When Riley Reynolds caught a fly ball in the infield, the run was over.
Even if it was against Belmont’s will.
“I don’t think any of us were willing to give up yet. It was fun. It was a fun run,” said senior Nate Woods, who earned a win pitching earlier in the day.
The Bruins, who lost to the #6-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores 6-2 Sunday night, ended a streak few saw coming from a slow-starting Belmont baseball team.
“Our coaching staff just kind of stepped in, and wasn’t like physically shoving us up against the wall, but kind of just put it out for us,” Woods said. “We started playing a little more desperation and started enjoying the game a little more.”
It was a step-by-step process for the team, who eventually won their way into and through the Atlantic Sun conference tournament as well as giving Belmont it’s first two NCAA tournament wins ever.
“If we had stopped at one time and tried to examine the whole thing, it would have seemed insurmountable. But by taking it just one step at a time,… [it] made that task easier,” head coach Dave Jarvis said.
The Commodores were led by Taylor Hill Sunday, who was a force on the mound. The senior struck out a career-high 13 batters while allowing one run in eight innings work.
“It was just a very outstanding performance,” Jarvis said. “We tried to push his pitch count up to try get him out of there sooner than we did. We weren’t able to accomplish it.”
Belmont’s only run of the night came off a Tim Egerton home run, his thirteenth of the season. His hit over the Green Monster-esque fence in left field tied the right fielder for the team home run lead with Woods.
The homer also tied the game in the second inning after a bases-loaded walk brought Conrad Gregor in for the Dores. Two innings later, a Jason Esposito single and Gregor sacrifice fly gave the Dores a 3-1 lead in the third. It also ended Buckelew’s night. The freshman gave up three runs on four hits and four walks in a three-inning loss.
Vanderbilt added to their lead late in the game with runs by Reynolds and Tony Kemp in the sixth. Esposito, voted the regional MVP, brought another run to the plate with a solo home run to left center in the seventh.
The Commodores’ win advanced them to their first ever Super Regional series, where they will play the Oregon State Beavers. The team, with its offense, pitching, and fielding strengths, make them a team to be reckoned with all they way to the College World Series in Omaha, Jarvis said.
“They’re extremely well coached. Their extremely well prepared for any situation or circumstance they’re going to run into on the field. When you put those three aspects together, I think they’re very capable of doing that,” he said.
The Bruins’ elimination, after the team’s season, was not the end-all it could have been, said senior closer Jon Ivie.
“I’m not disappointed at all. I mean, yeah, I’m disappointed we didn’t win and get a shot again tomorrow. But we’ve done something no Belmont team has ever done, so I’m proud of that and proud to be a part of it,” said Ivie, who was named to the regional all-tournament team.
Chase Brookshire, Matt Zeblo, and Derek Hamblen also all made all-regional team.
The championship run, Ivie said, can show the university and future prospects what the program is capable of.
“It opens a lot of doors. It shows the school that we can make it this far, and maybe even further one day,” he said