Winning does not wait this spring for Belmont's baseball team

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 10:35pm

Last year, Belmont almost waited too long to get on a roll.

The Bruins aren’t wasting any time this spring.

Off to their best start in Atlantic Sun Conference play, they ride a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday’s matchup at Vanderbilt (6:30 p.m., Hawkins Field). Prior to Tuesday’s home game against Tennessee Tech, they were 23-10 and atop the A-Sun standings with a 10-2 record.

Belmont has won its first four conference series, including back-to-back sweeps.

“Everything is so important in our conference,” coach Dave Jarvis said. “As difficult and as deep and talented as our league is, a good start is a very big factor. We showed that last year in the fact that we had such a terrible start and then had to turn around and win 17 [league] games just to qualify for our conference tournament by half a game.”

The Bruins snuck into the conference tournament as the sixth and final seed in 2011 but claimed the title — and earned a spot in an NCAA Regional for the first time — when they rattled off four straight wins. But they started off 13-15 and dropped five of their first eight league games.

On the strength of its pitching and some power hitting, they won 23 of 33 and entered the NCAA Tournament on a six-game winning streak.

The momentum from the record-breaking season — Belmont won an all-time high 38 games in 2011 — has carried over.

Balanced offensively, five players bat above .300, led by second baseman Zac Mitchell, who has .345 mark and has scored a league-high 35 runs. Third baseman Greg Brody has four home runs and 27 RBIs — both team-highs.

The foundation for Belmont’s success, however, is on the mound. The Bruins lead the league with a 3.01 team ERA. Weekend starters James Buckelew, Chase Brookshire and Matt Hamann are 12-4. Buckelew (1.70) and Brookshire (1.71) rank second and third, respectively, in the league with lowest ERA. Plus, Garrett Fanchier leads the A-Sun with 10 saves.

“It’s been the story of our season thus far,” designated hitter Judah Akers said. “It makes it more relaxing as a hitter to know that the guys that are pitching are going to go out and have good starts consistently. You know that if you can just manufacture some runs, you’ll be in good shape.”

Belmont will be trying to upend Vanderbilt (13-19) for the second time this season, something the Bruins have only down twice — in 1969 and 1981. They beat the Commodores 6-5 at home last month to pick up their first win against Vanderbilt since 2009 and improve their series record to 11-49.

“For us to beat these teams in the fashion we’re beating is just showing the character of the players and how strong the team really is,” outfielder Dylan Craig said. “The fact that we keep doing it on daily basis it shows me that we’re a really good contender for regionals and further. We have the ability to do it.”