MARTIN, Tenn. – After spacing three runs in the first four frames, Belmont baseball heated up in the final three innings, plating five additional runs in the finale to outlast UT Martin Sunday afternoon at Skyhawk Field. BU took its first lead in the seventh to edge UTM, 8-6, and declare the series.
The battle ensued from the opening pitch and lasted until the final out. While the Bruins (10-12, 5-4) came away victorious in the end, the Skyhawks (9-12, 1-8) didn't go down quietly. Heading into the home half of the ninth, BU had doubled its advantage, 8-4, before UTM mounted a two-out rally that plated a pair of runs and threatened the Bruins before they could sit down the final Skyhawk.
It only took two plate appearances for the Skyhawks to get out in front after an early Bruin error from junior shortstop Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) proved costly in the next at bat of the opening frame. UT Martin took a hasty two-run lead courtesy of a homer from Connor Aube, but in the next stanza a leadoff walk issued to senior designated hitter Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) allowed Belmont to cut its deficit in half, 2-1. Egli reached home after a single from junior infielder Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) put runners on the corners to force a fielder's choice and bring in BU's first run.
The Bruins and Skyhawks once again trade runs in the third. Sophomore infielder Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) continued his dominance at the plate in the series, firing his second dinger against the Skyhawks over the right field barrier to tie the game up, 2-2. Unfortunately, the deadlock was temporary as UTM retook the lead during their next turn at the plate after starting hurler Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) dealt a trio of wild pitches that contributed to the Skyhawks third run, 3-2.
The back-and-forth battle continued to heat up in the fourth after the Bruins knotted up the game for the second time. Kocher and Egli once again teamed up to plate another run for BU. The tying run was initiated by Egli who started the frame with a two-bagger that painted the left line to set up Kocher to collect a RBI on a groundout to shortstop and make it 3-3.
For the next two and a half stanzas the offense quieted down on both sides before the Bruins took their first lead with a two-run seventh frame. Belmont continued to respond to the pressure, with two down junior Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) enjoyed a free ride to first and senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) took full advantage of it. The veteran ripped a two-bagger down the left line, sending Ward home to put Belmont up, 4-3. Walsh then made it a two-run game - capitalizing on an untimely error from Skyhawk catcher, Dan Kerwin, rounding third and making it 5-3 after seven.
UT Martin made it a one run contest in the bottom of the eighth with a double and RBI single to leave the score, 5-4, heading into the final stanza.
Egli and Walsh continued to power Belmont's offense, as Egli registered his second leadoff two-bagger to put a runner in scoring position right off the bat. Sophomore infielder Hunter Holland (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) replaced Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) at second and made the most of his sole at bat of the game, lacing a double of his own to register the first of three runs. Walsh then collected his second RBI on a single to second base. Conger capped off the scoring with a RBI single to put the Bruins ahead, 8-4.
UT Martin responded with a multi-run ninth frame of their own, scoring two, but the squad came up short, falling 8-6 to Belmont.
Etheridge struck out five batters en route to his third victory on the mound, making him 3-0 so far this year.
Belmont hosts Middle Tennessee at E.S. Rose Park for a midweek tilt on Tuesday, March 28. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m.