Belmont got off to a rough start on its quest to win their third straight conference baseball tournament title. Lipscomb, however, will have to wait another day to play in its first league tournament since 2009.
The Bruins lost to Southeast Missouri State 9-6 on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Jackson, Tenn. The Bisons were set to open the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament against North Florida but storms in DeLand, Fla., pushed the start of that game back to 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Belmont (37-19) erased a five-run deficit with four runs in the fourth but didn’t score the rest of the way. Matt Beaty had three hits and two RBIs but Belmont stranded 14 runners and left the bases loaded three times. SEMO scored three runs in the top of the ninth to win it.
The third-seeded Bruins fell into the losers bracket and an elimination game against No. 4 Jacksonville State at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Belmont moved to the OVC after winning the last two A-Sun Tournament titles. The Bruins set a school record for regular-season wins with 37. With an RPI of 71, their best chance at reaching a third straight NCAA Regional is by winning the tournament championship and claiming the automatic berth.
That could be an uphill climb, considering the rash of recent injuries.
Pitchers Jordan Deal (elbow), Dom Veltri (groin) and Scott Moses (hip) and right fielder Drew Turner (ribs) were hurt last week and coach Dave Jarvis said they are questionable to return. The Bruins are already without starting pitcher Austin Coley, who suffered a season-ending injury when he broke his hand last month.
“Bottom line is we’re not going to make excuses and stay focused on the task at hand,” Jarvis said earlier this week. “We’ll go out and try to find a way to get the job done. That’s our mentality. [This season is] a testament in itself to our kids’ character and their perseverance and ability to go out and work through these issues that we don’t have a whole lot of control over and set them aside and find a way to get it done.”
Lipscomb (24-32) enters postseason play on a hot streak.
The Bisons won eight of their last nine conference games while beating up on three teams – Kennesaw State, Jacksonville and Northern Kentucky – lower than them in the league standings. Lipscomb clinched a spot in the tournament last weekend and is the sixth seed in the newly expanded eight-team field.
Coach Jeff Forehand said better starts from his pitchers has fueled a 9-2 mark in the month of May. The Bisons have allowed three runs or less in seven of 11 games.
With a win, Lipscomb advances to the winners bracket and plays at 9 a.m. Friday. With a loss, the Bisons will fall to the losers bracket and play a second game Thursday at 4 p.m.
“Just like every team that’s here we feel like we’re going to win this thing,” Forehand said. “The last month we’ve played a lot better. I feel like the team has really got a little bit different edge to it in the last month of the season, which is always fun going into the tournament. I’m very, very pleased with how we’re playing at this moment.”
• League honors: Seven Belmont and Lipscomb players were honored with postseason accolades from their conferences.
Belmont’s utility player/closer Josh Davis and starting pitcher Daniel Ludwig earned first-team honors from the OVC. Right fielder Drew Turner and starting pitcher Chase Brookshire were named to the second team. Outfielder/pitcher Dom Veltri was placed on the all-freshman team.
For Lipscomb, outfielder Drew Adams collected second-team honors from the A-Sun. Pitcher Josh Cotham also made the league’s all-academic team.