MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Belmont baseball started out strong against Middle Tennessee on Tuesday evening but withered away as the game went on, dropping a 10-4 decision at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
The Bruins struggled to find a rhythm on the hill all night, using six different hurlers who collectively relinquished 15 hits and 10 runs. While they searched for answers on the hill, they also had a hard time getting runs on the board despite registering 13 hits of their own.
After allowing the first three Blue Raiders to get on base, freshman starter Justin Fowlkes (Collierville, Tenn.) got the next three batters to go down to get out of the jam and exit the first inning unscathed. Belmont then gave Fowlkes a one-run pad in the next frame with a leadoff double from senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) to put the Bruins in scoring position right off the bat. Junior Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) laced a single to right field and brought in Egli to give them the 1-0 lead.
Middle Tennessee knotted it up during its turn at the plate after Fowlkes dealt a pair of walks to start the stanza. With runners threatening the Blue Raiders used a groundout to second base to bring in the tying run.
Egli and Ward once again teamed up to score Belmont's second run in the fourth. In his second plate appearance, Egli laced a single through the left side for another leadoff hit. An additional base shot from Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) put the veteran on second for Ward to bring him in and give the Bruins a 2-1 advantage.
The Blue Raiders used four base knocks to take their first lead in the fifth after redshirt-junior Ben Lovell (St. Louis, Mo.) headed the mound as the Bruins fourth reliever. MTSU took advantage of BU's third error to allow runners to threaten early, a pair of singles and RBI ground out went on to plate three consecutive runs and take its first lead, 4-2. Middle Tennessee then added five more runs with six hits to extend its advantage, 9-2, in the sixth.
Ward continued to be effective at the plate, drilling a ground-rule double to centerfield after the ball bounced over the centerfield wall to start the frame. Senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) got a run back for the Bruins with a wind-aided RBI base shot to shallow left field to cut their deficit to, 9-3.
Trailing 10-3 in the top of the eight, senior Drake Byrd (Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) pinch hit and let one ride over the left field fence to get the inning started and make it a six-run game. It was the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee natives first long ball of the year. Egli and Ward both registered 3-for-4 outings at the plate, connecting on all three of the squad's doubles. Walsh also recorded a multi-hit night, going 2-for-3 with a RBI.
The Bruins host Eastern Illinois for a three-game series at E.S. Rose Park, April 13-15. The first game of the series is scheduled for Thursday, April 13 at 4 p.m.