Taking on the Salukis

Taking on the Salukis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball embarks on its first trip of a five-game road swing by heading to Southern Illinois for a midweek tilt with the Salukis on Tuesday, April 18. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. at Itchy Jones Stadium in Carbondale, Illinois.


Belmont heads to Southern Illinois for the first of a five-game road swing. The Bruins are coming off a 2-1 series win over Eastern Illinois last weekend while boasting a 16-18 overall record on the season thus far. This will be the second meeting with the Salukis this year, Belmont having won the first midweek game, 18-17.  

Senior designated hitter Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) has continued to lead the Bruins offense over the past few weeks of play. He currently sits atop the squad in eight statistical categories - batting average (.407), hits (44), doubles (15), home runs (8), RBIs (25), runs (28), on-base percentage (.511) and slugging percentage (.806). Twenty-five of the veteran's 44 hits have come in the form on an extra-base knock - 15 doubles, two triples and eight home runs. Behind Egli, junior Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) has been hot at the plate for BU as the only other Bruin to long a BA above .300 (.340). Collectively, the team has registered 291 hits, 191 runs and 169 RBIs halfway through the season.  

Sophomore Casey Queener (Brentwood, Tenn.) will get his sixth starting nod on the hill against the Salukis. He's compiled a ERA of 3.95 in 27.1 innings of work. Queener sat down 11 batters via strikeout in his last start against Memphis, contributing to his 29 season Ks. Belmont's weekend pitching staff has also been successful on the mound this season with all three ranking in the top-10 in strike outs. Sophomore Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) leads the league with 67 and junior Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Ill.) right behind him with 64 Ks in nine starts this season. Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) ranks 10th with 51. The trio has tossed 182 of the squad's combined 295 strike outs in 2017. The Bruins have also seen extensive production from their bullpen with 11 different pitchers taking the hill for Belmont. Sophomore Kyle Klotz (Fairview, Tenn.) leads the OVC with 25 appearances, tossing 35.0 innings and earning a record of 2-3 on the mound. Senior closer Dom Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) has earned all five of Belmont's saves this season - ranking second in the league. 


Sophomore Kyle Klotz has been the go-to hurler in the Bruins bullpen all season long, making 25 appearances on the mound while compiling 35.0 innings of work. The right-handed reliever has tallied an ERA of 4.63 on the year, striking out 23 batters. In his conference leading 25 appearances Klotz boasts a 3-4 record on the hill for Belmont. 


Belmont has enjoyed consistency at the plate from junior Rafael Bournigal in recent contests. The second baseman recently took over in the leadoff spot in the lineup and is riding a four-game hitting streak. He sits second on the team, batting .340 while registering 34 hits and 19 runs this season. Bournigal went 3-for-4 at the plate against Eastern Illinois (4.13) coming up a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. 


Senior utility Nick Egli has played a crucial role in sparking the Bruins offense as the designated hitter. The veteran has been dominant in conference play, boasting a .446 batting average while connecting on 29 hits, 15 which have been extra base shots. He's registered 18 RBIs in the squad's 18 OVC games. Egli posted a pair of multi-RBI games in BU's double header against EKU, including driving in the Bruins only two runs in the squads 2-0 shutout in the second contest. He laced back-to-back doubles against Morehead State to bring in three of the squads four runs, before collecting multi-hit outings in all three games against UT Martin. Egli shined once again against EIU, reaching base in his first 11 plate appearances - finishing 11-for-13 in the series while recording seven runs. The Brentwood, Tenn. product leads the team in BA (.407), hits (44), doubles (15), home runs (8) and RBIs (25) throughout the 2017 campaign. 


It takes little time for senior infielder Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Tenn.) to turn on the speed as he displayed in both meetings against the Hilltoppers, stealing a base three times - all would go on to result in a run. Walsh once again showed his base-running skills against SIUE (4.2), stealing three bases. The speedster boasts a 9-for-11 record when attempting to steal. With his last stolen base against Eastern Illinois (4.15), Walsh moved into second all-time in Belmont's record book with 55 career stolen bases. He's now tied with Drew Ferguson and just four away from sitting atop the records. 


Senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) is the driving force of Belmont's defense - starting behind the plate in all but four games this season. He's tallied 236 putouts ranking eighth in the conference. The veteran has also caught 11 runners attempting to steal, the second most in the OVC. Payne was recently named to the Johnny Bench Award watch list that honors elite catchers throughout the nation. 


Senior reliever Dom Veltri has recorded all five of the Bruins saves on the hill this season. He's been their go-to hurler in the final innings of closely contested games, throwing 19.1 innings in 15 appearances. The Clarksville, Tenn. native has struck out 14 batters while compiling an ERA of 2.79.