Game one was a doozy in 95 degree weather at Hawkins Field as the Belmont Bruins won their first ever NCAA tournament game while sending Oklahoma State back to Stillwater. In the first elimination game of the Nashville Regional, the Bruins rode a brilliant performance by sophomore lefty Chase Brookshire, who allowed just two hits and a walk in eight plus innings.
Oklahoma State Coach Frank Anderson spoke in the press conference about Brookshire throwing four pitches for strikes and changing up his pitching style in the fifth inning, relying more on curve balls. That was certainly the case as Brookshire was not blowing anything past anyone with velocity in the high 70s to the mid 80s, but his movement was missing the sweet spots on bats.
The heat and sun played a role throughout, making the performance by Brookshire all the more remarkable. Like Sonny Gray on Friday night, the lefty carried a perfect game into the fifth inning, which was broken up by a bunt single. The quick turnaround kept the Bruins players out of the sun all day and kept their bodies and minds sharp in something Belmont hopes will carry through to the next day.
For Oklahoma State, it was a tough trip and Coach Anderson addressed the issue of great pitchers helping to establish parity in the regional setup. As a Big12 power program coming into Nashville as the two seed, the Cowboys were simply shut down by a pair of great performances from pitchers out of the Sun Belt and Atlantic Sun conferences. After losing yesterday to Tanner Ray and Brookshire today, it’s a tough pill to swallow, particularly when Coach Anderson felt his guys didn’t play poorly.
For Belmont, it was the opposite set of emotions with the program’s first ever NCAA playoff win. After a game in which they kicked the ball around a bit against Vanderbilt, it was a solid defensive performance with a few real highlight plays by the Bruins. Brookshire noted that the four seed worked in a the favor of the Bruins by taking pressure off the squad and they looked loose throughout the afternoon. That aided them in being able to take things one game at a time and shake off the Vanderbilt loss in leading to one of the biggest wins in the baseball team’s history. Even in the ninth inning with Oklahoma State threatening to take the lead with the bases loaded against closer Jon Ivie, Coach Dave Jarvis strolled to the mound and joked with his closer that he was gonna give him even more gray hairs. But before he departed, he told the infielders and battery mates surrounding him, “We got this.” They did with a 6-3 double play to seal the victory.
In the press conference, Coach Jarvis quoted Nuke LaLush, saying “Winning is better than losing.” That they did it just down the road from campus and in front of so many family members and members of the Belmont community just made it all the more special. Coach Jarvis will send Nate Woods, who homered as the first baseman today, in an effort to pick up number two on Sunday at 2PM.