OXFORD, Ala. – Trailing by a run with the bases loaded and facing elimination from the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) refused to prematurely end the Bruins season and blasted a walk-off double to deep left field in the bottom of the ninth. Walsh's two-bagger sealed No. 3 Belmont baseball's 5-4 victory over No. 6 Murray State Friday night at Choccolocco Park.
The Bruins (30-28) never say die mentality allowed them to see another day in the tournament as they were in a 4-2 hole heading into the final two frames. Walsh came up clutch on both occasions, stealing a pair of bases, allowing BU to come within one in the eighth before his ninth inning heroics.
A pitcher's duel ensued from opening pitch and lasted much of the game as both pithing staffs only gave up six hits apiece. The Bruins struck first in the opening frame as they were residing on the corners before redshirt-junior Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) made his way home despite Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) hitting into a double play. The Racers (29-30) evened it up, 1-1, with a single from Tyler Lawrence in the third.
Senior Dom Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) earned his second career start and held Murray State's to a lone run through four innings. While giving up the tying run, the righty did so by limiting the damage after the Racers loaded the bases on three consecutive free rides before getting out of the jam.
Murray State took their first lead of the game with a two-run bomb from Lawrence who brought his RBI total to three, but Veltri settled back in and got the next Racer swinging to continue his dominating performance on the hill. The Bruins tried to help the hurler out on the offensive end in the sixth, bringing the squad within one, 3-2, on a sacrifice fly from Egli. Junior Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) delivered a one-out double – his second hit of the night - and later advanced on a wild pitch to put him in scoring position for Egli. But MSU would quickly strike again to push their advantage back to two runs.
Veltri's day came to a close after 6.1 innings, tying a career-best seven strikeouts and only giving up four runs on five hits. MSU doubled its advantage, 4-2, in the top of the seventh before sophomore Kyle Klotz (Fairview, Tenn.) came in to replace the starter - making his 44th appearance on the hill to tie both the Ohio Valley Conference and Belmont all-time record for appearances in a single season. The reliever tossed and inning and a third before senior Brennan Washington (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) came in and closed out the game on the mound, earning his fourth win of the year.
The Bruins continued to battle in the box as Walsh was issued a walk to lead off the eighth and made his way around to third on a pair of stolen bases, bringing his total to 21 on the season. His skilled base running proved to pay off as Bournigal sent a sacrifice fly to left field to score another run and put BU within striking distance, 4-3.
Walsh worked his magic once again in the final stanza, capitalizing on a couple of free bases dealt to the Bruins after sophomore Hunter Holland (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) sparked their offense with a one-out double.
Belmont will face No. 2 Morehead State with first pitch slated for 12 p.m. at Choccolocco Park. If the Bruins win that game they will turn around and play No. 1 Tennessee Tech at 4 p.m.