NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In what can only be described as a perfect storm of events, the Lipscomb baseball team will miss the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament despite a winning record in league play after falling 10-4 to Belmont on Saturday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park in Nashville.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the Bisons (25-30, 14-13 A-Sun) needed just one win against the Bruins (35-21, 17-10 A-Sun) to secure a postseason berth. Without that happening, Lipscomb had to rely on the top two teams in the league, USC Upstate and Stetson, to not get swept by Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast, respectively. Neither Upstate nor Stetson pulled out a win and that ended the Bisons season as Lipscomb finished the season in seventh place in the conference standings.
“This is a difficult way to end the season coming off back-to-back weekends where you put yourself in position to place pretty well in the tournament,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “We couldn’t get anything going this weekend to close it out.
“You can’t rely on other teams to help you when you have the opportunity to do it yourself and we didn’t do it. It’s tough to take. I don’t think anybody thought we’d be in this position right now. “
The Bruins jumped on Lipscomb starter Chris Nunn early plating a pair of runs in both the first and second innings before the Bisons cashed in on a Belmont error in the third to make it a 4-1 contest in the third. Junior right fielder Lee Wilson was beaned with one away in the inning and then headed from first to third on a failed pickoff attempt by the Belmont catcher that sailed into right field.
Senior designated hitter Shawn Mehring then ended the Bruins hopes of a shutout with a deep fly ball to right center field that scored Wilson easily from third.
The momentum the Bisons gained from getting on the scoreboard vanished quickly however, as Belmont ended Nunn’s day in the bottom of the frame as the southpaw gave up two more runs before being lifted for redshirt-freshman Hunter Brothers.
Brothers proved to be ineffective as well allowing three runs on a hit and a pair of hit-by-pitches. Senior Dannie Strable then was brought on and allowed another run as Belmont took a 10-1 lead after a six-run frame.
A two-hour, one minute weather delay, primarily for lightning, was a rally killer for Belmont as Lipscomb junior Jordan Zelhart came out and ended the inning. Zelhart would go on to do exactly what the Bisons needed by holding the Bruins scoreless the next three innings. The sidearmer allowed only one hit and one walk in the three and one-thirds innings of work while adding a pair of strikeouts.
The rest of the Bisons bullpen would get the get the job done as well, with senior Gil Rehwinkel going one and two thirds innings allowing just a walk before fellow senior Ben Johnson got the final out of the eighth to keep the Lipscomb deficit intact.
The Bisons mounted a comeback in the eighth as senior left fielder M.L. Williams crushed a solo home run to left field in what would be the final at bat of his record-setting career. Williams finishes with the school marks in most runs scored (163) and most hits (267) among others.
Fellow senior Zak Messer kept the rally going with a single in the next at bat before freshman first baseman Griffin Moore launched a home run to right field to make it a six-run game, but that is as close as the Bisons would get.
“Every coach is proud of his team for what we go through all year long to get to this point,” said Forehand. “All of your hard work and your effort, the time and the commitment. The time in the weight room and everything you do and when it all comes to a head and it doesn’t work out for you in the end it’s tough to take.”
Despite the bumpy eighth, Dan Ludwig (5-5) picked up the win for Belmont giving up three runs and four hits while walking one and striking out six. Nunn (1-3) took the loss for the Bisons allowing six runs and five hits in two innings of work.
With the loss, the Bisons bid farewell to seniors, Tennyson Dodd, Logan Hostettler, Ben Johnson, Diego Martinez, Shawn Mehring, Zak Messer, Gil Rehwinkel, Connor Sinclair, Dannie Strable, and M.L. Williams.
“I love those guys,” said Forehand. “I wish all of them could have experienced the tournament while they were here. That’s why we recruit them and why we want them. I just hate they didn’t get that experience this year but hopefully they got much more than that when they look back in the long run.”