DELAND, Fla. – The Belmont baseball team (36-22) fell to third seeded Kennesaw State (32-24) by a score of 3-1 in day two action at the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament on Thursday. With the defeat, the Bruins now face elimination in every contest throughout the championship, beginning with a 10:00 a.m. CT game against the loser of Mercer and FGCU on Friday in DeLand.
UPDATE: FGCU defeated Mercer 4-3 on a walk-off single, so Belmont will play fifth seeded Mercer Friday morning. If the Bruins win, they will take on FGCU at 6:00 p.m. CT Friday night. Winning that game will send BU to Saturday's Championship.
Following nine straight retired by Belmont senior starter Matt Hamann (Northbrook, Ill.) to start the game, the Owls struck first by scoring one run on three singles in the fourth. Aaron Dobbs and Peyton Hart led off the frame with singles to right center field and through the infield, respectively. Ronnie Freeman then put Kennesaw State on the board with an RBI single to left field.
The Bruins later evened the score at 1-1, taking advantage of a couple of Owl errors in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Phillip Parsley (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) led off the inning by reaching on an error by third baseman Ethan Herron, who misjudged the ground ball.
The left fielder then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Jamie Ritchie (Buford, Ga.). Herron recorded his second error of the inning on the play, allowing Ritchie to reach safely at first. Belmont finally scored its first run of the game as senior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) drove in Parsley on a fielder's choice.
Kennesaw State regained the advantage in the seventh when a leadoff walk by Hamann came back to hurt the Bruins. Max Pentecost walked on four pitches, and then stole second as the Bruin pitcher struck out Chris McGowan on the next at bat.
After a line out for the second of the inning, the Owls' Herron made up for his fifth inning errors with an RBI single to right field that gave KSU a 2-1 lead. Junior captain Drew Turner's (Shelbyville, Tenn.) throw from right field had a chance to get Pentecost at the plate, but it was a bit high and the Kennesaw designated hitter slid in just under the tag.
Belmont allowed the Owls to add an insurance run in the eighth to increase the Bruin deficit to 3-1. Hamann walked Andy Almonte, who eventually came around to score on a single by Pentecost to center field. Almonte had reached second on a wild pitch by Hamann.
The Bruins threatened Kennesaw State on a couple occasions, including the bottom of the ninth when Belmont put its first two batters on. Craig singled up the middle to lead off the frame, and Turner walked before senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) advanced the runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt. The Owls were able to finish with a fielder's choice and a ground out to third to come away with the 3-1 win and avoid elimination.
The Bruins finished with one run on six hits and no errors, leaving 13 runners on base. Hamann fell to 4-6 on the season after allowing three runs on seven hits, while striking out five and walking four. Senior Garrett Fanchier (Lebanon, Tenn.) pitched the final 1.1 innings, allowing no runs on no hits and striking out one. Freshman Matt Beaty (Dresden, Tenn.) led the Belmont offense with a pair of singles.
Kennesaw State totaled three runs on seven hits and five errors. Kevin Kyle improved to 3-4 on the year after allowing just one unearned run on five hits in seven innings on the mound. Zak Griffith pitched the final two innings in relief, allowing no runs on just one hit to pick up his second save. Freeman led the Owls with two hits at the plate.
Belmont will now play the loser of Thursday's night's finale between Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast. The game is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. CT on Friday. If the Bruins win that game, they will move on to take on the winner of the Mercer/FGCU game at 6:00 p.m. CT Friday.