NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball jumped out to an early lead in the opening innings of its Friday evening game against Missouri State in the first game of the Mule Mix Classic at E.S. Rose Park, but the Bruins were unable put away a pesky Bears team who would prevail to win, 7-5, after a four-run eighth frame.
With the wind blowing full blast on the top of the hill, the Bruins capitalized on a pair of wind-aided doubles in the second stanza of the contest. After veteran catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) wore a pitch during the second at-bat of the inning, back-to-back two baggers from senior duo Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) and Drake Byrd (Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) launched Belmont to a quick 2-0 lead before Missouri State could trigger the third out.
The Bears answered with a pair of runs themselves in the following inning and even made a bid to try and claim the lead, but a resilient Belmont squad halted their attempts. With one down and runners on second and third MSU tried to tack on its third run of the inning, but senior right fielder Brennan Washington (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) delivered a throw to first baseman Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) who relayed the ball to Payne to swipe the runner before he could tag home plate. On the ensuing play, the wind carried a foul ball to the first base dugout where sophomore second baseman Hunter Holland (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) stretched out and made a diving play to end the inning only allowing the Bears to knot the game up, 2-2.
A strong outing from junior hurler Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Ill.) kept Missouri State to just two runs through the first six innings. Vaughn matched his season-high from opening day, sitting down nine batters, including a flawless fifth stanza in which he struck out the side.
After a pair of scoreless frames, senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) put Belmont back on top with one swing of the bat. Egli stepped to the plate and blasted his first hit of the year, a solo shot over the left field wall, on the first pitch in the bottom half of the fifth. A walk and base knock put runners on first and second for Washington. The Preseason All-OVC honoree showed his power, sending one to the centerfield fence. The ball hit atop the fence and bounced in the park, robbing the veteran of a home run, but the two-run double would do. Belmont once again took the lead, 5-3.
However, after the fifth frame the Bears would silence the Bruins bats, retiring 11 their final 12 batters. During that span MSU was able to plate five unanswered runs, including a four-run seventh inning where it registered five hits and gave them a 7-5 lead that they'd never relinquish.
Belmont threw four pitchers in the final three innings with junior Austin Reynolds (Smyrna, Tenn.) tallying the loss. MSU's Jake Fromson earned the win while Bryan Young collected his first save of the year.
The Bruins face Northwestern on Saturday, Feb. 25 for the second contest of the Mule Mix Classic. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park. The third and final game of the event BU will play Bowling Green on Sunday, Feb. 26.