NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball struggled in the series opener against Murray State on Friday evening, falling to the Racers, 16-4, at E.S. Rose Park.
Senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) was the sole Bruin to register multiple hits as he boasted a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate, including a homer and two base shots. The veteran also shined defensively, catching his 14th runner attempting to steal this season. He currently ranks second in the conference in the category.
Both squads went back and forth in the first four stanzas, as neither team could seem to stop the other. Belmont started the scoring on a sacrifice fly to left field from senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) in the second. From then on things got a little out of hand as Murray State and Belmont combined for seven runs in the next inning and half.
The Racers managed to compile six hits between the third and fourth to go up 5-3 on the Bruins. They plated three in the third courtesy of three consecutive singles and a throwing error from junior Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.). Ryan Perkins then launched a leadoff homer to left field to start the fourth before MSU would score its fifth run and start to distance themselves from the Bruins.
Belmont snuck in a pair of runs in that span, the first coming on a leadoff long ball of their own – ripped over the left-centerfield fence by Payne. The Bruins went on to temporarily knot the game up, 3-3, after lacing three consecutive hits with two outs. Senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) led the charge by extending his hitting streak to 10 games on a base shot to center. Sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) drove Egli in with a two-bagger.
Murray State continued to disrupt the Bruins defense, plating six additional runs in the top of the fifth, loading the bases and registering six hits. For the second consecutive frame the Racers kicked things off with a home run before going on to score multiple runs. Tyler Lawrence collected this one, sending a bullet over the left field fence and contributing to putting MSU up 11-3 after five.
Senior reliever Zach Hodgkiss (Eads, Tenn.) came in and accounted for two valuable frames on the hill for the Bruins, striking out a pair of Racers and forcing them to put up their first scoreless frame since the second. He only relinquished one run in the seventh, slowing down the Racers previously explosive offense.
While the Bruins continued to struggle to connect at the plate, Conger managed to get a run off the MSU pitching staff in the home half of the seventh with a single to centerfield. The junior brought home Payne who registered his third hit of the night previously in the fame. BU still trailed, 12-4.
The Racers went on to tack on four more runs in the final two frames to extend their advantage to 16-4 and claim game one. Belmont ended up relinquishing 21 hits in the outing, the most they've allowed all season.
Belmont and Murray State face off for game two on Saturday April 29. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m.