By Ron Wynn
The Belmont Bruins completed an outstanding regular season campaign Saturday with a decisive 10-4 victory of Lipscomb. The win earned them their first Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship. Though last season they came on late to win the conference tournament, this year they will be the number one seed in the A-Sun Championships.
A balanced attack was the key to their triumph. A six-run third inning padded a 4-1 lead, and enabled them to withstand a late Lipscomb rally. Lipscomb scored three runs in the eighth. Belmont’s offense was also strong enough to keep defensive problems from affecting the result. Belmont had three errors, the only bad marks on an otherwise impressive performance.
Junior Judah Akers was Belmont’s top star on offense. Akers had three hits, batted in two runs and scored another. But every player in the lineup either scored or knocked in a run, as Belmont had eight hits along with its 10 runs.
“This is what you play for, to compete for a championship,” Akers said in an interview on the Bruins’ website. “To do it in the style that we did, playing a cross-town rival in Lipscomb, it was very exciting. We’re now looking forward to seeing what we can do in the tournament.”
Another big hitter was senior Dylan Craig. He had two hits, drove in a run and scored three times. Junior captain Drew Turner and freshman Matt Beatty also batted in two runs each for Belmont. Sophomore pitcher James Buckelew looked on the way to his seventh win, but a two-hour rain delay washed out his chances. He gave up only one run (unearned) in three innings, but Belmont head coach Dave Jarvis didn’t want to take any chances with the conference championships approaching. He replaced Buckelew with freshman reliever Dan Ludwig. Ludwig gave Belmont four strong innings, although he did give up a pair of home runs in the eighth. Another freshman Scott Moses closed the game, pitching a scoreless ninth and also giving up no hits.
Ludwig earned the win, his fifth against five losses. Chris Nunn was shelled during his two innings, giving up six runs and five hits.
It was Belmont’s 35th win and improved their conference record to 17-10 (35-21 overall). Lipscomb suffered their 13th A-Sun defeat. They finished 14-13 in the conference (25-30 overall). The win also means Belmont will be the number one seed in this week’s conference tournament, which began Wednesday.
“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Jarvis added following the win. “They’ve accomplished something that no previous Belmont baseball team had done, so I’m proud of them.”
Unfortunately for longtime rival Lipscomb, the Belmont win prevented them from participating in the conference tournament. The two had begun last week tied for third place in the conference. Lipscomb had won seven of its previous nine A-Sun games. But not only did they need to defeat Belmont, they also needed a loss from either Florida Gulf Coast or Mercer over the weekend to gain a spot.
“You can’t rely on other teams to help you when you have the opportunity to do it yourself and we didn’t do it,” Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand told the Nashville City Paper. “It’s tough to take. I don’t think anybody thought we’d be in this position right now. This is a difficult way to end the season coming off back-to-back weekends where you put yourself in position to place pretty well in the tournament. We couldn’t get anything going this weekend to close it out.”
Belmont won 2-1 Thursday and then 5-0 on Friday. They ended the regular season with a fi ve-game winning streak. Belmont’s first game was against Stetson Wednesday night in Deland, Florida