Softball Gets First Win of the Season Against IUPUI, Falls to Austin Peay
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - The Belmont softball team rode a strong hitting performance from junior Ashley Byers and a solid pitching effort by sophomore Devon Schmidt to earn their first win of the season against IUPUI on Sunday afternoon. The Bruins won 6-3 in dramatic fashion, scoring three runs in the top half of the seventh inning and then holding on defensively to earn their first win of 2011. Belmont was unable to duplicate the feat in the second game of the night, falling 9-5 to Austin Peay.
The move to Columbia State Community College was a comfortable one for Byers who homered three times on Sunday and once on Saturday. The junior already holds the school's Division I record for home runs in a season with 10 in 2010. With four recorded in the opening weekend, Byers is on pace to break her own record in very short order. After recording a solo home run for the only hit in Belmont's first game of the season against Wright State on Saturday, Byers followed up that performance with a three-home day on Sunday, including two against Austin Peay. Her first home run of the day was a go-ahead run against IUPUI while her second provided the winning runs for Belmont in the seventh inning.
Belmont trailed against the Jaguars entering the top of the sixth inning before Byers' solo home run tied the game at two. Sophomore Becca Gift followed Byers' home run with a single up the middle and a stolen base to put herself in scoring position. After advancing to third on an illegal pitch, Gift scored on a sacrifice fly from junior Stayci Cook to give the Bruins their first lead of the game. During the home half of the inning, IUPUI manufactured a tying the game at three apiece heading into the top of the final inning. Belmont continued to hit the ball well and the first two runners of the inning reached safely. Junior Hannah Irwin, one of the Bruins' most consistent players, opened the inning with a single to center field before freshman MJ Lawson advanced the runner on a bunt-single, putting junior Cassie Bollin, who pinch-ran for Irwin, in scoring position. After an IUPUI conference in the pitcher's circle, Byers stepped up to bat and sent the first pitch she saw off the scoreboard in right center field for a three-run home run that gave the Bruins the lead.
With a three run lead, Belmont turned to its defense to secure the win. After a rough start to the season in the first game against Wright State, sophomore Devon Schmidt bounced back on Sunday, giving up only one earned run and nine hits against IUPUI. No inning was more impressive than the final inning when Schmidt recovered from giving up a lead-off single to record outs on three of the next four batters while surrendering only one free pass in the inning. With 29 batters faced in the game, Schmidt walked only three and struck out four to earn her first win of the season.
After showing much improvement in the first game of the day against Wright State, Belmont faltered against Austin Peay in the final game of the tournament. Pitching was once again a struggle for the Bruins as freshman Mia Vierra surrendered two runs in the first inning to start the game in an 0-2 hole. Vierra pitched her way to the first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the second inning before struggling in the third inning and giving up a three-run home run followed by a solo home run to APSU. The Lady Govs added another run in the sixth inning and were able to protect the lead until the bottom of the sixth inning when Belmont finally got on the board on Byers' third home run of the day, a solo shot to cut the lead to 7-1. The Bruins scored once more in the sixth inning and then scored twice in the seventh inning to keep things exciting before ultimately falling 2-9. Sophomore Courtney Elrod and Byers also saw time in the pitcher's circle.
For the weekend, Belmont got a strong performance from Byers, who finished with a .429 batting average and six hits in 14 at bats, including four home runs and nine RBIs. The Bruins also got solid play from freshman Ashley Hammer, who finished with a .333 batting average and recorded four hits in her first games at Belmont. The freshman was also 2-2 on stolen base attempts.
Up next for the Bruins is a road trip to Clarksville to compete in the Austin Peay State Tournament next weekend, Feb. 19-20. Belmont will face Ball State at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19th. The Bruins will also play UMKC at 3 p.m. on Saturday. For Sunday's games, Belmont will meet Cleveland State at 1 p.m. for the first ever meeting between the two programs and then have a rematch with Austin Peay in the final game of the weekend at 5 p.m.