NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont (9-30) split Wednesday's doubleheader with Tennessee State (11-31), taking game one and falling in extra innings in game two. It was the second straight doubleheader between the Bruins and another Nashville team, and also served as a preview of what the two teams might expect when they become conference opponents next season.
After being shut out in three straight games, Belmont finally found some offense in the middle innings of game one. After falling behind 0-4 through two and a half innings, the Bruins bounced back with one swing from senior Ashley Byers. Byers, the school's all-time leader in home runs, recorded a three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning to get Belmont within one run. The comeback started when senior Hannah Irwin drew a two-out walk. Freshman Heather Turner singled to advance Irwin and place to runners on the bases for the team's best hitter in Byers. The rally continued for the Bruins in the bottom of the next inning as they tied and then took the lead on back-to-back home runs from freshman Kat Hollingsworth and sophomore Ashley Hammer, the first home runs for both players' careers. After that, the scoring was contagious for Belmont, as the Bruins added four more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, including another home run, this one from senior Stayci Cook, her first of the season and second of her career. Sophomore Mia Vierra picked up the win in the circle with another solid performance for her sixth win of the season. Vierra came on in the third inning in relief of junior Becca Gift and allowed no runs in five innings of work while recording two strikeouts.
In game two, Belmont used a completely new lineup, giving everyone a chance to play and contribute. Freshman Katie Clancy got just her second pitching start and went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs and recording a team-high four strikeouts for the night. Offensively, the Bruins weren't able to keep pace with where they had left off in the first game, scoring only three runs and leaving eight baserunners. The second game was back and forth, with Tennessee State scoring a run in the top of the first and Belmont coming back to square the game with a run in the bottom of the second. TSU pulled ahead again with a run in the top of the third and then added another run in the top of the fifth to take a two run lead. The Bruins responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game again. The score would remain tied through the seventh frame and head into an international tiebreaker in the eighth inning. With a runner starting on second, TSU managed to score the go ahead run with two outs while Belmont was unable to do the same during the home half of the inning. The Bruins were led offensively by Cook who recorded two hits in the game and scored two runs. She also had a crucial sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the eighth to advance runners into scoring position. Belmont also got hits from freshman Kirbie Ferrell, senior Cassie Bollin, and a big pinch hit single from Gift that scored two in the bottom of the sixth. Vierra came on to finish the game in relief of Clancy in the sixth inning and ultimately took the loss after 2.2 innings of work, giving up one hit and one unearned run while recording three strikeouts against nine batters faced.
Belmont will be back in action this weekend when the Bruins travel to Georgia to continue conference play on the road at Kennesaw State and Mercer. The first game of Friday's doubleheader with Mercer is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. CST. Live stats will be available for both games. The first game on Saturday at Kennesaw State is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. CST. The next home game for Belmont will be against East Tennessee State on May 4th. The Bruins will also host USC Upstate that weekend for Senior Day on May 5th. All schedule information, links to live stats, full recaps, season statistics and box scores are available at www.belmontbruins.com. Fans can also follow the team via Twitter by searching @BelmontSoftball.