It took 15 innings but Belmont continued its recent dominance of Stetson.
Judah Akers drove in the game-winning run with a single in the bottom of the 15th and lifted the top-seeded Bruins to a 4-3 victory over No. 6 seed and host Stetson in the opening round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament on Wednesday in DeLand, Fla.
The 15 innings tied a conference tournament record as Belmont (36-21), the A-Sun regular season champion and 2011 tournament champion, advanced to play No. 3 seed Kennesaw State at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The Bruins, winners of six straight, have had Stetson’s number as of late. They took two of three in March and 16 of 21 from the Hatters over the last six years.
Belmont needed extra baseball, however, to knock off Stetson (34-22) this time. The Hatters grabbed a two-run lead in the second, benefitting off two hit batters by Belmont starter Chase Brookshire and a throwing error by Akers.
Jamie Ritchie and Zac Mitchell delivered run-scoring singles in successive innings that tied the game in the sixth. Stetson went back in front in the eighth, chasing Brookshire. The left-hander allowed three runs – two earned – on four hits and two walks while striking out four.
Akers led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. An error, strikeout and walk later, Jared Breen, who made his first start since breaking his thumb last month, smacked a long fly ball to center field. That allowed Akers to score and handed Stetson closer Robbie Powell just his second blown save of the season. The right-hander is third in the country with 18 saves.
From there, Belmont’s bullpen stifled the Hatter bats. Scott Moses, Austin Coley and Josh Davis scattered seven hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Davis (7-1) pitched the last two innings for the win.