In Belmont's 15-3 defeat of Stetson in the first game of the 2011 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championships, the Bruins evened the all-time series at 16, but the recently history of this 10-year rivalry has tilted heavily northward as with Wednesday's win, the Bruins improved to 13-4 vs the Hatters over the last five years.
From the day the schedule was unveiled, Belmont knew its A-Sun regular season would conclude with a trip to DeLand. That trip looked more daunting after the Hatters opened the year with a three-game sweep of Georgia and compiled a 26-7 home record while the Bruins opened 3-8 in league play.
The Bruins got hot and won 11 of 13 conference contests and could have entered the Stetson series with a cushion on seventh-place FGCU but dropped two of three to the Eagles in the series immediately preceding the showdown with the Hatters. After a loss in the Thursday contest cut the Bruin advantage on the Eagles to one game, Matt Hamann and Nate Woods pitched the Bruins into the championship field with consecutive wins. The duo held the Hatters to only three earned runs in 13 innings of work.
"We got off to such a rough start in early conference play that we’ve almost been in a must-win situation for the last month, month-and-a-half," Belmont head coach Dave Jarvis said. "Our kids have responded to that. We’ve got really great upper classmen…and they’ve just turned our team around by their will. I think today was a reflection of that."
After beating the Hatters with is arm, Woods used his glove and bat to help secure victory. His acrobatic catch against the fence in fourth served as a prelude to his two-run home run in back-breaking fifth inning in which the Bruins extended a 3-0 lead to 7-0.
"[That catch] knocked the wind out of me, my lip almost caught on the fence like getting caught like a fish," Woods said. "I’m just glad I came out alive."
Hamann took to the mound on Wednesday and came close to matching his eight-inning, two-run effort from five days earlier. He took carried a no-hitter through 4.2 innings and turned in a six-inning, one-run effort to claim a school-record-tying ninth win.
"Matt’s mental toughness is incomparable," Jarvis said. "We took him from the back end of our bullpen in an extremely valuable role…our starting pitching was faltering and he stepped forward. We teamed [him and Josh Davis] with Chase Brookshire on our weekends and that’s been our difference."
With Brookshire waiting to pitch in Belmont's upcoming game, perhaps the Bruins could be lined up for a long week in the Championship.