Belmont southpaw Chase Brookshire proved why he was voted the Ohio Valley Conference preseason pitcher of the year Friday afternoon as the Crusaders dropped their season opener 4-3.
Valpo struggled offensively in the five innings Brookshire (1-0) tossed. The senior was efficient and aggressive in the strike zone, ringing up eight Crusaders while yielding three hits and one walk.
"Once he (Brookshire) got out of the game, we started to swing the bats better. With three good pitches, he's a tough pitcher to face in your first game," head coach Tracy Woodson said.
The Bruins drew first blood in the bottom half of the opening frame. First baseman Judah Akers hit a deep fly ball to center field that befuddled Bryce Hara, falling near the track for a triple. The hit scored shortstop Scott Moses.
Belmont outfielder Neil Hickman ripped a Kyle Wormington pitch to left center for a double that scored designated hitter Josh Davis to extend the deficit to 2-0 in the bottom half of the fourth.
Wormington (0-1) battled all afternoon as he lasted 6 2/3 innings, surrendering two earned runs on nine hits and three free passes. The senior struck out four in the losing effort.
The Crusaders struggled to find rhythm for the first eight innings, but the bats came alive in the 9th. Junior Chris Manning recorded a one out hit between shortstop and third-base before Michael Morman laced a double down the left-field line, scoring Manning.
Sophomore Mark Johnson was called on to pinch hit for Jake Hanson with Morman on second base. Johnson skied a ball to left field, but Joseph Stovall was unable to corral it, committing Belmont's third error of the game in the process. Scott Moses hit designated-hitter Andrew Bain the very next at-bat loading the bases for Hara.
Hara smoked a groundball to second, and the ball eluded the first baseman Akers on the backend of the double play attempt, allowing Johnson to score.
With Hara on first base and two outs, second-baseman Tanner Vavra stepped in as the potential go-ahead run. Moses got Vavra to fly out to right field to end the game, erasing the Crusaders' hope for a Music City Miracle.
Wormington was saddled with the loss.
Bain reached base three times by virtue of a single, walk and the hit-by-pitch.
Morman's double was Valpo's lone extra-base hit.
The Crusaders are 0-1 heading into tomorrow's 3:00 pm game versus the Ohio Bobcats.
Junior college transfer Cole Webb will get the start for Valpo.