CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball fought until the final pitch, but was unable to get past hot bats from Austin Peay - falling, 10-8, in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Raymond C. Hand Park.
A pair of home runs courtesy of senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) and junior Kyle Conger (Franklin, Tenn.) helped the Bruins (14-16, 9-6) mount a seven-run comeback after finding themselves trailing early, but a stubborn Austin Peay (15-15, 7-8) team prevailed and plated two additional runs in the final innings to secure the series for the second straight year.
The Governors compiled four hits and three runs to get on the board first for the first time this series. They plated the trio of runs on two long balls by Dre Gleason and Chase Hamilton in their first three plate appearances of the second stanza to take a 3-0 lead before the Bruins had even collected their first hit.
Austin Peay continued to capitalize on Belmont miscues, plating two more runs after starting pitcher Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) dealt consecutive walks with two down in the third. Both base runners proceeded to steal their respective bags and make it home on a throwing error by BU catcher, Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.), who threw his 11th runner out previously in the inning.
Egli got the Bruins on the board with his team-best sixth home run of the season to bring BU within four runs, 5-1. It only took two pitches for the veteran to take the ball for a ride and send it over the left field wall. Twenty of Egli's 35 hits this year have come in the form of an extra base.
Belmont continued to struggle on the mound even after Head Coach Dave Jarvis went to the bullpen and called on freshman left-hander Justin Fowlkes (Collierville, Tenn.) to replace Etheridge. The Bruins relinquished three more runs on three hits to dig themselves in an 8-1 hole after four.
A leadoff walk dealt to junior Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) sparked a three-run frame for the Bruins to cut their deficit in half, 8-4. With a runner on, junior Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) painted the right line and dropped one in the corner for a RBI double. Conger followed suit and drilled a dinger over the edge of right field fence to bring home two more runs for Belmont.
The Bruins used five free bases, four via base on balls, to cross four more runs and knot the game up, 8-8 in the sixth. Two walks dealt to Egli and Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) and a single from senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) loaded the bases to start the frame. Two more walks brought BU within two before APSU could trigger its first out. A hit-by-pitch and fielder's choice then scored a couple more and made it seven unanswered runs scored by Belmont to tie it up.
The deadlock was short lived for the Bruins as the Governors reclaimed the lead on a single through the left side to give them a narrow advantage, 9-8. They tacked on another run in the seventh to separate themselves once again.
Senior Dom Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) came in for relief and contributed an effective final 1.2 innings for Belmont, striking out three batters and retiring six of the seven Governors he faced. Etheridge suffered his first loss of the season bring his mark to 3-1 on the mound this year.
Belmont heads to Middle Tennessee for a midweek matchup on Tuesday, April 11. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. at Reese Smith Jr. Field.