MARTIN, Tenn. – A three-run homer from sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) propelled Belmont baseball past UT Martin, 8-5, in the first game of the series Friday night inside Skyhawk Field.
The Bruins (9-11, 4-3) and Skyhawks (8-11, 0-7) traded home runs to register both squads first hits of the day, Belmont's just happened to be worth a little more. UT Martin took the early lead as Belmont's starting hurler Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Ill.) relinquished a solo shot over the left field fence in just the second batter he faced. However, Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) had an answer of his own, launching his first homer of the season over the centerfield wall to bring in three runs for BU after consecutive Bruins were dealt free rides to give them the 3-1 advantage after two stanzas.
Belmont continued to pile on the runs in the third after loading the bases on consecutive singles from junior infielder Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) and junior infielder Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and another walk issued to redshirt-freshman Matt Cogen (Franklin, Tenn.). Senior designated hitter Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) continued his hot hitting with a RBI single that reloaded the bases and allowed Conger to score despite a Bruin grounding into a double play, putting BU up 5-1. The Skyhawks didn't dare allow the Bruins to extend their lead any more in the third, dipping into their bullpen and calling on right-handed pitcher Winston Cannon to replace their starting hurler, Kyle Laberge. Cannon quickly retired the next two Bruins and got out of the frame.
After the opening stanza, Vaughn dialed in and refused to give UT Martin any easy looks, holding the Skyhawks to just two hits in the next three innings. It wasn't until the fifth that UTM closed in on its deficit, 5-3, with a leadoff double followed up by a base knock brought in the first run. A couple of consecutive sloppy plays contributed by Belmont, including an error on third baseman Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) and a wild pitch, allowed the second run to cross.
Hadden continued to spark Belmont's offense as the Bruins used a variety of plays to tack on a pair of runs in the seventh and spread their lead to 7-3. Hadden collected his team-best 13th walk of the season to lead off the inning. The Morristown, Tenn. product then went on to steal second and put pressure on the Skyhawks. From then on senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) walked for senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) to perfectly execute a sacrifice bunt – advancing runners to second and third. Conger then delivered a sacrifice of his own with a fly ball to right field bringing home Hadden for the first run. Payne made it a four-run game on a passed ball.
For the sixth time in the last seven games, Egli registered multiple RBIs with a dinger of his own to centerfield, adding another run to the Bruins lead, 8-3.
UT Martin plated a couple of runs to chip away at their deficit in the bottom of the eighth to come within three, 8-5, but that's as close as the Skyhawks would get.
The Bruins take on the Skyhawks for game two of the series tomorrow, March 25 at Skyhawk Field. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.