NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont (8-24, 3-3 A-Sun) picked up two critical conference victories with a sweep of Stetson on Friday afternoon. The Bruins earned their first conference sweep since 2009 and pulled even at 3-3 in a very tightly contested Atlantic Sun Conference race. Belmont will continue the conference weekend with a double header against Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday.
Both games were closely contested and the Bruins needed clutch plays to win both. While everyone contributed to the sweep on Friday, the hero of the afternoon was sophomore Mia Vierra, who picked up two pitching wins, providing a grand slam that gave the Bruins breathing room to win game one and scored a walk-off RBI single to give Belmont the win in game two. Vierra gave up only two runs on the day and allowed only six hits in 8.2 innings of work. The sophomore came on in relief of junior Becca Gift in game two to face bases loaded with only one out. Vierra pitched Stetson into a force out at home plate for the second out of the inning before recording a strike out for out number three to end the inning without allowing any runs to score and keeping the Bruins in striking distance.
In game one, Belmont showed a lot of offense, putting runners on base early in the game, as the Bruins stranded baserunners in each of the first three innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the third inning. Belmont scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning when sophomore Ashley Hammer got things started with a leadoff single to centerfield. Hammer moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Hannah Irwin and then advanced to third when sophomore Kat Hollingsworth reached on a fielding error by the first baseman. Hollingsworth stole second on the next pitch and when Stetson attempted to throw her out, Hammer stole home, as both Hammer and Hollingsworth reached safely.
Although the Bruins would eventually strand three baserunners in the bottom of the third, Belmont blew the game open at the start of the inning. Trailing 2-1 going into the inning, the Bruins got things started with a single from senior Ashley Byers, the team's offensive leader. Senior Devon Schmidt pinch ran for Byers and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Becca Gift. Sophomore Heather Turner, who has been solid offensively for the Bruins in recent weeks, singled and then advanced to second when the throw came in to third base. With runners on first and second and only one out, Stetson elected to intentionally walk sophomore Kim Johnson in order to face the pitcher, Mia Vierra in a bases loaded situation. Vierra responded with her second career home run, this one a grand slam over the fence in right center, scoring four runs and putting Belmont safely in front at 5-2. The Bruins weren't done on offense, as the ninth batter in the lineup, junior Courtney Elrod, followed Vierra with a solo home run over the centerfield fence to reach the final 6-2 margin.
The second game was also very close and full of drama, as Stetson scored first with a single run in the fourth inning. While the first game showed off the Bruin offense, the second game showcased the Belmont defense, as the Bruins managed a win despite being outhit 10-6 by Stetson. For the game, Stetson stranded eight baserunners, including the three left on in the top of the sixth inning when Vierra came on in relief of Gift. In the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing 0-1, the Bruins finally got some offense going. Gift, now acting as the designated player, singled to left field to start the inning. Senior Devon Schmidt again served as a crucial pinch runner, this time running for Gift. Schmidt advanced to second on a groundout from Turner, putting the tying run in scoring position with one out. Johnson hit a hard ground ball that was fielded on a diving play from the short stop, who then committed a costly throwing error, putting Johnson safely on first and then advancing her to second when the throw went out of play. The play moved Schmidt to third and then to home to tie the game at 1-1 with the go ahead run on second and still only one out. Sophomore Kirbie Ferrell came on to run for Johnson at second. Ferrell advanced to third on a wild pitch, moving Belmont one base closer to the win. Again it was Vierra who would play the hero, recording a walk-off RBI single to score Ferrell from third, giving the Bruins a 2-1 win.
It was only the third sweep in Atlantic Sun history for the Bruins, who had previously swept Jacksonville back in 2005 and Kennesaw State back in 2009. It was the first conference sweep under Head Coach Chris Kuhlmeyer and reflected a total team effort, with five different players contributing hits and several different players providing defensive stops to help seal both wins. Belmont will be back in action Saturday afternoon when the Bruins host Florida Gulf Coast for Youth Day and another A-Sun doubleheader. The first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. For more information on the Youth Day activities, please visit www.belmontbruins.com. Both games will again be broadcast on ASun.TV and links to the video will be available online at www.belmontbruins.com, as well as links to live stats, full recaps, box scores, season statistics, and all schedule information. Fans can also follow the team via Twitter by searching @BelmontSoftball.