NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball extended its win streak to three games while carving its first series sweep of the season in dramatic fashion against SIUE Sunday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park. The Bruins stole a stifling nine bases en route to an 8-5 victory over the Cougars.
BU (13-13, 8-4) had to play catch up most of the game, having trailed SIUE (14-13, 4-8) three times – tying it up on each occasion. The Bruins were finally able to break away from the Cougars in the seventh with a three-run frame that proved to be the difference maker. Six different Bruins robbed at least one base with senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) (3) and sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) (2) to keep the Bruins within striking distance.
Stellar defense from both squads kicked off the finale as Belmont's starting hurler Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) dealt three strikeouts in the first three frames and saw impressive contributions from shortstop Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.) and second baseman Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) in the infield. Conger swiped a ball off the bounce to throw out a runner at first, while Bournigal had a web gem of his own after rising up and snagging a ball to rob the Cougars of a base hit.
SIUE had a pair of great catches of its own, both from centerfielder Eric Glitz to keep Belmont hitless through the first two frames. The Cougars then took the lead on a leadoff home run from Marty Brunk in the top of the third to put them put, 1-0.
Walsh made it five-straight games that he's registered a hit with a leadoff single through the left side. He then single handedly moved himself to third by stealing both second and third on back-to-back pitches from SIUE starter Danny Ehrsam. Once residing on third, junior Alex ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) converted a RBI single to right and tied the game up, 1-1.
A hit-by-pitch issued by Etheridge allowed the Cougars to reclaim the lead in the fourth on a two-bagger to left center. However, the Bruins continued to chase the Cougars and tied the game up, 2-2, for the second time in the home half of the stanza. Just as they'd done previously, the Bruins utilized their third stolen base of the day to bring in another run. Freshman-redshirt Matt Cogen (Franklin, Tenn.) connected on a base shot to center and then stole second. Bournigal then made another crucial play, this one at the plate, with a RBI single to tie the game.
The Cougars continued to separate themselves whenever the Bruins would find a way to tie it up. This time they created a little wiggle room with a three-run bomb by Keaton Wright that landed in the same place that their previous long ball did to give SIUE a 5-2 advantage.
Like clockwork, Belmont tied the game up with three runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth with the help of four more stolen bases. For the third consecutive frame the Bruins collected a leadoff single, this one from senior Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.). A groundout to second put one away before the squad tallied three consecutive RBI hits from Hadden, Cogen and senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) to knot it up, 5-5.
BU took its first lead of the day in the home half of the seventh as Walsh continued to display his speed, stealing his third base of the day. Egli delivered a single to left field to kick off the inning before Walsh sent a RBI double to centerfield and tack on the first of three runs. The veteran then stole third for his third stolen base and Ward drove him in for the second time with a single. Sophomore Hunter Holland (Soddy, Daisy, Tenn.) then came in to pinch run and stole Belmont's ninth base. He then advanced home on a throwing error by the SIUE catcher to make it 8-5 and solidify the series sweep.
- Tyler Walsh is one stolen base away from moving to second all-time in the record books, has registered 54 career stolen bases so far after robbing three against SIUE.
- Two Bruins – Walsh and Hadden – stole two multiple bases contributing to a BU season-high nine SB in a game.
- This is the first series sweep for the Bruins in 2017.
- All nine Bruins in the starting lineup registered at least one hit against the Cougars – first time this season they've done so.
The Bruins continue their five-game home stand against Memphis on Monday, April 3. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park.