With their backs literally against the wall, the Belmont Bruins advanced to the Nashville regional championship with a 5-2 win over the Troy Trojans.
A two-out Derek Hamblen jumping catch at the tall left-field corner saved the game for the Bruins, who held a one-run lead with the bases loaded at the time. After the win, the Bruins will play the Vanderbilt Commodores at 7:35 p.m. to possibly decide the region champion. Belmont must beat the Commodores twice to advance to the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament.
Starter Nate Woods led the way for Belmont in the elimination game. The senior, a weekday pitcher as of late, threw five-plus innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk. He also hit a double as the designated hitter later in the game.
In addition to Hamblen catch, which would have scored runs if hit anywhere else in the park, stellar defensive plays were common for both teams in the game. Infielders Jared Breen, Greg Brody, and Zac Mitchell made play after play for the Bruins, while Troy center fielder Daniel Peterson made a diving catch for the second game in a row.
After an easy first inning, Trojan starter Ryan Sorce was quickly on the ropes in the second. After loading the bases, first baseman Judah Akers hit an RBI single to right-center that ended Sorce’s day. Jared Breen followed with a 2 RBI single, giving the Bruins an early 3-0 lead by the end of the inning.
A double ended Woods’ day in the sixth. Freshman Blake Harvey came in in relief, and allowed two singles that brought TJ Rivera in for the Trojans’ first run. A 6-4-3 double play, Belmont’s second of the day, by the next batter got Belmont out of the inning.
The Bruins nearly scored again in the seventh when Greg Brody and Breen hit two singles to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt, a play at the plate and and groundout ended the Bruins chances. The inning proved to be the opposite for the Trojans, as a Adam Bryant single brought in Daniel Peterson and cut the Bruin lead to one. Garrett Fanchier forced a groundout and flyout in relief, eventually getting Belmont out of the inning.
In the eighth, the Trojans nearly scored again, but a jumping Hamblen got the Bruins out of a bases-loaded jam. By the end of the game, the Trojans left 12 men on base.
The Bruins’ momentum from the Hamblen catch proved huge in the ninth as Tim Egerton scored on a wild pitch and Mitchell drove in Breen on an RBI single. The three-run lead was enough for closer Jon Ivie, who set the career save record for Belmont, by setting the Trojans down in order in the night.