Belmont’s elimination game win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys wasn’t short on dramatics.
With the Oklahoma’s tying run on third base and the bases loaded, Bruins shortstop Jared Breen took a hard ground ball, ran to second, and threw to first baseman Nate Wood. The game-ending double play gave Belmont a 3-2 win, a first for the Bruins against a Big 12 opponent.
The late inning thrills were the antithesis of the eight innings before it. Starting pitcher Chase Brookshire breezed through eight-plus innings against the Cowboys before allowing two late runs in the ninth on two hits, one walk and an error by Breen.
Sophomore Brookshire had a perfect game going into the fifth, but allowed a bunt hit to break up the performance. His OSU counterpart, Brad Propst, was mowing down the Bruins early in the game, striking out five of the first eight batters and setting a career record with 11 strikeouts by the time he was relieved in the eighth inning.
“It was a very well played ballgame on both sides of the field,” Belmont head coach Dave Jarvis said. “We were able to take advantage of a couple of [Probst’s] mistakes, but he was on all day.”
Brookshire was pulled after eight shutout innings.
“I don’t think I had too high of a pitch count, but after so many innings, the heat just wears on you,” he said about the 90-degree-plus heat.
With Belmont up 3-0, closer Jon Ivie came in to relieve Brookshire and allowed a single to load the bases after a strikeout. Ivie then walked the next two batters, bringing two Cowboys runs in and leaving the tying run at third base. Davis Duren, who got the first Cowboys hit of the game in the fifth, came to the plate and hit a hard grounder to Breen to start the game-ending double play.
Despite Ivie’s struggles, he gained a school single-season record 14th save in his appearance.
“It doesn’t always go smoothly,” Jarvis said. “It doesn’t always go the way we draw it up. Maybe because Jon’s stuff isn’t 95 mph, but I tell you what, he is a competitor that I’d like to have out there when the game is on the line.”
The Bruins’ runs came early in the game, as a first-inning Nate Woods solo home run got the Bruins their first run and lead of the tournament. Matt Zeblo’s double in the third brought in Dylan Craig and Derek Hamblen, expanding the Belmont lead to three.
The win was the first NCAA tournament win for any Belmont program, men’s or women’s. It is a win the team can never lose, Jarvis said.
“It means a tremendous [amount] for me personally because it’s an opportunity for these seniors to have another opportunity to play another game,” he said.
The Bruins will face the loser of tonight’s Troy-Vanderbilt game at 2 p.m. Sunday. Senior Nate Woods will start for Belmont. A number of tickets are on sale at belmontbruins.com.