NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont (12-36, 7-11 A-Sun) came up short in its bid for a berth in what would have been the school's first Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament with two losses to USC Upstate on Saturday. The doubleheader also gave the Bruins a chance to honor the team's seniors with Senior Day ceremonies.
Belmont got off to a rough start in game one, surrendering a home run to the leadoff hitter. The Spartans added two more runs in the inning to open the game with a 0-3 lead. The Bruins struggled offensively, but managed to slow the Spartan attack down, giving up just one run in the third and fourth innings before Upstate closed out the game witha three run seventh inning. Belmont managed just one hit in the game, a solo home run to centerfield from senior Ashley Byers. Byers, already the school's all-time career leader in home runs, had nine home runs this season, giving her 28 for her career. The run was the only one for the Bruins, giving USC Upstate a 1-8 victory.
The struggles continued in game two, as Upstate out-hit Belmont 11-3 on the game. The Spartans scored one run in the first inning, two runs in the second, and five runs in the third to take a 0-8 lead. Belmont was unable to get anything going offensively, despite hits from senior Hannah Irwin and freshmen Heather Turner and Kat Hollingsworth. All five seniors started game two, one of the few times all have been in the lineup this season. Senior Amanda Buntin started in left field, while Irwin and Byers started at their regular positions, third and first respectively. Senior Stayci Cook got the start at catcher while senior Cassie Bollin started at second. The game also saw a pitching appearance for Katie Clancy, who came on in relief of junior Becca Gift in the third inning. Clancy gave up only two hits and allowed no runs in 2.2 innings of work.
The losses mark the end of the 2012 season for the Bruins, who for the first time found themselves with a chance to control their own destiny and attempt to reach the postseason on the final day of play. Belmont finished with 12 wins, their highest win total since 2006 and with one of their best Atlantic Sun records since joining the conference. Byers and Irwin both ranked in the top 10 in A-Sun statistical categories-- Byers in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on base percentage and walks; and Irwin in walks and hit by pitch. Freshman Heather Turner put together one of the best performances by a freshman in the conference this season, including hitting a double against USC Upstate.
Belmont will head into next season graduating five seniors, including three regular starters, but will do so coming off a season of great improvement and heading into a new conference as the school joins the Ohio Valley Conference next fall. For more information on the team, including player bios, statistics, full recaps and box scores from this season, visit www.belmontbruins.com.