The complete game was gone. So was the shutout. Even worse, the outcome of the game was in doubt.
Yet, Chase Brookshire didn’t panic.
As he sat in Belmont’s dugout, and watched closer Jon Ivie walk in two Oklahoma State runs, Brookshire remained calm.
“I don’t know if I was nervous. I have confidence in Jon,” Brookshire said. “He has been there all year for us. He is a groundball pitcher. ... We’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
Ivie didn’t let his teammate down. He induced a game-ending double play that secured Belmont’s 3-2 victory in Saturday’s NCAA Regional at Vanderbilt’s Hawkins Field. The Bruins (37-25), who will play the loser of the Vanderbilt-Troy matchup at 2 p.m. Sunday, staved off elimination and recorded the university's first NCAA tournament victory in any sport — out of 10 tries.
Brookshire allowed just two hits in eight innings and took a perfect game into the fifth. The left-hander from Chattanooga threw 99 pitches, struck out six and walked one.
But with a three-run lead in the ninth, he allowed the first two batters to reach safely. So Belmont coach Dave Jarvis turned to Ivie.
“We knew that [Brookshire’s] gas tank was probably running empty and it was a time to make a move to Jon,” Jarvis said.
The right-hander started off well.
He struck out the first batter he faced. Then Oklahoma State (35-25) pulled within one on a single and the two bases-loaded walks.
That’s when Jarvis went out to chat with Ivie, who also had an eventful save last week against Mercer in the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.
“I just looked at Jon and I said, ‘You are going to do this to me again, aren’t you Jon? You’re just trying to make me old,’” Jarvis said. “Of course he is snorting and huffing and puffing and he’s like, ‘Yep. You do this every time Coach. You just come out here to tell some stupid joke and then you leave.’ I just tried to calm them down.
"Before I exited the mound, I just told them, ‘Fellas, we got this. We are going to win this ballgame right here. Jon, I wouldn’t want to have anybody else on the mound right here but you.’”
Ivie got Davis Duren to ground to short. Jared Breen, who had committed an error earlier in the inning, took the play himself, stepped on second and threw to first to end the game.
“They like giving me gray hair,” Jarvis joked. “I used to have dark hair before this season started.”
Belmont struck early thanks to a solo home run by Nate Woods. The ball just cleared the left field wall for his team-leading 13th homer. The senior now has 40 career home runs. Matt Zeblo’s two-out, two-run single in the third created a three-run cushion.
Brookshire, a sophomore who was coming off a 127-pitch, complete game performance last week, cruised from there. His bid for a perfect game ended with two outs when Duren bunted down the third-base line for an infield single.
“I feel like we may do the same thing,” Brookshire said of the bunt. “I was in a pretty good rhythm, just working fast and throwing a lot of strikes and just letting the defense work for us. Anything the other team does to break up my rhythm, tip your hat to them.”
Brookshire fielded another bunt to get Devin Shines at first to end the inning. He then worked around a hard-hit single in the sixth inning to strand a runner at second.
He put down the next seven batters into the ninth inning as his mixture of fastball, curveball, changeup and slider silenced Oklahoma State.
“If it is not that hot, he probably finishes the thing right there. He ran out of a little bit of gas there at the end,” Cowboys coach Frank Anderson said. “With the heat the way it was, I thought he threw outstanding. The way he threw [Saturday], he can pitch in any league in this country.”
• Ivie set the school record for saves in a single season with 14. The senior from Summertown also tied the school's career record with 25.
• Oklahoma State’s Brad Propst (7-6) scattered five hits and set a career-high with 11 strikeouts.
After the two-RBI single to Zeblo in the third, he held Belmont in check. He retired 14 of 15 and 11 straight into the eighth inning, when he was pulled after a one-out single.
“I thought Propst did an outstanding job,” Jarvis said. “We were able to take advantage of just a couple of mistakes he made. But he was down all day long. He was mixing his pitches extremely well and he did a great job executing his offspeed pitches for strikes, which set up his fastball.”
• Belmont will start Woods on Sunday. The right-hander is 6-5 with a with a 6.44 ERA. He last pitched on May 27, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings in a victory against Mercer in the A-Sun tournament.