Bruins Drop Conference Opener

Bruins Drop Conference Opener

RICHMOND, Ky. –  Belmont baseball was haunted by a four-run eighth frame that allowed Eastern Kentucky to claim the conference opener, 6-2, Thursday afternoon at Earle Combs Stadium.

For the fourth consecutive game the Bruins (5-8, 0-1) found a way to get themselves on the board first, and the third time that they've done so in the opening frame. Leadoff hitter Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) kicked off conference play with a double to the right-center warning track eventually allowing senior utility Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) to collect a RBI on an error by Eastern Kentucky's shortstop. Belmont took a quick 1-0 lead before EKU tied it up with a solo shot over the right field wall by Ben Fisher in the home half of the inning. 

The Colonels (8-6, 1-0) went on to threaten during their next at bat with the help of a pair of hits, putting runners on second and third with only one down. Starting hurler Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Ill.) settled in on the hill and got out of the jam, sitting down the next two batters and denying EKU's hopes of taking the lead.

Just as they've done all season, the Bruins continued to thrive under pressure, taking a 2-1 lead over EKU on a two-out rally. The Colonels right-handed starter, Jack Piekos, retired Belmont's first two batters in the top of the fourth before senior outfielder Brennan Washington (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) ended his hitting spell with a three-bagger to centerfield. His first triple of the year contributed to the leading run for BU on a RBI base knock from junior Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) in the next at bat.

With the combination of Vaughn's pitching and outstanding defensive plays, the Bruins shut down Eastern Kentucky's offense for the next three consecutive stanzas. It all started in the bottom of the third when senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) displayed his precision, collecting the third strike from Vaughn for the second out and then proceeded to catch his league-leading sixth runner attempting to rob second by throwing down to Conger for the final out of the frame. Vaughn went on to sit down his first three batters in the fourth, all via strikeout.
Once again Belmont triggered a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth after junior second baseman Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) made an incredible play at second. Vaughn nicked a ball off his mit that fired back at him, slowing it down for Bournigal to collect the ball, turn and throw to first base - beating out the runner.

EKU tied it up for the second time of the day in the sixth after a leadoff double and intentional walk allowed runners to threaten with one down. Shea Sullivan plated the tying run by delivering a single to left field to make it 2-2. The Colonels went on to take the lead in the eighth when leadoff hitter, Cornell Nixon, launched the squads second home run of the contest. Nixon's go-ahead dinger made its way over the left field fence, sparking a four-run inning that clinched EKU's 6-2 victory.   

Sophomore infielder Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) reached base in three of his four plate appearances, including registering his first multi-hit game of the year on a pair of singles. He was joined by Conger as the only two Bruins to collect multiple hits.

Vaughn tossed a season-high 7.2 innings before Head Coach Dave Jarvis called on redshirt-junior Ben Lovell (St. Louis, Mo.) to register the final out of the eighth. Vaughn is now 0-3 on the mound, despite striking out seven batters. EKU's Alex Hamilton collected the win, throwing 1.1 frames. 

UP NEXT

The Bruins will conclude their series with the Colonels tomorrow, March 10 at Earle Combs Stadium. They will play a double header with the first game starting at 11 a.m. CT - the third game will start after the second game concludes.