NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont University Baseball improved to 6-1 in OVC play Friday night after defeating SIUE 5-3. The Bruins were led defensively by senior Casey Queener (Brentwood, Tenn.) who had a career night on the mound, and offensively by senior Devon Gardner (Maryville, Tenn.) at the plate.
Queener's impressive night started early, striking out the side in the top of the first inning. His defensive efforts on the mound kept the Cougars off the board through three complete innings.
Gardner started off his three-for-three night in the bottom of the second with an infield single. Although he was stranded in the second, Gardner came up big again in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Jackson Campbell (Russellville, Ky.) started the inning with a single up the middle and senior Zach Ehrhart (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) followed that with a walk to put Belmont runners on first and second with no outs. Freshman Grayson Taylor (Cullman, Ala.) delivered the first RBI of the night, plating Campbell to give Belmont a 1-0 lead. After a beautiful sacrifice bunt from junior Chandler Adkins (Knoxville, Tenn.), Gardner doubled down the left field line, scoring two to give Belmont a 3-0 lead after three innings.
SIUE wasted little time responding, plating two in the top of the fourth to cut the Belmont lead 3-2. The Bruins, led by Queener, stepped up defensively keeping the Cougars off the board until the eighth inning. Queener continued to impress, picking off a runner at first base and striking out the side again in the sixth inning.
The Cougars made things interesting in the top of the eighth, scoring a run on two hits to tie the game 3-3. The late tying run never phased Belmont who responded in the eighth with a couple runs of its own. Once again Gardner led off the inning with a hit, this time his second double of the night down the left field line. After Gardner stole second and advanced to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt, the Cougars intentionally walked junior Hagan Severance (Brentwood, Tenn.) to try and set up the traditional double play. Severance took that hope away when he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Another intentional walk would load the bases leaving no room for an SIUE free pass. With two outs, senior Hunter Holland (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) worked a beautiful at-bat, drawing a bases-loaded walk to plate the go-ahead run. The Bruins scored another on a bases-loaded balk to take a 5-3 lead after eight innings.
Just three outs away from the victory, sophomore Logan Bowen (Bowling Green, Ky.) closed things out on the mound. Although a leadoff walk and hit batsmen put the tying runs aboard with just one out, Bowen kept his composure and forced a fly ball and ground ball to end the inning and secure the 5-3 victory.
Belmont and SIUE will be back in action at 2:00 p.m. CT Saturday at E.S. Rose Park.