NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Belmont baseball team prepares to face four teams over four days in the Turface Classic, starting with Samford at 4 p.m. at Rose Park on Thursday.
Belmont is coming off a 4-3 win against Southern Illinois on Tuesday, the first time they have beaten the Salukis since 2017.
"With a lot of young players contributing in Tuesday night's game, I think that's a really good stepping stone for those kids and our whole program," head coach Dave Jarvis said. "Wins like Tuesday night are going to be very important to us and we need to try to continue to that."
Postgame Notes ��:— Belmont Baseball (@BelmontBaseball) February 19, 2020
➡️Brodey Heaton is the second freshman this season to obtain 3️⃣ hits (@DrewLowry3 is the first).
➡️ @kylebrennan135 now has 12 career saves, needing one more to move into 8th in program history.
Full recap ⬇️
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The Bruins' first challenge is Samford, a team coming off a 41-game season a year ago and comes into Thursday's game with a 3-0 record following a series sweep over UNC Asheville. Belmont has not faced Samford since 2009, but hold the series edge over the Bulldogs 6-1.
Missouri State presents the next challenge for Belmont on Friday at 4 p.m. at Rose Park, with the two schools only meeting one time so far. The Bears defeated the Bruins in 2017 and have one of the most historical programs in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning three NCAA Regional Championships and making a College World Series appearance in 2003.
"We've had a really good tradition of having a lot of great programs come in here," Jarvis said. "Casey Dunn has built a good traditional program in Samford. Keith Guittin at Missouri State has built a well respected program over the last 38 years. That's going to present a really good challenge for our team. It's going to be a really good competition and it's going to be an opportunity for our guys to see a lot of growth and development."
Belmont then squares off against Evansville on Saturday at 2 p.m., where the Purple Aces are seeking their first win of the season in the Turface Classic. The Bruins cap off the showcase on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Bradley, where last year's matchup was cancelled due to weather.
While there is a challenge to play four different opponents over four days, Jarvis believes it is a benefit due to the fact that the Bruins will face a similar task in the OVC Tournament.
"For my assistant coaches, especially, it's a lot of scouting reports and preparation as far as tendencies, what we think other people are going to do and what starting pitching staffs and bullpens are going to look like," Jarvis said. "Four opponents in four days can be a challenge, but the other side of that coin is that's the type of scenario you're going to be facing in postseason play. It's good in that regard for sure."
Samford is coming off a 41-win season in 2019 and have started this year with a 3-0 record following a sweep against UNC Asheville. The Bulldogs are a high-powered offensive team, with seven players hitting .400 or better and outscoring their opponents 35-11. Samford has hit 33 RBIs while coming up with nine doubles and three home runs. Defensively, Samford has collected 33 strikeouts, resulting in a 3.00 ERA as a pitching staff.
The Bulldogs are led by Brooks Carlson, who is averaging .778 and has a slugging percentage of 1.222 following a home run, double and seven hits in just nine at-bats. Ayrton Schafer also adds significant power to the plate, hitting .571 with a slugging percentage of 1.000 while Tyler McManus and Graham Dvorak is hitting .500 on the year. Samford's probable starter will be Jalon Long, who has seen one appearance and two innings pitched to go with three strikeouts this season.
Scouting Missouri State
Missouri State comes to Nashville as one of the most historical programs in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning three NCAA Regional Championships and making a College World Series appearance in 2003. The Bears are coming off a 2-1 start to the season after winning the first two games at Central Arkansas, but falling short in the final game 5-2. MSU has collected 25 hits to start the season, coming up with a .410 slugging percentage.
Grant Wood leads the offensive charge for the Bears, hitting .455 in the first three games. Dakota Kotowski is also a key player offensively, hitting .417 to go with a double and four RBIs. Missouri Statehas three more players hitting .300 or better, coming up with 41 total bases. The Bears' probable pitcher will be Logan Wiley, who already has a win under his belt and helped pitch a 1-0 shutout on opening day. Wiley has seven strikeouts in seven innings pitched without walking a batter.
Evansville is off to a rocky 0-3 start, looking for its first win in the Turface Classic. The Purple Aces are hitting .238, but struggling as a pitching staff with an 8.62 ERA. However, Evansville has power to the plate with six home runs and 16 RBIs this season. The Purple Aces are also productive on the defensive side of the field, committing only one error in 72 putout attempts.
Tanner Craig leads the Purple Aces offensively, hitting .727 on the year to go with four home runs and seven RBIs to go with a 1.909 slugging percentage. Brent Widder also adds production at the plate, hitting .300 to go with one of the team's two triples on the season. Shane Gray will be Evansville's probable starter on Saturday, pitching 4.2 innings in his first start. Gray struck out six batters, but allowed four earned runs and a batting average of .350 to opposing batters in his first outing.
Bradley is also looking for its first win in the Turface Classic, starting the season with an 0-3 record. The Braves have scored 13 runs, but have allowed 35 to their opponents this season. However, they have had solid production defensively. Bradley has only committed one error to go with 72 putouts for a fielding percentage of .990.
Connor O'Brien is the team's main slugger, hitting .333 with two home runs and five RBIs good for a slugging percentage of .917. Luke Shadid leads the team in hitting, coming up with five hits in 11 at-bats for a batting average of .455. Keaton Rice also adds power, hitting .364 and leads the team in doubles with two. Bradley has not named a probable starter for Sunday's game against Belmont, but the pitching staff has struggled overall. Their ERA is 12.75 with 16 strikeouts in three games, allowing their opponents to hit .326. Brooks Gosswein, Matt Hamilton and DJ DePiero have all made starts for the Braves this season.