NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) came through twice in the ninth inning to lead the Belmont baseball team (32-21) over Austin Peay (32-20) on Tuesday evening. It marked the Bruins 32nd win of the season, tying the program record for regular season victories with three games remaining.
With two outs, but also one man on first in the top half of the ninth, Austin Peay's Jordan Hankins hit a shot to right field. The ball seemed to be destined to reach the fence in the right field corner, but Turner sprinted to the warning track and made a leaping grab to end the ninth inning, and prevent the possible go ahead run for the Governors.
Freshman Matthew Kinney (Alpharetta, Ga.), with only five at bats to his name in this his first season as a Bruin, came to the plate as a pinch hitter to lead off the bottom of the ninth. The rookie got ahead in the count, and eventually worked Peay closer Tyler Rogers into walking him for the first Belmont base runner of the frame.
Returning to the field for the first time since injuring his hand in a game against Tennessee Tech on April 10, junior Jared Breen (Marietta, Ga.) followed Kinney in the batting order after entering the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh. The Belmont shortstop laid down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to advance Kinney to scoring position.
The Governors decided to intentionally walk senior Dylan Craig (Shelbyville, Tenn.) in order to face Turner with two men on base and one out. It was a long at bat, as the right fielder continually fouled off pitches after picking up two early strikes. He worked the count to 2-2, and finally sent one to right field, driving in Kinney and giving the Bruins a 4-3 victory.
"It was fun," Turner said about his walk-off single. "I'm not sure how many times I've done that in my career, so it felt good." The junior went on to talk about the at bat in general, saying "It was a grind. [Head] Coach [Dave] Jarvis preaches two-strike battles all the time, so I stuck with it, and stayed confident in myself."
It was a big win for the Bruins, who were 2-4 in their last six games and snakebitten to an extent in dropping the previous four Atlantic Sun Conference series. Belmont will take on rival Lipscomb this weekend in the final conference series of the regular season, attempting to first clinch a berth to the league playoffs, and then head into the tournament with momentum.
Momentum should be on BU's side, as the Bruins topped Ohio Valley Conference leading Austin Peay for the second time this season. It marked the first time Belmont swept the Govs in a two-game series since the 2000 season.
"We've been on the wrong end of a lot of one-run games lately, and it's good to finally get one to go our way," Turner said. "The last couple of weeks we haven't been playing with the same swagger we had most of the year, so it's good to get back going into this [final regular season] weekend."
Belmont benefitted from another strong start from freshman Dan Ludwig (Naperville, Ill.). The left-hander pitched four innings of shutout baseball, which allowed the Bruins to take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Ludwig allowed just two hits, struck out two batters, and walked one in the no decision.
The Bruins' fourth inning rally began when senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) walked. He then reached second on a single by freshman Matt Beaty (Dresden, Tenn.). The two infielders then advanced to third and second, respectively, on a double steal.
Junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.) drove in the first run of the game on a ground out to the second baseman, who was not able to stop Mitchell from scoring. The Bruins made it 2-0 in the fourth when freshman Alec Diamond (Kennesaw, Ga.) tallied one of two doubles on the night, allowing Beaty to score from third.
After the Govs scored two in the fifth inning to tie the game, Belmont allowed another run in the seventh, losing the lead for the first time on Tuesday night. The Bruins needed a single run in the eighth to tie the game before the ninth-inning heroics ended the contest.
A Beaty single to right field was followed by a single from Akers down the right field line, which advanced Beaty to third base. The freshman then scored, tying the game at 3-3, when Diamond reached on a fielder's choice.
Freshman Scott Moses (Englewood, Tenn.), who played seven innings at shortstop and one in left field, came in to pitch the top of the ninth. The right-hander worked the first two Austin Peay batters into a ground out and a pop out, before walking Jon Clinard on four pitches. Moses then received the help from Turner's catch out in right field to end the frame.
The Bruins finished with four runs on eight hits and one error. Moses improved to 2-2 on the season after allowing no runs on no hits in the final inning of play. Beaty and Diamond both recorded two-hit games at the plate. The former scored two runs, while the latter drove in a pair to lead the Belmont offense.
Austin Peay totaled three runs on eight hits and no errors. Rogers fell to 3-3 on the season after allowing one run on one hit and two walks in the final one third of an inning for the Govs. Tyler Childress led APSU at the plate with a three-for-three day and a run scored.
Belmont will next host Lipscomb in the final series of the regular season. The first game will be Thursday at 5:00 p.m., followed by another 5:00 p.m. contest on Friday, and a 1:00 p.m. finale on Saturday.