NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont baseball team's (22-10, 9-2) pitching staff has been performing well through the first half of the 2012 season, but nothing like the display put on by junior Chase Brookshire (Chattanooga, Tenn.), senior captain Matt Hamann (Northbrook, Ill.), and senior Garrett Fanchier (Lebanon, Tenn.) in a pair of wins over USC Upstate (21-10, 7-4) on Friday afternoon.
The Spartans came into the weekend tied at the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference standings with the Bruins and Kennesaw State at 7-2, were ranked 24th in the most recent Mid-Major Poll, and were 33rd in the nation scoring 6.9 runs per game.
Belmont allowed only one unearned run on eight hits over the course of the two games on Friday, and thanks to the amount of quality pitching on display, the total amount of time played during the two contests was only three hours and 37 minutes, the length of many single games across the nation this weekend.
"It's extremely important when you're going head to head with a team that you are tied with in the conference standings," Head Coach Dave Jarvis said of Friday's doubleheader. "The kind of domination we showed on the mound against a team that has been as successful as USC Upstate is something to take note of."
The Bruins won the first half of the doubleheader by a score of 3-0, marking the second straight Belmont shutout in a game Brookshire started. The BU left-hander was dominant in striking out seven Spartan batters, walking only one, and scattering six hits in his eight innings of shutout baseball. Brookshire has now pitched 20 consecutive shutout innings, dating back to the second inning of the Bruins' 23-4 victory over Stetson on March 23.
"Our coaches do a great job of getting a scouting report and a game plan for us going into the weekend," Brookshire said of the team effort on the mound. "They call a great game for us and the catchers do a great job, which makes our job as a staff a lot easier."
Facing the latest Atlantic Sun Conference honoree, undefeated starter David Roseboom, the Belmont offense was up against a challenge in game one. The left-hander was difficult to attack on Friday, which was exemplified by the fact that it took until the sixth inning for the Bruins to get on the board.
BU manufactured an unearned run in the sixth, as sophomore William Dodd (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) started things off by reaching on an error. Senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) advanced Dodd to second on a sacrifice bunt, and the sophomore then made it to third on a ground out by senior Dylan Craig (Signal Mountain, Tenn.).
It was sophomore Greg Brody (Dacula, Ga.) who broke the scoring seal on an RBI single down the left field line that drove in Dodd. "That's the reason Greg is hitting in the three hole for us," Jarvis continued. "He can handle the pressure, and he has come through so often for us."
The Bruins added a pair of runs in the next inning on an RBI double by junior Jared Breen (Marietta, Ga.) and an RBI single from Mitchell. Junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) walked earlier in the inning, stole second, and then scored on Breen's double. Breen later scored on Mitchell's base hit to give Belmont a 3-0 lead heading into the eighth.
Brookshire retired the side in the eighth and then handed the ball over to Fanchier in the ninth. The Belmont closer made quick work of the Spartans, retiring the side in only eight pitches. Fanchier allowed a single top start the inning, but forced two ground outs, one of which was a double play, to earn his 10th save of the season. The senior's nine saves coming into the weekend led the league, and were tied for fourth in the nation.
The Belmont pitching dominance continued in the second game of the day, as Hamann pitched a complete game one-hitter and nearly recorded the first no-hitter at BU since 1997. USC Upstate's Jordan Stampler reached on an error in the first at bat of the game, and Hamann retired the next 21 Spartan batters, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Greg Guers doubled down the left field line to open up the eighth frame. He then advanced to third on a ground out, and came around to score on a Belmont error. It marked the only USC Upstate run of the day, and was an unearned score due to the throwing error on the play. Hamann immediately returned to form, retiring the final five batters of the contest.
"Chase did a great job of executing the game plan in the first game, and it made it easy to follow up and continue the success that he started," Hamann said of his outing. "This was probably the best I felt all year." When asked about how he dealt with the emotions of working on a no-hitter, Hamann said "I was just trying to do the same thing every inning regardless of what the offense was doing."
Hamann's efforts would have gone for naught if the Bruins weren't able to take advantage of USC Upstate's second undefeated starter, Scott DeCecco, by scoring five runs in the bottom of the second. DeCecco allowed Belmont zero runs while scattering four hits during his final five innings of action.
The Belmont five-run second inning was highlighted by an RBI single by freshman Alec Diamond (Kennesaw, Ga.), who is now batting .300 on the season as his recent hot streak continued. Mitchell also tallied another RBI single, his second on the day, driving in Dimaond.
It was then Brody connecting yet again, this time on a long double down the right field line, driving in all three Belmont players on base. The Bruins' third baseman now leads the teams with 26 runs batted in.
The closer was not need for game two as Hamann finished with the complete game. The right-hander improved to 2-3 on the season and earned his 20th career victory on Friday. Brookshire improved to 5-1 with his game one win, and picked up his 17th career victory. Fanchier's 10th save of the season already ties him for the fifth most in a single season at Belmont.
Belmont will attempt to complete the sweep over USC Upstate on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. The game will be featured on ASun.TV and live audio will be available on the Bruins Sports Network. Also, Live Stats and the Belmont Baseball Twitter feed will update all that happens on Saturday afternoon at Rose Park.