KENNESAW, Ga. – The Belmont baseball team (27-15, 12-5) evened the weekend series at one game apiece, defeating Kennesaw State (25-17, 11-6) by a score of 11-1 on Saturday afternoon in Kennesaw. Senior captain Matt Hamann (Northbrook, Ill.) allowed just one run on eight hits in his team-leading third complete game of the season.
Hamann was solid on the mound, only allowing the Owls to record one inning of more than four batters. The right-hander struck out six batters and didn't walk any, as he improved to 3-4 on the season. "It was pretty special being able to play for first place against a great opponent like Kennesaw State," Hamann said. "It was huge to have our offense start early like that, which allowed me to continue to go out there and do whatever I had to in order to help us win."
After failing to take advantage of a pair of singles in the first, Belmont got on the board with three hits in the top of the second inning. Junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.) recorded his fourth single of the series, and senior Phillip Parsley (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) tallied a single of his own to put two on for the Bruins.
Kennesaw starter Zak Griffth got a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but then freshman Scott Moses (Englewood, Tenn.) walked to load the bases. Senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) then put Belmont on the board with a two-run double down the left field line. Moses ended the second-inning scoring, coming home as junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) reached on an error to make it 3-0.
"This was a really big win," Mitchell said. "Last night we couldn't quite put a whole game together, but today we really did." The second baseman went on to talk about the opportunities the back of the lineup gave him. "It's huge for the guys at the bottom of the lineup. It's nice having them on base so that the top of the lineup can produce for us."
The Owls scored one in the bottom of the second, before Belmont increased its lead to 6-1 on three innings during the third and fourth. Freshman Matt Beaty (Dresden, Tenn.) pulled one and hit it well over the right field wall for his fourth home run of the season in the third inning. The solo shot tied Beaty for the team lead with four homers on the year.
The two fourth inning runs came courtesy of two singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a Kennesaw State wild pitch. Freshman Jamie Ritchie (Buford, Ga.) led off the frame with a single to center field, and then advanced to second when Moses laid down a perfectly executed bunt. Mitchell drove in Ritchie on a single through the infield, and later scored on a wild pitch by Griffith.
The Bruins broke open Saturday's game with five runs in the sixth. Three straight singles by Parsley, Ritchie, and Moses, the third of which was of the bunt variety, loaded the bases early in the frame. Mitchell drove in a run on a fielder's choice, and Turner loaded the bases after reaching on an error.
The bases were quickly emptied on a three-run triple by senior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), giving the Bruins a 10-1 lead over the Owls. It marked the center fielder's third triple of the season, and it increased his Belmont career record to 23. Craig then came around to score on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Greg Brody (Dacula, Ga.).
Belmont finished with 11 runs on 15 hits and no errors. Hamann improved to 3-4 after allowing just one run on eight hits, while striking out six and walking none in the complete game. Mitchell went two-for-four with four RBI and two runs scored. Craig, Akers, Parsley, Ritchie and Moses all added two hits in the win.
"It was a character game for us," Head Coach Dave Jarvis said about the win. "It was a rebound game where we had to come out and show how we were going to deal with the unfortunate circumstances of last night. We felt like it was an opportunity for us to step up and make a statement about who we were, and where our hearts were at. I felt like our kids responded extremely well, and did a great job today."
Kennesaw State totaled just one run on eight hits and three errors. Griffith fell to 4-2 on the year after allowing 11 runs, nine of which were earned, on 12 hits, while striking out two and walking one. Ronnie Freeman and Chris McGowan led the Owls with two hits each in the defeat.
The two teams will return to action on Sunday in the final game of the series. Sophomore James Buckelew (Lawrenceville, Ga.) is scheduled to start for the Bruins, and the first pitch is set for 12:00 p.m. CT.