NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont baseball team (26-13, 11-4 A-Sun) defeated Western Kentucky (14-22, 6-9 Sun Belt) by a score of 7-0 on Tuesday night in Nashville. Freshman Dan Ludwig (Naperville, Ill.) recorded his fourth straight quality outing, striking out five and walking none in eight innings of shutout baseball.
"He continues to develop, and he continues to gain more and more poise out there on the mound," Head Coach Dave Jarvis said of Ludwig. "We had a couple of defensive mishaps behind him tonight, and he maintained his poise, and was able to pitch right through them. I thought it was a tremendous outing, and I'm really happy for him."
Ludwig allowed a single and then hit a batter to put two men on in the first inning, but after getting the next two Hilltoppers to ground out, he found his rhythm. The left-hander scattered six hits over his final seven innings of work, taking the Belmont shutout into the ninth inning.
"It was really a matter of getting into a good tempo, quickening up, and getting that rhythm," Ludwig said following the win. "It definitely feels good to have a few successful outings. It has certainly given me more confidence on the mound."
Beginning with his start at Austin Peay on April 3, Ludwig has allowed just three earned runs in 17.2 innings. He has recorded two wins and a save, while striking out 16 and walking none during the stretch of four appearances on the mound.
"Dan really stepped up and pitched big today," senior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) said of his teammate. "He took on the role of a leader in getting ahead in counts, and letting them hit the ball. He did everything he was supposed to out there."
Ludwig and junior Jessie Snodgrass (Lebanon, Tenn.), who closed out the ninth with a scoreless frame, benefited from rough start on the mound by Western Kentucky's Ian Tompkins. The Bruins came into the game with the fourth most hit by pitches in the nation, and Tompkins helped add to that total with the first two at bats for Belmont.
Senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) and junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) were each hit by Tompkins pitches to lead off what ended up as a four-run inning for Belmont in the first. For Mitchell it marked the 22nd time he has been hit by a pitch. His 21 hit by pitches coming into the week were already a Belmont single-season record, were leading the Atlantic Sun Conference, and were fourth in the nation.
The scoring in the inning came thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Craig, two wild pitches, a passed ball, and three walks. After batting around, Belmont took a 4-0 lead into the second. Things didn't get any easier for Western Kentucky there, as two walks and a single by Craig led off the frame. After Brennan Pearson relieved Tompkins, the Hilltoppers allowed just one run on an RBI ground out by junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.).
The only other Belmont scoring in the game came in the fourth inning. Turner walked and then stole his 11th base of the season. Craig then came to bat and hit a shot to left center field for his second triple of the season. Turner scored on the play, and Craig tallied his 22nd career triple, the most ever by a Belmont player. The senior also came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Akers.
"I just look to keep getting better every game," Craig said after breaking yet another Bruin record. "Hopefully as the season progresses I can continue to step up to lead the team, and help us any way that I can." Craig is already the career hits leader at Belmont, and is in the top ten in a number of other categories.
Belmont finished with seven runs on just four hits and one error. Ludwig improved to 2-4 on the season after allowing seven hits, striking out five and walking none in eight innings of shutout baseball. Craig went two-for-four on the night, while Akers drove in a pair of runs to lead the Bruins at the plate.
Western Kentucky was shutout on nine hits and no errors. Tompkins fell to 2-2 on the year after allowing five earned runs on only one hit, but walked six and hit two. Jared Andreoli and Ryan Huck tallied two hits each, including a double by the latter.
Belmont will play at Tennessee Tech on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. before returning to A-Sun action at Kennesaw State this weekend. Wednesday's game can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network, and live stats will be available at TTUSports.com.