Belmont entered the 2011 A-Sun Baseball Championship seeded sixth in the tournament joining five other RPI Top-90 teams in field after clinching their spot on the final day of the regular season. Since securing their spot in the tournament at Lipscomb’s Dugan Field, Belmont has been a force to be reckoned with in a conference that is hoping to receive multiple at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
“The parity within this league is great when you look at the fact that Stetson has been in the top-20 all year long and then you have the teams come in this week and compete the way they have it is not a surprise,” Belmont Head Coach Dave Jarvis said of the A-Sun depth. “I think you could throw the seedings out of the window for this tournament at the beginning with the way the teams were playing coming in.”
The Bruins opened with a win against top-seeded Stetson (No. 19 RPI) on Wednesday in impressive fashion pummeling the Hatters 15-3 and then showed their grit with a close 4-1 triumph against Kennesaw State (No. 88 RPI) to eliminate the Owls from Nashville.
With a spot in the A-Sun Championship final on the line against fourth-seeded Mercer (No. 54 RPI), the Bruins twice battled back from two two-run deficits during the game before Derek Hamblen’s two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning gave Belmont the lead for good at 6-4 and advances them to Championship Saturday.
For Belmont, its senior class carried the Bruins to victory against the Bears with Hamblen, Matt Zeblo both going deep, Nate Woods getting the start on the mound and Tim Egerton and Jon Ivie adding contributions in the ninth to close out Mercer. Jarvis knows without them this season would have turned out differently.
“It shows a lot of great upperclassmen leadership especially from our two senior captains Derek Hamblen and Nate Woods who have grabbed ahold of the steering wheel and how all the other upperclassmen have followed them in that pursuit.”
Jarvis knows that his team is now in the driver seat for the remainder of the conference championship by needing only one win to take their first A-Sun Championship title, which would make them the first six seed to win the conference crown since 2003.
“Anyone we face has to win three games from this point forward. It has effects on pitching on kid’s rest and ability to just stay focused but at the end of the day it’s still just baseball and we have to come ready to play in the first inning.”