NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - To honor Belmont University Athletics' vast achievements over its 20 years as an NCAA Division I member institution, BelmontBruins.com continues its list of the Top 20 moments and accomplishments over the last two decades.
Today, we unveil moment No. 6 - the 2011 baseball season.
Of all the memorable seasons, singular moments, and postseason runs of the last 20 years, perhaps no late-season run better epitomizes the spirit and resiliency of Belmont University Athletics than 2011 Belmont Baseball.
On the morning of May 15, Belmont stood in sixth place in a deep and competitive Atlantic Sun Conference race, having just dropped the opening two games of its final homestand against Florida Gulf Coast.
That afternoon, Belmont defeated the Eagles, 4-3, with Jon Ivie closing out the game on a play at the plate from catcher Matt Zeblo.
With the momentum boost, Belmont still needed to win two out of three games at conference leader and nationally-ranked (No. 17) Stetson to slide into the conference tournament.
And despite dropping the series opener with ace Chase Brookshire on the hill, the Bruins got huge performances from Matt Hamann and Nate Woods to win the final two games of the series and clinch the sixth and final seed.
The Bruins' reward was a rematch with Stetson four days later to open the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
With the tournament in Nashville - right down Belmont Boulevard at Lipscomb - Bruin fans got to jump aboard this Hollywood story.
Coach Jarvis turned to Hamann to open the tournament, and the junior hurler went six strong innings. Meanwhile, Belmont bats roughed up Stetson starter and future Los Angeles Dodgers draft choice Lindsey Caughel.
Zeblo, Tim Egerton, Greg Brody, Judah Akers, and Zac Mitchell all had multi-hit games as the Bruins won, 15-3.
Brookshire then backed it up with a complete game victory over Kennesaw State, 4-1, to send Belmont another win closer to the NCAA Tournament.
Then in the winner's bracket swing game, Belmont battled Mercer into the late innings. Mercer tied the score, 4-4, with one run in the bottom of the eighth inning, setting the stage for one of the great moments in program history.
With two outs in the Bruin ninth, Derek Hamblen hit a towering, two-run home run to lift Belmont to a 6-4 win.
The following afternoon, Belmont and Mercer would meet again for the Atlantic Sun Championship.
Hamblen continued his torrid pace, opening the game with a double to spark a five-run Bruin first.
After Mercer closed within 7-6, Blake Harvey and Garrett Fanchier supplied solid relief pitching, with Ivie getting a 3-1 putout to close the game and send Belmont into pure jubilation.
Within two weeks time, Belmont had gone from the outside looking in to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins would again stay close to home, playing in the 2011 Vanderbilt regional at Hawkins Field. Belmont opened with Oklahoma State, a storied program boasting 20 trips to the College World Series.
As was the case throughout the season, Belmont got clutch pitching performances.
Brookshire pitched eight innings of two-hit baseball and Ivie sealed the deal as Belmont defeated the Cowboys, 3-2, for Belmont's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, in any sport.
The dream run continued as Belmont churned out a 5-2 victory over Sun Belt Champion Troy to advance to the regional championship.
And though the host Commodores would keep Belmont from advancing to Super Regionals, nothing could take away from what the Bruins had accomplised.
A magical time indeed.