NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With one swing of the bat senior Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) reigned hero, connecting on a walk-off single Saturday afternoon as Belmont baseball edged Southeast Missouri, 6-5, in a twelve-inning battle at E.S. Rose Park.
SEMO (25-23, 13-13) plated four unanswered runs in the final two frames of regulation to knot the game up and force the two squads to go into extras. Despite finding ways to threaten on various occasions, it wouldn't be until the twelfth inning that Belmont (25-25, 16-13) found a way to seal the deal. Having gone hitless in his first four at bats, Payne waited until the bases were loaded with one away to rip a base shot to deep centerfield, bringing in the winning run and evening the series.
The Bruins and Redhawks traded runs to get game two going. Belmont struck first on a RBI single from senior Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) who brought in redshirt-junior Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) after getting on via base on balls. Southeast Missouri knotted it all up in the top of the second on a double steal that allowed a runner to hijack home plate before the BU defense could tag him out making it a 1-1 contest.
In their next turn at the plate the Bruins exploded for six consecutive hits that amounted to four runs and put them up, 5-1. The first four hits all came in the form of a base knock, ultimately producing the first pair of runs. Junior Ben Kocher (Zionsville, Ind.) then broke up the small ball with a two-bagger that ricocheted off the centerfield wall for two RBIs and made it a four-run game in favor of Belmont.
While BU's bats caught fire, so did starting hurler Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) who had retired eight of the first thirteen batters he saw in the opening three frames, only relinquishing three hits and a run. The right hander went on to produce his first three up, three down frame in the fourth as he continued to disrupt SEMO's offense.
King showed no signs of letting up, even after finding himself in a jam in the fifth with Redhawks residing on the corners with just one away. He refused to succumb to the pressure, getting the next two batters swinging and getting out of the stanza unscathed. The righty's day ended after logging five complete innings where he didn't give up a hit in the final 11 Redhawks to take the plate.
After BU's four-run third stanza both squads quieted down as neither managed to push any runs across for the next three innings. Southeast Missouri's bullpen proved effective after they replaced their starter Clay Chandler who was responsible for Belmont's hitting frenzy. SEMO then used six relievers to hold the Bruins scoreless until the bottom of the 12th stanza.
The Bruins also saw quality time from their pitching staff with Kyle Klotz (Fairview, Tenn.) making his 38th appearance of the season, ranking him second all-time in the single season category. The sophomore tossed a flawless 1.1 innings before senior Brennan Washington (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) replaced him in the seventh.
SEMO broke up the standstill, launching a two-run homer to right field in the top of the eighth to bring the Redhawks within two. They went on to score two more runs, making it four unanswered runs, to tie it up in the top of the ninth, 5-5.
Senior closer Dom Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) tossed the final 4.2 innings, collecting his second win in his longest outing of the year. Payne then finished if off in the home half of the twefth on his walk-off single to centerfield.
The series finale between the Bruins and Redhawks will take place on Sunday, May 13 at E.S. Rose Park. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.