COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the second consecutive game Belmont baseball and Tennessee Tech battled down to the very last pitch in a hotly contested conference matchup. The Golden Eagles would use the series first long ball to put them over the edge, 4-1, in the closing frames Sunday afternoon at Bush Stadium.
Once again both squads starting hurlers limited the offensive production for the majority of the game. TTU (34-14, 20-3 OVC) kept their unblemished home record in league play with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, cutting BU's (22-23, 14-12 OVC) hopes of an upset short. Until then, the Bruins and Golden Eagles had each only relinquished one run.
The defensive battle from the series opener carried over to game two as the pitchers combined for just one base knock in the first two and half innings. Redshirt-junior Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) was the first one to connect on a pitch, dropping a perfect bunt down the third base line for an infield hit in the top of the third.
Tennessee Tech then found a way to strike first in the home half of the inning after starting hurler Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) sat down the first six Golden Eagles he faced. Tech started the frame with a standup double to right field, allowing Collin Harris to drive in the first run of the game with a RBI single that also found its way to right field.
For the 43-consecutive game, senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) reached base safely – having done so in every appearance thus far in the 2017 campaign. He clinched number 43 with a standup double in the fourth to put BU in scoring position right off the bat, but the Bruins continued to struggle to convert runs as Egli would be picked off at third to halt their chances of bringing in the tying run.
Belmont saw another chance to tie it up in the fifth, loading the bases on a leadoff single from junior Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) and a couple of free rides. With only one out, and Bruins residing on all bags, sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) hit into a double play to end the frame and leave Tennessee Tech with the 1-0 advantage after five.
King continued to dominate on the bump through six, recording his fourth 1-2-3 inning and finishing the stanza with his sixth strikeout, fanning a batter in each inning. The righty retired 18 of the first 21 Golden Eagles he saw, only relinquishing three hits and a run in that time. While King wore down Tech's offense, their starter, Jake Usher, managed to do the same to the Bruins as he also only gave up three hits in six frames as well.
Usher managed to hold the Bruins scoreless and keep TTU's slim lead intact until the Bruins found an answer for him in the seventh as junior Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) laid down a bunt of his own with one out. Conger went on to steal second and advance to third on a throwing error from the pitcher to threaten. Senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) then brought home Conger for the tying run on a two-bagger that he ripped down the left line, knotting it up, 1-1.
Walsh continued his heroic plays in the home half of the seventh, triggering all three of BU's outs in centerfield. With runners on first and second and two outs the veteran made a diving catch, fully extending and swiping the ball before it had a chance to hit the ground to end the inning and keep the contest deadlocked at one run apiece.
Tennessee Tech finally found a way to separate themselves with a two-out three-run dinger in the bottom of the eighth to take a 4-1 lead. Ryan Flick launched the first home run of the series over the left centerfield wall to bring in the go-ahead run for the Golden Eagles and solidify the series.
The Bruins and Golden Eagles clash for game three on Monday, May 8 at Bush Stadium. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.