NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball fought its way back after trailing by five runs in the sixth behind a pair of home runs from senior duo Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.), but fell to Morehead State, 6-5, in game two Saturday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park.
Trailing by five runs and having only tallied one hit in the previous five stanzas didn't discourage the Bruins. Even after the leadoff batter lined out to second, Belmont (7-10, 2-3) remained composed and plated five runs to tie the game up, 5-5, in the home half of the sixth. A single from redshirt-freshman Matt Cogen (Franklin, Tenn.) got things started for BU, bringing up Egli who catapulted one over the left field fence for a two-run dinger to bring the Bruins within three. Morehead State got its second out on a fly out to left, but Belmont struck once again. Junior infielder Rafael Bournigal (Mulberry, Fla.) drilled a base knock to the first baseman who couldn't corral the ball, allowing him to reach first safely. Sophomore infielder Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) was then dealt a walk to put runners on first and second with two down for Payne. Payne sent the Bruins second homer of the inning over the left centerfield wall to bring in three runs – capping off the five-run inning that temporarily tied the game.
Morehead State (13-5, 5-0) responded in the next inning with the go-ahead run contributed by Braxton Morris who sent a single up the middle for his third RBI. Morris finished the day going 3-for-4 at the plate – one of four Eagles to tally a multi-hit game.
A leadoff walk dealt by King proved to be enough for the Eagles to take a 1-0 lead to start the game. The righty gave up a free base then caught a pair of batters swinging before Will Schneider ripped a double to the right centerfield fence to bring in the first run. King went on to register his third K in the next at bat to get out of the inning only giving up one run.
For the first time this season, King struggled to get into a rhythm at the start of the game, allowing the leadoff batter to get on base in four of the five innings he tossed – twice resulting in a run. In the second stanza, the Eagles made their way around to reside on second and third with the help of a pair of base knocks. King then committed his first balk of the season, doubling Morehead State's lead, 2-0.
The Eagles continued to work King for the third consecutive inning, tacking on two more runs with the contribution of three hits. A couple of singles put runners on first and second for Morris to rip a two-run double to centerfield. Redshirt-freshman Matt Cogen (Franklin, Tenn.) gave it his all, laying out and stopping the ball, but was unable to collect it in his glove as a pair of Eagles made their way home to put MSU up, 4-0, after three.
Still in search of their first hit, the Bruins managed load the bases off consecutive walks and an error on the shortstop with only one down in the third. The squad stranded all three runners after Morehead State triggered back-to-back outs, unable to bring home any runs. Egli broke up Stambaugh's no-hit bid in the home half of the fifth with a leadoff single that landed in shallow centerfield. Belmont was once again unable to find a way to capitalize with a runner on as Morehead State turned its second double play of the day.
While BU's bats remained quiet, senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) ensured that MSU didn't extend its lead in the fourth, catching his conference-best seventh runner attempting to steal this year. After a leadoff hit allowed Eli Boggess to get on first, Payne's play couldn't have come at a better time as the Bruins were searching for their first out of the frame. Belmont proceeded to register the final two outs.
After holding the Eagles scoreless for two frames, they managed to tack on another run in the sixth. With the bases loaded sophomore hurler Casey Queener (Brentwood, Tenn.), who replaced King on the mound at the beginning of the frame, hit an Eagle to put Morehead State up, 5-0.
The Bruins then used their two long balls to bring home five runs in search of taking the lead. Belmont threatened in the seventh after junior infielder Kyle Conger (Franklin, Tenn.) started the frame with a base hit to second. Junior Alex Ward (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) laid down the perfect bunt and Cogen lined out to the pitcher, both plays allowing Conger to advance to third. But the Bruins came up short for the second game in a row as Morehead State secured the 6-5 victory.
Payne finished the day reaching base in all four of his plate appearances, walking once, getting hit-by-pitch twice and then delivering his three-run homer. Egli notched Belmont's only multi-hit outing, going 2-for-3 in the batter's box and collecting two RBIs.
Belmont closes out its three-game series against Morehead State on Sunday, March 19. The finale is slated to start at 1 p.m. inside E.S. Rose Park.