MURFFREESBORO, Tenn. -- After battling back from an early deficit, Belmont Softball forced extra innings before a decision fell on Wednesday evening on the road. The Bruins (12-7) were edged by in-state rival Middle Tennessee State (14-11), 3-2.
MTSU jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first inning, using a bunt to push the runner over the plate. After a quiet second frame, the Bruins sprang into action in the top of the third. Senior Taylor Hargrove (Greenbrier, Tenn.) took advantage of a fielding error to reach first base. Classmate Baylee Cook (Lewisburg, Tenn.) reached on four balls before a hard hit ball by senior Hayley Baker (Rockwall, Texas) was unable to be handled effectively, allowing the first run to cross the plate. She went on to take second base on the throw, putting the two in scoring position. Sophomore Alicia Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) followed, hitting a blooper over the third baseman's head to send Cook over the plate, to give Belmont the 2-1 lead.
The Bruins held onto their narrow lead through the fifth frame. The Blue Raiders were successful in narrowly regaining the lead, 3-2, using a pair of singles and a double. Belmont made moves in the top of the seventh inning to regain control of the contest using a walk and a sacrifice bunt to get senior Cameryn Strother (Chesapeake, Va.) into scoring position. Cook stroked a single straight up the middle to send her over the plate to knot the score, 3-3, before advancing to second on the throw.
Sophomore Cheyenne Cavanaugh (Spring, Texas) joined her on base with the help of four consecutive balls, forcing the Blue Raiders to make a change inside the circle that was just enough to keep BU from taking the lead. MTSU was unable to produce in their half of the seventh and the teams went into extra innings for the decision.
In the Bruins' half of the eighth, senior Chelsea Thomas (Hot Springs, Ark.) had a leadoff single down the left line and was quickly joined on base by junior Brooklin Lee (Burns, Tenn.) who was hit by a pitch. Unfortunately, Belmont was unable to get either over the plate sending the stalemate into the bottom of the eighth frame still tied up. The Blue Raiders wasted little time chasing the game winning run. MTSU opened with a double and a walk before a long single to right field sent a runner over the plate, giving the home team the narrow, 4-3, victory.
For the day, Thomas went 2-for-4 to lead BU. Cook, Strother and Hargrove each posted a run in the effort.
Inside the circle, Veltri threw the entire seven innings for the Bruins.
BU returns to action this weekend at E.S. Rose Park, hosting the Belmont Invitational, March 15-17. Live stats will be available for all of the contests.