Etheridge Shuts Down EKU

Etheridge Shuts Down EKU

RICHMOND, Ky. –  For the second time in one day, Belmont baseball saw career outings from its pitchers as junior hurler Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) wreaked havoc on Eastern Kentucky in the second game of the double header, striking out 12 batters in seven frames. The Bruins shutout the Colonels, 2-0, to take the series Friday afternoon at Earle Combs Stadium.

Friday proved to be a day of landmarks on the still young season as BU blanked an opponent for the first time this year, and just the second time in its last two campaigns. The Bruins struck out a combined 24 batters over the course of both games as sophomore hurler Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) tied a career-best with 11 strikeouts before Etheridge took down a lifetime-best 12 batters. Both pitchers completed the feat in only 7.0 innings of work.  
Enduring its first double header of the year, Belmont's bats stayed hot from the game earlier in the day as the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a pitchers duel ensued. After recording a pair of RBIs in game one, senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) took sole responsibility for BU's only two runs in the second contest. In his first plate appearance, the designated hitter laced what would be the go-ahead run with a single to deep left-centerfield to bring home sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) and put the Bruins up, 1-0. The veteran nearly duplicated his next at bat with another base-knock, this time to shallow left field sending junior Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) in to double their lead after two frames.

From then on the Bruins relied on Etheridge, who kept Eastern Kentucky's bats at bay for much of the game. The right-handed hurler retired 15 batters in EKU's first 18 plate appearances – 10 of them coming via strikeout. Etheridge registered at least one K in every inning he tossed, highlighted by fanning three consecutive batters in the fifth stanza. The most strike outs that the Springfield, Illinois product had previously tossed was eight against Bowling Green earlier this year. 

The only time that Etheridge experienced any kind of pressure from the Colonels was in the bottom of first inning when EKU connected on back-to-back singles. Aside from the opening frame, Belmont never allowed more than one runner to reach base for the remainder of the game. 

Eastern Kentucky eventually found a way to quiet Belmont's offense as the Bruins only connected on a pair of hits in the next five frames. The squad threatened in the eighth, once again with the help of Egli who painted the left line for a two-bagger with one down. Junior Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) wore a pitch to the hand for a free base before Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) laced a base knock to right field and put runners on first and second, but both would be stranded as EKU triggered the final out. 

Head coach Dave Jarvis brought in closer Dom Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) to wrap up the final two innings. Veltri went on secure the shutout, including tossing a strikeout of his own to bring the running total to 13 Ks in the game and seal the deal.

It's the first time the Bruins shutout an opponent since last year when they beat Morehead State, 9-0, on March 20th

UP NEXT

Belmont returns home for a midweek game against neighborhood rival, Lipscomb, on Tuesday, March 14 at E.S. Rose Park.