NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont baseball team (15-9, 3-1 A-Sun) picked up right where it left off last season against Stetson (15-7, 0-1 A-Sun). The Bruins defeated the No. 15 ranked Hatters by a score of 23-4 on Friday evening, which felt slightly like the 15-3 Belmont victory over Stetson in the first game of last year's Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
BU continued its recent success against the Hatters with 23 runs on 26 hits, including 12 runs and 15 hits on 2011 A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Kurt Schluter. The 20 mile per hour winds gusting out to left field were a factor in this one as the Bruins were able to get on Schluter early, taking a 7-2 lead with three home runs, after just two innings of play.
"Our kids stayed within themselves," Head Coach Dave Jarvis said. "They were hitting the ball where it was pitched, squaring it up, and a lot of good things are going to happen when you put in quality at bats."
A double by senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) led off the Belmont attack. A single by senior Dylan Craig, (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and a home run by junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.) put the Bruins up 2-0 after one inning.
The Hatters fought back early, scoring their only two runs off of Belmont starter junior Chase Brookshire (Chattanooga, Tenn.) with a pair of solo homers in the top of the second. BU countered with a huge five-run second, which included singles by junior Jared Breen (Marietta, Ga.) and Craig, and a pair of two-run homers by sophomores William Dodd (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Greg Brody (Dacula, Ga.).
After an empty third frame, Belmont put this one away with another five run inning in the bottom of the fourth. After Schluter retired the first Bruin to the plate, eight straight Belmont batters reached base safely causing Stetson to finally take its ace off the mound.
Craig singled for the third time in as many plate appearances to start the rally. Brody then recorded a two-run homer for the second straight time at bat. Singles by Akers, freshman Matt Beaty (Dresden, Tenn.), and Dodd sandwiched a double by junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.), a hit by pitch for Breen, and a walk by freshman Jamie Ritchie (Buford, Ga.).
Belmont took a 12-2 lead into the fifth, which is when the wheels came off for Stetson reliever Drew Jackson. The Bruins scored nine runs on seven hits, including doubles by Akers and Beaty to give BU a 21-2 lead. BU tallied its final two runs of the game when Breen doubled and Dodd drove him in with his second two-run homer of the game in the sixth.
The Belmont offensive effort on Friday was something special, especially against a pitcher who came in with a streak of 13 consecutive wins, a current NCAA best. Before tonight, Schluter had not taken a loss since April 20, 2010 against South Florida.
Not overshadowed, though, was the pitching performance by Brookshire, who held the Hatters to just two runs on six hits. The Belmont ace struck out four and walked none as he improved to 3-1 on the season before handing the ball over to junior reliever Tim Bowles (Hendersonville, Tenn.) for the final two innings of play. At one point, from the second through the fifth inning, Brookshire retired 11 straight Stetson batters.
"I really thought that under some difficult weather circumstances, Chase maintained his composure and pitched really well," Jarvis commented.
With the win over No. 15 Stetson, Belmont took the lead in the all-time series, 17-16, and is now 14-4 against the Hatters since 2007. The Bruins' 23 runs were the most since defeating UT-Martin 24-3 on May 11, 2011. It also marked the first time Stetson has given up 20 runs since 2005, and the worst loss for the Hatters since 1999.
A number of Bruins had outstanding individual days at the plate. Brody and Dodd each recorded two home runs and six total runs batted in. The former went three-for-four with four runs scored, while the latter went four-for-five. Aker, Beaty, and Turner each tallied three hits in the contest, and all nine starters recorded at least one hit.
Craig, who went four-for-six on the day, tallied his 287th, 288th, 289th, and 290th career hits in the win. His final hit in the game tied him with former Belmont star Derek Hamblen as the all-time leader in career hits at Belmont University. The Bruin center fielder's next hit will make him the all-time hit leader in Belmont Baseball history.
"Dylan's day was a tribute to his entire career," Jarvis said. "He did exactly what he's done for going on four years now. He runs extremely well, he hits the ball where it's pitched, and he has a tremendous approach at the plate. That's why he is now tied as the career hits leader here at Belmont."
"I think we came out with the right mentality, that we wanted this win," Craig said of the win. "Now our job is to wipe it clean, and come out as 0-0 tomorrow."
The two teams will play in game two of the weekend series on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The game will feature live audio on the Bruin Sports Network and will be streamed live on ASun.TV.