NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont University Baseball won a hard-fought battle, defeating Murray State 13-11 on Friday afternoon. The win secured the series victory for the Bruins and kept them in the race at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Much like Thursday, Murray State wasted little time getting on the board, scoring in the first inning. One run on two hits gave the Racers a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins were relatively quiet in the first and second innings, with impressive defensive plays by the Racers keeping them off the board.
After senior Casey Queener (Brentwood, Tenn.) retired the Racers in order for the first time of the day, the Belmont offense got going in the third. Freshman John Behrends (Chattanooga, Tenn.) leadoff the inning with a single, but was in danger of being stranded after two quick outs. However, senior Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) picked him up with a single through the left side. Behrends initially halted at third base, but a fielding error by the Racers' left fielder allowed Behrends to score, tying the game 1-1 after three complete.
The Racers continued to swing the bat early in the count and often, putting a runner on with a leadoff single. With one out, the runner took off to steal the third base bag, but sophomore catcher Jackson Campbell (Russellville, Ky.) threw a dart from behind the plate to catch him stealing for the second out. The out proved to be an important one, as the next Racer hammered a double. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Queener came up big with a strikeout to end the inning with the score still 1-1.
Belmont continued to push runs across the plate in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Devon Gardner (Maryville, Tenn.) worked a leadoff walk to put the go-ahead run aboard. With one out, freshman Grayson Taylor (Cullman, Ala.) plated another run with an RBI single up the middle. Freshman Tommy Crider (Madison, Ala.) carried the momentum with a base hit of his own to put runners on the corners with one out. A ground ball was enough to push another run home and put Campbell at the plate. Campbell increased the Belmont lead 4-1 with an RBI double. The three run fourth gave Belmont some insurance heading down the stretch.
Murray State responded with a couple runs of its own to tighten things up 4-3 after the top of the fifth.
From there, both offenses were hot. In BU's half of the fifth, Hadden laced a leadoff single and three consecutive walks loaded the bases with just one out. After the next batter struck out, Crider stepped to the plate looking at bases full of Bruins with two outs. With his third home run of the season, Crider smashed a grand slam over the right field fence for an 8-3 lead. Behrends kept the inning alive with a hit and Campbell drove him home with a double before the final out for a 9-3 lead.
The Racers responded with a three-run home run in the top of the sixth to cut the lead 9-6. Things got really interesting when Murray State hit another three-run bomb to tie the game 9-9 after the top of the seventh.
With a series win on the line, Belmont dug in and scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Crider once again put a barrel on the ball and sent a base hit to shallow center. Behrends then worked a walk to put runners on first and second. Campbell blasted his second RBI double of the day, clearing the bases for an 11-9 lead. After another walk worked by senior Zach Ehrhart (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.), Belmont scored two more on wild pitches to take a 13-9 lead.
Murray State threatened to plate a run in the top of the eighth after a leadoff double, but a double play ended the inning scoreless for the racers.
After being held off in the eighth, the Bruins needed just three outs to secure the win. After two hits were given up in the top of the ninth, sophomore Kyle Brennan (Franklin, Tenn.) took over the hill to try and notch his second save in as many days. The Racers put the heat on Belmont, scoring two in the top of the ninth, but Brennan got three strikeouts to preserve the victory.
Belmont improves to 12-7 in Ohio Valley Conference play after Friday's win, putting them two games ahead of Murray State in the race at the top of the table. Sophomore Logan Bowen (Bowling Green, Ky.) earned his fourth win of the season and Brennan notched his fourth save.
The series finale will be Saturday, April 20 at E.S. Rose Park. First pitch is currently slated for 1:00 p.m. CT.