CHARLESTON, Ill. -- For the first time in program history, Belmont University Softball picked up a series sweep of Eastern Illinois. The Bruins (28-19, 10-8 OVC) defeated the Panthers (14-39, 3-17 OVC), 6-5, and 7-6, on the road Friday evening. It also marked just the third time since joining the Ohio Valley Conference that BU has recorded at least 10 victories in league play.
The Bruins jumped on the scoreboard in the opening inning, using four consecutive walks to send a runner over the plate. Senior Chelsea Thomas (Hot Springs, Ark.) reached first on a fielder's choice to send another BU base runner home. The Panthers were able to cut the Belmont lead in half in their half of the same inning but it was a short lived burst of energy.
The Bruins exploded in the top of the second frame. Sophomore Alicia Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) reached first with an EIU error before classmate Elison Ollinger (Robins, Iowa) became the fifth BU player to be walked in the game. Seniors Baylee Cook (Lewisburg, Tenn.) and Hayley Baker (Rockwall, Texas) knocked back-to-back long singles to score two runs. Freshman Audrey Lyle (Westlake, Ohio) smashed a double to the center fence to add another run and junior Bailey Sims (Flowery Branch, Ga.) used a sacrifice fly to push Belmont's fourth run over the plate to put the visitors ahead, 6-1.
Eastern Illinois added a total of three runs by the bottom of the fourth frame to trim the Belmont lead down to a pair of runs, 6-4. The Panthers would surge again late and move to within one run but strong pitching down the stretch by junior Brooklin Lee (Burns, Tenn.) was enough to close the deal and hand BU the 6-5 victory.
Game two saw the Bruins post a pair of runs in top of the first inning to take an early lead. BU repeated the feat in the second frame. Lee smashed a double to left and Veltri followed with her eighth homerun of the season over the left fence to put Belmont ahead, 4-0. However, Eastern Illinois was able to notch its first run of the contest in the bottom of the same inning.
In the top of the fifth, Cook smashed a triple to right, her fifth of the season, to get things rolling. A Panther fielding error of a hit by Sims helped Cook cross the plate, putting BU ahead, 5-1. EIU exploded in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings, cutting the Belmont lead down to just one run, 7-6.
BU managed to get runners into scoring positions in the top of the seventh inning but could not get additional runners over the plate, in part to a late pitching change by the Panthers. Holding on to the narrow one run lead, Belmont resorted to its own pitching change to help service the win. With runners threatening at first and second base, BU went back to Lee inside the circle. She struck out the first batter she faced and opened the door for a throw from Ollinger to Thomas to record the third out, protecting the 7-6 win.
For the day, Belmont was led at the plate by Veltri and Cavanaugh. Each batted .500 with Veltri recording a homerun and Cavanaugh posting a double.
Inside the circle, Lee logged a complete game with the game one win, fanning eight batters. Veltri and Lee split time in the circle in the nightcap. Veltri tallied five strikeouts while Lee came away with her second save of the season.
Belmont returns to action on Sunday for its final conference road games of the season with a stop at SIUE for a doubleheader. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. Live stats will be available and both games can be seen live on ESPN+.