OXFORD, Ala. – No. 3 Belmont baseball put together a complete outing to fly by No. 2 Morehead State, 11-6, and secure its first-ever spot in the OVC Championship game Saturday afternoon at Choccolocco Park.
All nine Bruins to take the plate registered at least one hit as they collectively registered a season-best 17 on the day. Six players recorded multi-hit performances highlighted by a 3-for-5 outing by redshirt-freshman Matt Cogen (Franklin, Tenn.) and three RBIs from junior Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) who launched his second dinger of the year.
The Bruins used a combination of small ball and power to produce an explosive second inning, plating five runs on six hits. Sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) got things started with a leadoff single before the squad laid down three consecutive bunts to score their first run. From then on Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry Fla.) collected an RBI single and kept a pair of Bruins on board for Conger to launch a three-run bomb over the left field fence and put Belmont up, 5-0.
Morehead State refused to go down quietly as they used a trio of runs in the next two innings to make it a two-run game, 5-3. The Eagles pushed one across on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second and then scored two more in the next stanza. One of those runs came from Niko Hulsizer who launched his 27th home run of the season, breaking an OVC record for homers in a single season.
Starting hurler Casey Queener (Brentwood, Tenn.) settled in after the third and retired 11 of the next 13 Eagles he faced and only relinquishing two hits in that span. While Queener worked on Morehead State, Belmont continued to stay hot at the plate with a three-run frame in the fifth to extend their advantage, 8-3. The Bruins started the inning by lacing four consecutive base shots, scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded. Hadden delivered the fourth single that scored senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) with a wild pitch tacking on the second run for BU. Senior Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) drove in the third run on the team's fourth base knock.
While Belmont's bats quieted down for the next three innings, Queener was responsible for silencing Morehead's for a career-best 7.2 frames. The righty gave up 10 hits but only allowed a couple of those to score any runs for the Eagles as he forced them to put four scoreless stanzas before MSU found an answer. The Eagles scored a pair of runs on back-to-back singles in the home half of the eighth to bring themselves within three, 8-5.
Senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) continued to come up clutch as he sparked a two-out rally in the ninth with a double to shallow centerfield. Belmont went on to score three insurance runs on two hits and a pair of walks to solidify the 11-6 victory.
Belmont plays No. 1 Tennessee Tech at 4:30 p.m. in the OVC Championship game.