With two top players graduated and a significant class of freshman, the Belmont baseball team is hoping to have players step up and lead the team to a championship this season.
“To be a leader on this team is a good feeling,” said junior relief pitcher Kyle Brennan. “We also have great senior leadership and a good group of underclassmen. Everyone chips in. I think we’ll be a solid team this year.”
Belmont finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference last year with a conference record of 20-13 and 27-30 overall. They were eliminated by Eastern Kentucky in the tournament with a score of 15-8, forcing the Bruins to take the loss in the fifth inning.
Belmont is projected to finish fourth in the OVC this year behind Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, according to the D1 Baseball.com’s projections. Jacksonville State is the clear favorite to win the conference as they won the championship last year
Two of Belmont’s best players graduated, leaving behind big shoes to fill. Devon Gardner and Hunter Holland had .285 and .280 batting averages respectively. Both players were the top performing hitters on the team. Gardner stockpiled 57 hits including three home runs, 15 doubles and 33 RBIs. Holland accumulated 47 hits including eight home runs, 14 doubles and 37 RBIs.
Those big shoes could be filled by Brennan and Joshua South. Brennan has been projected by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper to be the OVC Pitcher of the Year. Last year, Brennan finished with an ERA of 3.44 and 59 strikeouts.
Brennan was also named in the 2020 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award Preseason Watch List.
“We always hate to see our seniors leave. Some of these guys have been here for five years,” Coach Dave Jarvis said. “There’s some really good men in that senior class. At the same time, I’m so excited for our freshman, sophomore and junior class.”
South was the third Bruin to be named OVC Preseason Pitcher of the Year in 2020. He was also named for the Preseason All-OVC team. Last year, South finished with a 3.89 ERA in 14 starts including 77 strikeouts.
Another player to watch out for is sophomore outfielder John Behrends. He had a great 2019 season finishing with a .277 batting average, the third highest on the team. In 141 at bats, he managed to collect 39 hits with seven doubles and 18 RBIs.
Jarvis feels the same way about this season as he did when he first started coaching the Bruins.
He is currently 29 wins away from passing Coach Dave Whitten for most wins in Belmont baseball history.
“There was a lot of stress and anxiety years ago, and some of that is still there with winning and losing,” Jarvis said. “I know what kind of adversity we’re going to run into. There’s going to be hard times. It all depends on how we handle it. It’ll hopefully make us better and stronger.”
The Bruins start their season Friday against Kansas at E. S. Rose Park at 4 p.m.
Article by Laura Privott.