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Season preview: Baseball looks to bring its winning ways to the MVC

No. 33 Brodey Heaton, now No. 2 , stands on-deck at First Horizon Park in a 2022 game against Vanderbilt University. A.J. Wuest/Belmont Vision

Logan Jarvis, Guy Lipscomb and Jackson Campbell.

Three Bruins who helped solidify the 2022 Belmont University baseball team as not only the Ohio Valley Conference regular season champions, but also helped the squad reach the tournament championship.

Down seven runs early against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in Belmont’s first game of the OVC Tournament, Belmont refused to let the Cougars end its widely successful season.

After cutting SIUE’s lead all the way to one in the seventh inning, then-sophomore first baseman Brodey Heaton knocked in the tying run with an RBI double, driving in Lipscomb.

But the game winner came from Campbell, who pulled the ball to the shallow left field gap, allowing Heaton to find home.

In the midst of an incredible comeback for the Bruins, Campbell walked it off, keeping their season alive.

The Bruins would then advance to the semifinals where they dominated Tennessee Tech University and would move on to the OVC Championship.

But in a “sudden death” style, single-game championship, the Bruins were unable to defeat Southeast Missouri State University, who fought its way out of the loser’s bracket.

That one game ended the Bruins’ season in which Lipscomb hit a record .406 batting average with 42 stolen bases as Campbell and Jarvis played their final year at the collegiate level.

“I do think it’s important to note that the way the one game ended doesn’t discredit the things that happened over that season,” said junior lefthanded pitcher and 2023 co-caption Andy Bean.

“How special that group was and how well we played together and how impressive the season that we had,” said Bean.

But now, things look different for the Bruins heading into the 2023 season.

Not only did senior leaders Jarvis and Campbell graduate, but Lipscomb was drafted by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians over the off-season.

With other key players like John Behrends, Carson Shacklett and Joshua South from last year’s team gone, juniors Heaton and Bean say they have big shoes to fill as captains of this year’s squad.

“We’ve had great leaders when we were younger, so we’ve seen how it’s done. It’ll be fun to take that role over now,” Heaton said.

“We basically got to sit behind the same group of guys for three years with guys like Josh South, Jackson Campbell and Logan Jarvis. We got to see them do it on a team that wasn’t very good and we got to see them do it on one of the better teams we’ve ever had,” Bean added.

Andy Bean on the mound in 2022. Courtesy of Belmont Athletics.

Another change the Bruins will face this season is the shift from the OVC to the Missouri Valley Conference.

Playing in a league last season where teams executed primarily off home runs, it was Belmont’s situational style of play that allowed the team to stand out.

But in the MVC, teams are more complete, Bean said.

“I think that’s what made us stand apart so much last season was that we played complete team baseball. And that’s going to be incredibly important in the Missouri Valley because there are a lot more complete teams in the valley,” Bean said.

“They all play good defense, they can pitch pretty well and they can hit pretty well. So, I think it’s important to build that chemistry and those foundations as we go into the season,” Bean added.

Head coach Dave Jarvis said the MVC will be a challenge as the Bruins will face off against notable programs like Missouri State University, Southern Illinois University and the University of Evansville.

“It’s going to be a very challenging league, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that every member in the league we have had competition against in past years. I’ve been blessed to coach against every one of these coaches.”

Coach Jarvis said he thinks the bottom half of the MVC is stronger than the top half of the OVC.

“We’ll play our game. We’ll play to the best of our abilities, but what we try to do as a coaching staff and from a player development stance is we’re trying to hang tools on their tool belt, so to speak,” Jarvis said.

And with off-season additions to the team such as junior outfielder Sam Slaughter, infielder Max Jones and sophomore pitcher Cade Granzow on top of 11 freshmen, the Bruins have plenty of tools to build a solid team.

“There’s a lot of talent on this team,” Heaton said. “Part of our job is to kind of get them fit into the program and to do things the way we do it but a lot of talent, a lot of excitement. Especially a lot of young guys that have a chance to contribute and do a lot of things with new spots opening up.”

“A lot of new changes, but we have the talent to compete with it,” Heaton added.

Bean agrees.

“I think this is the most talented pitching staff that I’ve been on,” he said. The schedule

Before heading into MVC play, the Bruins will battle it out with some strong non-conference opponents such as the University of Kansas, North Carolina State University and single game contests against Nashville’s own Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University.

For Bean, he’s most excited to face North Carolina State.

“I think anytime you get a chance to go play a top 25 program at their house for three games. It's special and it's something it's going to be a good challenge for us especially early in the season,” he said.

Belmont will open its season on Friday at E.S. Rose Park against the University of Tennessee at Martin to kickstart a four-game, weekend series.

Diving into conference, the Bruins will play Illinois State at home starting on March 24 for a three-game series.

They will then travel to Heaton’s hometown of Evansville, who was the No. 2 seed in the MVC tournament in 2022, a few days later for another three-game series.

After an away series against Southern Illinois and a home series against Indiana State, Belmont will face 2022 MVC champions Missouri State in Springfield, Missouri on April 20-22.

“I’m looking forward to going to Missouri State,” Heaton said. “Going to a minor league stadium. The start time might be a little challenging. Eleven o’clock start time but it’ll be a fun experience. It’s like playing a First Horizon Park but getting to do it three times in a row where games really mean something.”

The Bruins will then return home to play Middle Tennessee State University before hosting a series against Murray State University on April 28-30.

The Lipscomb Bisons will make the trip to Rose Park on May 9 after the Bruins return from an away series against the University of Illinois Chicago.

Remaining home on May 12-14, the Bruins will see Valparaiso University before ending their season on the road with a single game against the University of Tennessee on May 16 and a three-game series against Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois on May 18-20.

The MVC tournament is scheduled for May 23-27.

After an off-season of many changes, Bean said he’s ready to finally put the pieces together and compete.

“There’s a lot of talent on this team, it’s just untested. Now, it’s about to get tested so we got to be ready for it and roll with the punches,” Bean said.

This article was written by A.J. Wuest

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