NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont baseball heads south to face conference foe Jacksonville State for the three-game series April 21-23. The opening game is slated to start at 6 p.m. on Friday at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Alabama.
ABOUT THE BRUINS
Belmont continues its five-game road trip at Jacksonville State for a three-game conference series. The Bruins are coming off a midweek victory over Southern Illinois where they scored five-runs in the first frame en route to a 9-3 victory. They enter the weekend holding a 17-18 overall record and 11-7 mark that ranks third in the OVC.
The Bruins offense has been sparked by the veteran duo of senior designated hitter Nick Egli (Brentwood, Tenn.) and junior second baseman Rafael Bournigal (Mullberry, Fla.) throughout the second half of the season. Egli leads the squad in eight statistical categories - batting average (.413), hits (45), doubles (15), home runs (8), RBIs (28), runs (28), on-base percentage (.522) and slugging percentage (.807). Twenty-five of the veteran's 44 hits have come in the form on an extra-base knock - 15 doubles, two triples and eight home runs. Bournigal sits right behind Egli, producing a .365 batting average while registering at least one hit in each of BU's last five contests. Belmont leads the league with 46 stolen bases with senior Tyler Walsh (Evansville, Ind.) leading the charge having robbed 11 bases in his 14 attempts. Collectively, the team has registered 304 hits, 200 runs and 177 RBIs.
Belmont's weekend pitching staff has also been stellar on the mound this season with all three ranking in the top-10 in strike outs. Sophomore Dylan King (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) leads the league with 67 and junior Tyler Vaughn (Jonesboro, Tenn.) right behind him with 64 Ks in nine starts this season. Connor Etheridge (Springfield, Ill.) ranks 10th with 51. The trio has tossed 182 of the squad's combined 295 strike outs in 2017. The Bruins have also seen extensive production from their bullpen with 11 different pitchers taking the hill for Belmont. Sophomore Kyle Klotz (Fairview, Tenn.) leads the OVC with 25 appearances, tossing 36.0 innings and earning a record of 2-3 on the mound. Senior closer Dom Veltri (Clarksville, Tenn.) has earned all five of Belmont's saves this season - ranking second in the league.
STEALING THE SHOW
Belmont leads the Ohio Valley Conference in stolen bases, having robbed 46 bags throughout the season. Eleven different Bruins have stolen at least one base this year with eight hijacking multiple. Senior Tyler Walsh leads the charge with 11, while sophomore Chas Hadden (Morristown, Tenn.) has also produced a double-digit effort with 10.
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Vaughn has earned the Friday start for the Bruins in every one of the squad's weekend series. In his nine appearances, the hurler has struck out 64 batters through 59.1 innings of work - ranking him second in the league behind teammate, Dylan King. Most recently the righty tossed a complete game in the series opener against Eastern Illinois (4.13) where he only allowed one run in the ninth frame. It was just his second complete game of his career. The Jonesboro, Ill. product tossed a career-best 11 Ks against Morehead State (3.17). He holds an ERA of 5.01 so far in his junior campaign.
KING OF THE HILL
King leads the conference in Ks with 67 in 52.2 innings of work. The right-handed hurler tossed his second 11 strike out outing of the year at EKU (3.10), tying a career-best. He previously fanned 11 batters against Northwestern (2.25) - both performances led to Belmont victories. The Murfreesboro, Tenn. is the only Bruin that has sat down more than 10 batters via strikeout in multiple games in 2017 - he's done so three times. King ranks ninth in the OVC with an ERA of 4.44.
DEALING A DOZEN
Junior right-hander Connor Etheridge wreaked havoc on EKU on the Bruins series finale against the Colonels last week, hurling a career-best 12 strikeouts and only allowing four hits. Etheridge only allowed multiple base runners in the first inning against Eastern Kentucky, striking out at least one batter in every frame. He powered Belmont to its first shutout of the year, blanking EKU 2-0. The Springfield, Illinois product has combined for 51 Ks in 43.0 innings of work, boasting an ERA of 5.65.
IN THE NICK OF TIME
Senior utility Nick Egli has played a crucial role in sparking the Bruins offense as the designated hitter. The veteran has been dominant in conference play, boasting a .446 batting average while connecting on 29 hits, 15 which have been extra base shots. He's registered 18 RBIs in the squad's 18 OVC games. Egli posted a pair of multi-RBI games in BU's double header against EKU, including driving in the Bruins only two runs in the squads 2-0 shutout in the second contest. He laced back-to-back doubles against Morehead State to bring in three of the squads four runs, before collecting multi-hit outings in all three games against UT Martin. Egli shined once again against EIU, reaching base in his first 11 plate appearances - finishing 11-for-13 in the series while recording seven runs. The Brentwood, Tenn. product leads the team in BA (.413), hits (45), doubles (15), home runs (8) and RBIs (28) throughout the 2017 campaign.
NO PAYNE NO GAIN
Senior catcher Clay Payne (Powell, Tenn.) is the driving force of Belmont's defense - starting behind the plate in all but four games this season. He's tallied 239 putouts ranking eighth in the conference. The veteran has also caught 12 runners attempting to steal, the second most in the OVC. Payne was recently named to the Johnny Bench Award watch list that honors elite catchers throughout the nation.
SAVING THE DAY
Senior reliever Dom Veltri has recorded all five of the Bruins saves on the hill this season. He's been their go-to hurler in the final innings of closely contested games, throwing 19.1 innings in 15 appearances. The Clarksville, Tenn. native has struck out 14 batters while compiling a ERA of 2.79.
LOTZ OF KLOTZ
Sophomore Kyle Klotz has been the go-to hurler in the Bruins bullpen all season long, making 26 appearances on the mound while compiling 36.0 innings of work. The right-handed reliever has tallied an ERA of 4.50 on the year, striking out 23 batters. In his conference leading 26 appearances Klotz boasts a 3-4 record on the hill for Belmont.
BRING ON BOURNIGAL
Belmont has enjoyed consistency at the plate from junior Rafael Bournigal in recent contests. The second baseman recently took over in the leadoff spot in the lineup and is riding a five-game hitting streak. He sits second on the team, batting .365 while registering 38 hits and 21 runs this season. Bournigal went 3-for-4 at the plate against Eastern Illinois (4.13) coming up a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. He then registered a flawless 4-for-4 day at the plate at Southern Illinois (4.18), a career-best performance at the plate.
ZERO TO SIXTY
It takes little time for senior infielder Tyler Walsh to turn on the speed as he displayed in both meetings against the Hilltoppers, stealing a base three times - all would go on to result in a run. Walsh once again showed his base-running skills against SIUE (4.2), stealing three bases. The speedster boasts a 11-for-14 record when attempting to steal. With his stolen base against Eastern Illinois (4.15), Walsh moved into second all-time in Belmont's record book with 57 career stolen bases. He's now tied with Drew Ferguson and just two away from sitting atop the records.
GAME 1: VIDEO // AUDIO // LIVE STATS
GAME 2: VIDEO // AUDIO // LIVE STATS
GAME 3: AUDIO // LIVE STATS