NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nine innings wasn't enough the first time this year as Belmont baseball and Murray State endured 12 frames Saturday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park. The Racers would end up prevailing, 6-4, over the Bruins in game two to secure the series.
Sophomore starting hurler Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) put together an impressive outing on the hill, fanning a career-best 12 batters in seven innings of work. It's the fifth time this season that the right-hander has produced a double-digit strikeout effort – leading the OVC in the category by compiling 89 Ks in 11 starts.
The Bruins also enjoyed offensive production from a couple of veterans, senior Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) and redshirt-junior Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.). Payne boasts a nearly perfect record at the plate against Murray State, reaching in six of his seven trips to the plate this series, collecting a hit and wearing two pitches in today's contest. Bournigal was 2-for-4, including tallying a pair of RBIs that tied the game up in the sixth and force extra innings.
A Bruin throwing error to start game two off proved to be costly as the Racers went on to put two runs up in the opening frame. The leadoff batter got on a miscue from junior Kyle Conger (Brentwood, Tenn.), a walk and single would score the first run for Murray State before it'd tack on its second on a fielder's choice to lead 2-0 before Belmont even got a turn at the plate. Brandon Gutzler tacked on another run for MSU in the third with a long ball over the left field fence to push the lead to 3-0 in favor of the Racers.
Murray State continued to separate themselves from Belmont in the fourth, adding another run on a RBI base shot from Caleb Hicks to left and make it a 4-0 game. While the Racers managed to continue to put runs up, King didn't make it easy for them. The righty struck out eight batters through the first five stanzas - giving up only six hits, but the Racers managed to make the most of every contact they made with the ball.
For the second consecutive game BU struggled to get their bats going, only registering two hits in the first four frames. One of those base shots coming from Payne who remained perfect at the plate against the Racers after his first plate appearance.
The Bruins were finally able to put a dent in their deficit in the home half of the fifth after they loaded the bases and threatened for the first time. It got started with a bunt down the left line that allowed senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) to reach first right away. From them Payne wore a pitch to the back – reaching base in each of his five trips to the plate – and Bournigal walked to set up senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.). Egli painted the left line for a single that scored two runs and put BU within reaching distance, 4-2.
Once again Belmont used a two RBI base knock to work its way to tie the game up after trailing by four runs. The Bruins loaded the bases in identical fashion as they did in the sixth for Bournigal to come up and lace a single through the right side to knot the game up, 4-4.
King continued to deal on the hill, finishing his day by forcing the Racers to put up three consecutive scoreless frames. He struck out a pair of batters in each of the final four stanzas he appeared in, bringing his total to a career-best 12 Ks in a single outing.
The 4-4 deadlock stayed put until the 12th frame where the Racers plated a pair of go-head runs on a single from Ryan Perkins to seal the 6-4 victory and claim the series.
The series finale between the Bruins and the Racers has been moved up to a 12 p.m. start time tomorrow, Sunday, April 30 at E.S. Rose Park.