NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball waited until the very end to seal its series against SIUE Saturday afternoon, claiming game two, 4-3, on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth. The Bruins were aided by a 2-for-3 day at the plate from junior Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) who contributed a pair of extra-base knocks including his first home run of the season.
Starting hurler Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) was locked in from the very first pitch, fanning the side – getting each of the first three Cougars he faced to go down swinging. The righty only relinquished two hits while striking out eight batters in five innings of work before giving up his first runs in the sixth.
The Bruins (12-13, 7-4) got on the board in the home half of the third after a walk dealt to senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) put a runner on for junior Kyler Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) to collect a RBI with a triple to the right corner of the field. They doubled their advantage in the next at bat from sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) who registered a RBI of his own on a groundout to second putting BU up, 2-0.
Ward then got to work by adding to Belmont's advantage in the fifth with his long ball launched over the right field fence to make it 3-0. SIUE (14-12, 4-7) matched BU's home run in the next frame to bring the Cougars within one after Keaton Wright followed suit and sent one of his own over right field to bring in a pair of runs, 3-2.
Payne continued to shine behind the plate, catching his league-best ninth runner attempting to steal. The veteran did so in the fifth after SIUE laced a leadoff base knock to put a Cougar on first before he'd come up short in his efforts to rob a base as Payne threw him out. The play gave King renewed energy and he got the next two Cougars to pounce on a pitch prematurely and go down swinging to end the inning.
In his next plate appearance, Ward once again found favor in right field - this time drilling a double that allowed runners to reside on second and third. Previously in the frame senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) extended his hitting streak to four games with a base knock to left-centerfield. Belmont was unable to add to its lead, stranding both Ward and Walsh as SIUE right-handed pitcher Nelson Martz got out of the jam.
For the next 1.1 frames Washington was locked in, striking out three batters and only gave up one hit to hold the Cougars to three runs while the Bruins worked to take the lead in the bottom of the final inning.
A leadoff base shot from Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) got the Bruins rolling in search of their first walk-off victory of the season. Kocher then reached on a fielder's choice in which SIUE failed to tag Bournigal out at third to put runner on the corners. Walsh was then intentionally walked to load the bases and bring sophomore Hunter Holland (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) up with no outs. Belmont didn't need the cushion as SIUE reliever Mason McReaken dealt Hollander the game-winning walk to edge the Cougars, 4-3.
Belmont closes the series against SIUE on Sunday, April 2 at E.S. Rose Park. Frist pitch is slated for 1 p.m.