Derek Hamblen went out to left field for the top of the first inning. Little did he know, he wouldn’t make the jog back out.
That is because Hamblen and the rest of the Belmont Bruins got plenty of work in the bottom of the first inning.
The Bruins set an NCAA first-inning record with an astonishing 19 runs in the opening frame of a 24-3 victory during the first game of a doubleheader sweep against visiting Tennessee-Martin on Wednesday night at Rose Park.
“It feels like in Little League it happened a little more often than maybe at this level,” Hamblen said. “But this is first time I have seen anything like this, especially in the first inning.”
The 19 runs are just two fewer than the record for any inning, which Penn set in 1983. Belmont batted around twice and 23 batters went to the plate — just two short of another NCAA record. The 24 runs are a school record for the most in the NCAA era.
But maybe the most mind-boggling stat of the night: the Bruins had 15 batters reach base safely before UT-Martin recorded an out. The score was 14-0 by that time.
“They couldn’t do that again in practice. They couldn’t,” UT-Martin coach Bubba Cates said. “That is one of those things you never see and then all of a sudden you see it. You’d rather be on the other side of that. You’d rather be the one with the record than giving that record up. ... The law of averages says that can’t happen and it doesn’t happen but it did happen [Wednesday].”
Belmont (28-21) used 17 different players in the first game. Hamblen was one of a few who was replaced after the first inning. The senior reached safely in all three at-bats (two hits and a walk), drove in four runs and scored three.
Pitcher Nate Woods was batting in the third spot but after he had three hits, three runs and two RBIs in the first inning, a designated hitter was inserted in his place.
“Everyone just kept getting hits. I ended up having three at-bats in one inning — that’s wild,” Woods said.
UT-Martin was just a month removed from defeating Belmont 9-8 in walk-off fashion, and the Skyhawks (18-27) were winners of eight of their last nine.
But UT-Martin started right-handed pitcher Dylan Cupples on Wednesday for the first time all season. Cupples had been bothered by an arm injury but since he is a senior, Cates wanted to get him on the mound one last time in his career.
It was a rough start as he hit two batters, walked two and gave up a hit before he was pulled. Belmont coach Dave Jarvis thought that played a factor in getting his team going as the hits and runs started to roll in after that. In fact, UT-Martin was on its third pitcher before the first out was recorded.
“I felt like it was very much a class act on Coach Cates’ and UT-Martin’s part [to start Cupples],” Jarvis said. “Then, our kids just kind of got on a roll and one thing led to another. It was born from somebody that was making a very class act for that senior, recognizing him.”
Belmont (28-21) finished with 19 hits, five home runs, 10 walks and six hit batters in the first game. The Bruins recorded 15 hits in a 14-5 win in the nightcap. The 38 combined runs in the doubleheader are more than the total runs in any of Belmont’s three-game series this season.
“Bubba and I are dear friends. He is as good as a friend as I have in this game,” Jarvis said. “But the thing I will say is that we do sympathize with the opposing coach but at the same time you also recognize the fact that you are still pulling for your players and you still want each of those kids to have a certain mentality and certain approach. Our kids just continued to execute that and continued to demonstrate it. So I was happy for them, that they did it.”