We didn’t swing it as well as we would have liked to, but I got some good pitches to hit and took advantage of a bunt situation so we could get a run.” RYAN BARNES, Oregon State outfielder
The Belmont baseball team punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season by relying on a deep, veteran pitching staff and an offense that uses small ball to generate run support.
The Bruins got plenty of pitching Friday afternoon from junior ace Chase Brookshire, who surrendered two runs on only three hits against Oregon State in seven innings of work. But because the Beavers limited them to one leadoff base runner, they hardly ever had a chance to lay down a sacrifice bunt, become active on the base paths and set their small-ball game in motion.
It was just enough for No. 2 seed Oregon State to escape with a 2-1 victory over No. 3 seed Belmont in the opening act of the Baton Rouge Regional.
“We were always in a two-out hole,” Belmont coach Dave Jarvis said. “Their pitching and their defense took us out of our game a little bit offensively as far as what we like to do.”
Belmont had six hits to Oregon State’s three, but five of them came with two outs. The one time the Bruins got a hit with fewer than two outs, they scored their only run.
“When you get the leadoff batter out, it makes the inning a lot easier,” said Oregon State right-hander Tony Bryant, who came out of the bullpen to get his sixth win. “They couldn’t run and they couldn’t bunt.”
Oregon State (39-18) improved to 7-0 under coach Pat Casey in regional openers by winning their first game of the season with less than three runs. The Beavers advance to play No. 1 seed LSU at 7 p.m. Saturday in the winners bracket game.
Belmont (39-23) will look to repeat the run the Bruins made last year when they lost to Vanderbilt in the opening round of the Nashville Regional but bounced back to win their next two games. They face Louisiana-Monroe at 2 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game.
Casey indicated either sophomore left-hander Ben Wetzler (7-2, 3.39 ERA) or sophomore right-hander Dan Child (6-3, 2.75 ERA) would pitch against LSU, but stopped short of naming a starter for the second time in as many games.
A crowd of 1,481 at Alex Box Stadium watched Oregon State freshman starter Jace Fry match Brookshire early before leaving with nobody out in the sixth.
Fry had held Belmont to one run on four hits and thrown 80-plus pitches. He came out after working Alec Diamond, the first batter of the sixth, to a 2-2 count.
“He just said he felt a twinge in his arm,” Casey said. “He wanted to throw a couple (pitches) to see how he felt, but we’ve got a good bullpen and we’re going to protect him.”
Bryant, who served as Oregon State’s closer earlier in the year, threw 1.2 scoreless innings in Fry’s absence. Matt Boyd went the final 2.1 to earn his third save.
Meanwhile, the Oregon State offense was just scrappy enough.
Ryan Barnes led off the second with a double, moved to third on Ryan Gorton’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a Kavin Keyes sac fly. Barnes again was at the center of the action in the sixth — this time with runners at first and third, the bat in his hands and the score tied.
Trying to get Joey Matthews home from third with the go-ahead run, Barnes laid down a fast-rolling squeeze bunt that hugged the first base line. Belmont first baseman Judah Akers charged, then allowed the ball to roll by hoping it would go foul.
“If I had had to lay down a bet right there,” Jarvis said, “I would have bet it was going to go foul.”
But it didn’t, staying fair and banging into the bag at first for an RBI single.
“We just had to execute when we had the chance,” Barnes said.
“We didn’t swing it as well as we would have liked to, but I got some good pitches to hit and took advantage of a bunt situation so we could get a run.”
Belmont had few such opportunities.
Dylan Craig led off the fifth with a triple and scored on Zac Mitchell’s game-tying groundout. Every other hit by the Bruins came with two outs.