naught without Sunday's starting pitching performance by sophomore James Buckelew (Lawrenceville, Ga.). The left-hander went seven innings, allowing no earned runs on five hits, while striking out five Bulldogs and walking just one.
"James's talent level is so high," Jarvis said following Buckelew's day on the mound. "He gives us a great level of ability, a great mentality, and a good set of pitches out there on the mound. There is no surprise at the success he has had here in the early going."
His successful start is something to share. Through three starts Buckelew owns an ERA of 0.50, allowing just one earned run in 18.0 innings. The sophomore improved to 3-0 on the mound after handing the ball over to freshman Scott Moses (Englewood, Tenn.) and senior Garrett Fanchier (Lebanon, Tenn.) to close out the game.
Belmont's pitching was given some room to breathe early in the contest, as the Bruin offense put up two runs in the bottom of the second. Akers walked to lead off the inning, but was then forced out at second as freshman Matt Beaty (Dresden, Tenn.), who later doubled to cap off the scoring in the third inning, reached on a fielder's choice. Junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) then hit a long home run over the left field fence to drive in the first two Belmont runs of the game. It was his second homer of the season, which leads the team.
Belmont finished with eight runs on 10 hits and one error. Butler totaled two runs on eight hits and one error. Buckelew improved to 3-0 with the win, while the Bulldogs' Kevin Lenkman fell to 0-1 with the loss after allowing six runs in five innings pitched.
The Bruins will next host Vanderbilt on Tuesday, March 6 at 4:00 p.m. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean will be throwing out the first pitch at approximately 3:45 p.m. Check back on Monday for more details.