The road to Omaha begins here in Nashville.
And the Belmont baseball team stands ready to crush anything thrown its way this spring over the course of the 56-game schedule.
The Bruins will face off against their usual Ohio Valley Conference opponents in their last shot at an OVC title, in addition to taking on some high-profile programs outside the conference.
Belmont head coach Dave Jarvis, who enters his 25th season with the Bruins this spring, expressed his enthusiasm to get the ball spinning.
“I’m really excited about the team, the clubhouse culture and the dugout culture,” Jarvis said. “We’re an older team, but that just means we have a lot of guys that have been out there before.”
Because of the pandemic, injuries and other medical hardships, Jarvis’ players make up one of the oldest teams in recent program history.
Some of Belmont’s more experienced players include catcher Jackson Campbell, pitcher Joshua South and third baseman Logan Jarvis, all of which are repeating captains for the team.
In a team stacked with veterans, the older players have done an exceptional job of checking in on younger members, leading by example and teaching accountability, coach Jarvis said.
With the depth of experience and the arrival of several new recruits, Jarvis believes competition will brew, helping the Bruins stay on pace as the season progresses, he said.
“A lot of the guys are going to push each other,” Jarvis said, mentioning Jalen Borders, Guy Lipscomb, Jack Capobianco and Will Jenkins among those who impressed in the offseason.
“You’ve got to keep other guys in the mix to keep the starting guys sharp,” Jarvis said.
During the offseason, a conference-high four Bruins were named to the Preseason All-OVC honor list.
The list includes third baseman Jarvis, pitcher South, junior outfielder John Behrends and sophomore pitcher Andy Bean, a squad that hopes to turn the hype into success on the diamond.
Star pitcher and catcher have similar goals and expectations for the season
One of the most important relationships on a baseball field lies between the pitcher and the catcher, and thankfully Belmont has one of the best tandems in the conference in Bean and Campbell.
Both players have one goal.
“We want to win the whole thing. We want the ring this year. Everyone’s got that in mind,” Campbell said. “Whatever I can do for the team, I’ll do it, just so we can win.”
His teammates have shown selflessness and have proven they will continue to do whatever it takes to make it to the conference playoffs.
Although he won’t be on the mound for every game this season, Bean echoed much of the same and looks forward to grinding out the season and supporting Campbell when he’s not eye-to-eye pitching.
“The season is a 56-game marathon. It’s a tough process, but we’ve got a really solid group,” Bean said.
One of the team’s newest additions is someone Bean has been working closely with on the staff: pitching coach A.J. Guara.
Building relationships with Campbell, Bean and others on the team, Guara is has proven himself a smart and energetic coach in his time with the Bruins so far, coach Jarvis and Bean said.
Although there may be new faces among the coaching staff, one thing that hasn’t changed is the bond between pitchers Campbell and Bean.
“We have a very strong unspoken relationship,” Bean said. “We’re not really speaking to each other out there, but we’re still very intense.”
Campbell, who is tasked with great responsibility behind home plate, loves the challenge of learning tendencies and evaluating each pitcher’s style, he said.
“It’s a pretty complex job, but it’s fun and I truly enjoy it.”
Campbell must know everything about his pitchers and jokes he’s kind of like their mom.
With Campbell’s farewell season approaching, Bean wants to do everything in his power to put his catcher and his teammates in a position to succeed with hopes of grabbing a trophy, he said.
“This is the last ride for Jackson, so he wants to win, and we all want to win too,” Bean said.
“What happens in February doesn’t define what happens in May. We want that OVC ring first, then get to a regional and hopefully get on the path to the College World Series,” Bean said.
First pitch of the season comes Friday
Belmont will quickly dive into its schedule beginning Friday with a four-game series against the University of Toledo continuing throughout the weekend.
The Bruins have faith that they will come out strong in the opener at E.S. Rose Park, said coach Jarvis.
“Game one is something I’m always looking forward to,” Jarvis said. “There will be a lot of energy and it’s gonna be a hard-fought and competitive game.”
“We’re really excited about some of our non-conference games that we’ll get to play in addition to the OVC schedule and our early weekend series,” he said.
Big-name away games on the Bruins’ schedule include road trips to the University of Alabama on April 12, Purdue University for a April 22-24 series and the University of Tennessee on May 17.
Showdown with Vandy Boys at First Horizon Park
Belmont will head downtown to play crosstown opponent Vanderbilt University on Mar. 22 at the Nashville Sounds stadium.
“It’ll be a great experience for our young men. We’ll be playing in an environment comparable to a regional atmosphere,” Jarvis said.
The Commodores frequently appear in national rankings and won the College World Series in 2014 and 2019 — a hometown showdown fans can look forward to for sure.
Looking out for OVC rivals
The spring season’s conference run will begin for the Bruins on Mar. 25 as Austin Peay State University visits for the opening weekend series.
Belmont will then take on Murray State at the beginning of April, challenging a team that finished second in OVC standings for the 2021 season.
Later the same month, the Bruins will travel to Morehead State University for a series that many members of the team are circling on their calendars.
“I always look forward to playing Morehead State just because I love beating those guys,” Campbell said.
Needless to say, Campbell and his teammates will be energized for the April 14-16 series.
Another challenge for the Bruins will be defending OVC Champions Southeast Missouri State University as they welcome them to E.S. Rose Park on April 29 for a high-profile three-game series.
The OVC Championship tournament will be held in Lexington, Kentucky, starting May 25, where the Bruins hopes to compete for the title in their last go-around in the OVC conference.
PHOTO: No. 23 Jordan Zuger, a freshman right-handed pitcher, at an offseason practice. A.J. Wuest / Belmont Vision
This article was written by Camden Morris and Landen Secrest.