NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball never once succumbed to pressure in the opening game of the series against SIUE Friday evening, scoring all eight of its runs in the form of a two-out rally. The Bruins final two-out rally came in the the form of a two-run homer from senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) to break up the deadlock and launch them past the Cougars, 8-6, at E.S. Rose Park.
Four different Bruins (11-13, 6-4) registered multiple hits on the outing to help outlast a tightly contested matchup against the Cougars (14-11, 4-6). In addition to Walsh's two-run long ball, senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) drove in a couple of runs to help outlast SIUE.
The Cougars used a trio of base knocks in the third to put them on the board first in the third frame. In nearly identical fashion, SIUE laced three consecutive singles thru the left side with the third bringing in the first run to take the 1-0 advantage.
The back-and-forth battle continued as SIUE tied it all up, 2-2, with one swing of the bat on a solo shot over the right-centerfield fence from the team's home run leader, Brock Weimer, to leadoff the fourth. The Cougars added another run later in the inning on a RBI base shot to left field and reclaimed the lead, 3-2.
For the second time in the contest, the Bruins converted multiple runs with two outs weighing on them. A leadoff single from Conger got the fifth going for BU, but a pair of consecutive outs put pressure on the Bruin offense. As they've done multiple times this season, the squad thrived under pressure and collected three consecutive RBI hits from Egli, junior Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) and junior Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) to separate themselves from SIUE, 5-3.
Just as they'd done all afternoon, the Cougars took back the lead for the third time in the top of the sixth. After Belmont's starting hurler Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Ill.) issued a walk to load the bases with two down, SIUE's Alec Skender raked in three RBIs after dropping a double into shallow right field. The Cougars led, 6-5.
The Bruins once again had an answer for the Cougars. With senior duo Payne and Brennan Washington (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) reaching base on a couple of free rides, Conger laid down the perfect sacrifice bunt to move runners to second and third. Hadden sent a sacrifice fly to right and tied the game for the third time, 6-6, after six.
The two-out magic struck again in the bottom of the seventh as Walsh became the sixth Bruins to register a hit as he blasted his second home run in the last two games – this one over the right-centerfield fence. A base shot up the middle from Bournigal earlier in the frame allowed Walsh to tack on a pair of runs with his dinger to put the Bruins up, 8-6, and secure BU the opening game of the series against SIUE.
Belmont and SIUE face off for game two at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 1 at E.S. Rose Park.