NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A pair of doubles from junior infielder Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) helped spark Belmont baseball's offense in the final game of the series against Kent State, but the Bruins were plagued by a ninth inning outburst from the Golden Flashes. After giving up four runs in the final stanza, BU fell to KSU, 5-4, Sunday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park.
Having struggled to heat up their bats in the first two games against the Golden Flashes (3-0), the Bruins (0-3) capitalized on a big third inning to give themselves their first advantage of the weekend. After junior infielder Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) was dealt a four-pitch walk, Kocher stepped to the plate and launched an RBI double into left centerfield. The Zionsville, Indiana product took a gamble on the next play and stole third. The play proved to be successful and set up junior outfielder Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) to put Belmont up, 2-0, with a RBI sac fly to centerfield.
The Bruins continued to work Kent State's starting pitcher Joey Murray in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. With two outs under his belt, Murray faced Kocher at the plate once again. This time the righty was able to force a fly out and keep Belmont from increasing its lead.
While the Flashes pitching staff couldn't seem to silence the Bruins, sophomore righty Casey Queener (Brentwood, Tenn.) dealt five clean innings, including his first 1-2-3 frame in the fifth. It wouldn't be until the sixth that Kent State found its way on the board with a solo shot over the left field fence to cut BU's lead in half, 2-1. Queener, unfazed by the bomb, settled back in and sat the next two batters down to keep the Flashes from causing any more damage.
Sophomore right-hander Kyle Klotz (Fairview, Tenn.) went on to replace Queener on the bump in the seventh.
In the eighth inning, Belmont capitalized on a couple of costly Kent State plays. At the top of the frame the Golden Flashes had a runner on second with two outs and one of their most productive hitters, Dom Iero, at the plate. One pitch into the at-bat the Flashes signaled the baserunner to steal third. Not skipping a beat, Klotz fired a bullet at Kocher who was residing at third to tag the runner and trigger the third out of the inning. The Bruins went on to tack on their third run of the day in the bottom of the frame after the Flashes committed their lone error of the game.
Belmont headed into the final three outs with a 3-1 advantage. Junior righty Austin Reynolds was called on to make his debut sporting a Bruins uniform. He induced a fly ball to left field for a quick first out, but a stubborn Kent State squad refused to go away as they registered four runs before BU could collect the final two outs. After a wild pitch got past senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.), KSU took advantage with three consecutive multi-base knocks and claimed its first lead of the game, 5-3. It's was the third time that the Flashes registered multiple runs in the ninth inning.
Kocher tried to work his magic one last time, sending a double to centerfield with two outs in the bottom half of the final inning, but the Bruins comeback bid came up short.
Chris Martin, who only tossed a third of an inning, earned the win for Kent State while Zach Spangler collected his second-straight save. Reynolds was tabbed with the loss.
Belmont will take on Western Kentucky for its first midweek game of the year, Tuesday, Feb. 21. The Bruins will host the Hilltoppers at E.S. Rose Park. First pitch slated for 4 p.m.