NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball (1-3) got out to a hot start and never backed down, registering at least one hit in every inning en route to an 11-3 victory over Western Kentucky (2-2) on Wednesday evening at E.S. Rose Park.
Four different Bruins boasted multi-hit outings as the squad logged 14 hits on the night. Senior infielder Drake Byrd (Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) had a career-best performance going 4-for-5 at the plate while collecting five RBIs. He connected on three singles and a double throughout his five trips to the batter's box.
Belmont wasted little time getting to work with redshirt-freshman Matt Cogen (Franklin, Tenn.) delivering a solo shot over the right field wall just five pitches into the game. Cogen was the first of six consecutive leadoff batters to register a hit, and the first of two to launch a dinger. The squad scored in the first three frames to put them up, 5-0, early on.
Senior infielder Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) played a crucial role in two of Byrd's five RBIs. The veteran displayed his speed twice by stealing second and putting himself in scoring position for Byrd, who sat two spots behind him in the lineup. The Pigeon Forge, Tenn. product laced a base knock each time as the duo executed perfectly both in the second and seventh frames.
Heading into the third inning with a 2-0 advantage, senior outfielder Brennan Washington (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) went yard well past the leftfield fence. After leading the team in home runs last season, tonight's long ball was his first of the year. BU tacked on two more runs off a two RBI double that found the gap in left centerfield from junior infielder Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) to put the Bruins up, 5-0.
Western Kentucky found a way to temporarily silence Belmont's bats, holding them scoreless for three innings. In the meantime the Hilltoppers scored three unanswered runs to cut their deficit to 5-3. Kaleb Duckworth started the scoring with a home run of his own in the top of the sixth before WKU added two more runs in the seventh.
It was then that Belmont regained its momentum to close the game scoring six unanswered runs of its own. The bottom of the seventh was the first frame that the Bruins didn't leadoff with a hit, but with two outs they worked their way back to load the bases. Once again Byrd came up clutch and drove in the lone run of the frame, painting the left line for his third single. WKU was able to get out of the jam, only giving up one run but the Bruins would return to plague the Hilltoppers in the eighth.
Loading the bases for the second straight time, Belmont raked in five insurance runs including three by non-other than Byrd. A Hilltopper error and two walks assisted in allowing BU to occupy the bases and eventually secure an 11-3 victory.
Eight different hurlers took the mound for Belmont with freshman left-hander Justin Fowlkes (Collierville, Tenn.) earning the win on his debut as a Bruin. Fowlkes was the only Bruin to toss multiple innings, seeing the first 2.0 of the game.
Belmont will host its second annual Mule Mix Challenge at E.S. Rose Park Feb. 24-26. The Bruins will take on Missouri State (Feb. 24 at 4 p.m.), Northwestern (Feb. 25 at 12 p.m.) and Bowling Green (Feb. 26 at 1 p.m.) over the course of the weekend.