In a crucial Ohio Valley Conference series at Raymond C. Hand Park, the Belmont Bruins made the trip up to Clarksville for a three-game set against the APSU.
APSU (28-12, 11-6 OVC) stays in fourth in the OVC standings, but has gained ground on Belmont (27-11, 14-4 OVC), who ties Jacksonville State for first place.
Game one on Friday, April 19, was a struggle to put runs on the board for the Govs, losing 5-2 with just four hits on the day.
Dan Ludwig earned the win for Belmont, pitching seven innings, allowing just two earned runs and seven strikeouts. Lee Ridenhour was handed the loss for the Govs, allowing four Bruins to cross the plate, three of them earned.
Craig Massoni had two of APSU’s hits on the day, both of which were doubles, and one RBI.
“Their pitchers did an outstanding job mixing up off-speed [pitches] and using both sides of the plate,” Massoni said. “We have to stick to our approach and really grind out at-bats.”
APSU evened the series on Saturday, April 20, behind the arm of Casey Delgado, who pitched six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits, and nine strikeouts.
“My changeup was really working today and I was able to throw it for strikes when I needed to,” Delgado said after the win. “We made big plays behind me when we needed them, and that was a key.”
The offense was led by lead-off man Rolando Gautier, who was three-for-five with two doubles and two RBIs, and started the rally in the sixth inning to help the Govs take the lead after being down 3-2. Brett Carlson hit a sacrifice fly to bring home another run, while Massoni added to his RBI total to score Gautier, making it 5-3 APSU.
APSU’s bullpen allowed just one Belmont hit after relieving Delgado. Senior closer Tyler Rogers earned his 13th save of the season, which sets a new season-high in school history, breaking his own record from last season.
Game three on Sunday, April 21 was a test of who wanted the series win more, and the Govs proved from the beginning they were determined to get it, winning 10-6.
APSU scored three runs in the first inning, one by Massoni and two of which came on a two RBI single by Cody Hudson.
The Govs scored another four runs in the third, with P.J. Torres hitting his fourth homer of the season, a two-run blast, to make it 7-0.
Belmont answered back with a three-run blast by Drew Ferguson in the fourth, but Govs starting pitcher Zach Hall took advantage of the early lead to earn the win, matching his career-high in strikeouts with six.
The Bruins cut the deficit to four runs, but Rogers came on once again to seal the deal, giving APSU the series win.
“Our guys had gotten to a point where they were playing to not lose instead of playing to win. We just weren’t getting people to pick other people up when they failed, [but] that’s what we did a great job of this weekend,” head coach Gary McClure stated. “To beat Belmont two out of three games, you know you’ve done something and that’s got to do something for our confidence.”
The Govs play host to Evansville on Wednesday, April 24, for a double-header before traveling to Eastern Kentucky on April 26-28 for a three-game OVC series.