NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball struggled to find a rhythm during its 2017 debut against Kent State Friday evening at E.S. Rose Park. The Bruins were shutout, 15-0, by the Golden Flashes who's bats came alive early and often.
After only relinquishing three runs through the first three innings, KSU (1-0) took command of the game, scoring in five of the next six frames. While the Flashes tallied 18 hits, Belmont (0-1) was only able to connect on two at bats – both by junior infielder Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). Ward hoped to spark the Bruins in the bottom of the fourth inning with the squads first hit of that day on a single up center field, but was unable to convert after getting caught stealing on the proceeding play.
BU looked to junior hurler Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Ill.) to try and work through a powerful Kent State lineup. Despite giving up a solo shot by the Golden Flashes Reilly Hawkins on the second pitch of the day, the Preseason All-OVC honoree settled in the next two innings, striking out four batters. Vaughn tossed his second shutout of the game in the fifth stanza after making a diving catch and throwing the batter out at first base to signal the first out. Kent State would eventually threaten with runners on the corners, but Vaughn came up clutch once again as he caught his ninth batter looking to get out of the inning unscathed.
The Flashes tallied their next three runs on a pair of singles in the third and fourth innings to expand their lead, 4-0, and force Head Coach Dave Jarvis to call on junior right-handed pitcer Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) to take over on the mound. While the Bruins were working through various pitching changes during the duration of the game, the Golden Flashes returning ace Eli Kraus was able to shut down the Bruins offense through seven frames.
Etheridge got out to a strong start tossing a pair of quick outs, but an untimely error by BU allowed KSU to sneak in a pair of runs before he could get out of the jam. The Golden Flashes headed to the seventh with a 6-0 advantage. It was in that stanza that Ward recorded his second hit of the day, painting the first base line with a bullet. Unfortunately, Belmont still couldn't seem to find an answer to Kraus as he retired the next two batters. The Medina, Ohio product only gave up a pair of hits and a walk in the 26 batters he faced.
The Golden Flashes tacked on seven additional runs in the final two innings of the game with the help of a grand slam blasted by Dom Iero, who finished the day with six RBIs on four hits. Robert Zeigler closed the last six outs on the mound, retiring three Bruins.
The Bruins will continue their three-game series against the Golden Flashes tomorrow, Feb. 18, at E.S. Rose Park. Both Saturday and Sunday's games are scheduled to start at 1 p.m.