Game of Inches; Bruins Drop Regional Opener to Oregon State, 2-1

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Belmont baseball team (39-23) came just a few inches short of defeating Oregon State (39-18) in the opener of the 2012 NCAA Regional Championship in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon.  A pair of just barely foul balls which had the potential to put the Bruins ahead, and a safety squeeze bunt by the Beavers that did stay just fair and drove in the eventual winning run, gave OSU a 2-1 victory over Belmont.

The Beavers struck first in this one, taking advantage of a leadoff double and a walk by junior Chase Brookshire (Chattanooga, Tenn.).  Ryan Barnes doubled to right field, and eventually scored after reaching third on a sac bunt by Ryan Gorton and a sacrifice fly by Kavin Keyes.

The Bruins got their first real scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth after a couple of the OSU players thought they had retired the side with a second-out strike out of junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.).  The Beavers had to record one more out though, and it took the team four batters to do it.

Freshman Alec Diamond (Kennesaw, Ga.) started the two-out rally with Belmont's second hit of the game, connecting on a single to center field.  Junior Jared Breen (Marietta, Ga.) followed it up with a single to center of his own.

Senior Phillip Parsley (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) then put forth a marathon of an at bat in which he almost drove in both base runners on two separate occasions.  The designated hitter worked the count full, hit one long ball just foul to left and one just foul to right, but finished with a walk to load the bases for the Bruins.  Unfortunately, a fly out to right ended the Belmont rally.

It was the next inning in which BU did get on the board, tying the game at 1-1 in the top of the fifth.  Senior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) did what he has done more than any Belmont Bruin and anyone in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The center fielder tripled down the right field line to open the frame.  It was his fourth of the season, and the 24th of his career.  After a ground out to third base did nothing for the Bruins, a subsequent ground out by senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) – this time to short stop – drove Craig in from third to tie the game.

As the Belmont offense began putting some things together at the plate, Brookshire continued to move quickly on the mound.  The left-hander recorded two straight perfect innings during the fourth and fifth, allowing only one run on one hit through five innings.

For the second time in the contest, Oregon State opened an inning with a double.  Just the Beavers' second hit of the game, Joey Matthews' double to right center began another OSU rally in the sixth.  A ground out to first advanced Matthews to third, and a bunt single along the first base line drove in the run to give Oregon State a 2-1 lead heading to the seventh.

The bunt by Ryan Barnes was a safety squeeze attempt by the Beavers.  The ball made its way down the first base line, and first baseman Akers analyzed the situation, figuring that allowing the ball to roll foul would be Belmont's best chance to get out of the inning unscathed.  Matthews was most likely going to score from third whether Akers made a play on the ball or not, as Barnes laid down an excellent bunt.  Unfortunately for the Bruins, the ball never rolled foul, barely stayed in fair territory, and hit the first base bag, allowing everyone to be safe.  

The Bruins had chances to tie the game back up, receiving singles by junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) and Diamond in the seventh and eighth inning, respectively, but Belmont couldn't take advantage of the opportunities.  The Bruins stranded nine runners throughout the entire game.

Oregon State left Belmont hitless in the ninth, and held on for the 2-1 victory to open the regional tournament.  The Beavers totaled two runs on just three hits with no errors.  Tony Bryant improved to 6-2 on the season after allowing no runs on one hit in 1.2 innings of relief.  Barnes tallied two of the three hits and drove in one to lead OSU at the plate.

Belmont finished with one run on six hits, and recorded one error.  Brookshire, after allowing just two runs on three hits and striking out three, fell to 8-4 on the season with the loss.  Junior Josh Davis (Fayetteville, Ga.) pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief.  Diamond led Belmont at the plate with a pair of singles.

"If you are a fan in the stands you got to enjoy a tremendous college baseball game," Head Coach Jarvis said following the game.  "What a pitching performance these two left-handers went out to give us at the beginning of the day."

The Bruins will play La.-Monroe in day two action of the Baton Rouge Regional Championship.  The game, featuring senior captain Matt Hamann (Northbrook, Ill.) on the mound, is set to begin at 2:07 p.m. on Saturday.

"We have a lot of resolve on this team," Jarvis continued.  "There is work to be done tomorrow.  If we can take that first step, then the next step gets a little bit easier, and so on from there.  We believe we have a pretty solid pitching staff, and a very strong bullpen, to put us in a position to try to [make it back to the final]."