Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Old English Bears | School Location: Nashville, TN | Conference: Missouri Valley
2023 Record: 2-3 (0-0, T-1st) | 2023 RPI Rank: 146
2022 Record: 39-20 (18-6, 1st (Ohio Valley)) | 2022 RPI Rank: 63
2021 Record: 21-30 (14-16, T-7th Ohio Valley) | 2021 RPI Rank: 227
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)
Game Time(s): Fri, Feb 24 @ 3:00pm | Sat, Feb 25 @ 2:00pm | Sun, Feb 26 @ 1:00pm
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Tell me about this team
Let’s head back to the preseason preview, because I’m going to get as much run out of that thing as I can:
The Belmont Bruins have had all of two coaches since the start of the 1969 season. Current head man Dave Jarvis is entering his 26th season at the helm of the program. Last year was one of Jarvis’ best teams, as the Bruins won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title and finished ranked 63rd in RPI. Unfortunately for Belmont, they missed out on an NCAA Regional appearance thanks to an extra-innings loss in the OVC tournament title game. The Bruins will be making the switch to the Missouri Valley Conference in 2023.
Replacing 2022 OVC Player-of-the-Year CF Guy Lipscomb (5th round pick) will be the tallest hurdle that the 2023 Bruins will face, but it’s far from the only one. Belmont returns only two players who made over 36 PA last year: JR 1B Brodey Heaton (.973 OPS, 6.8 BB%, 22.9 K%) and 3B/DH Mason Landers (.669 OPS, 6.7 BB%, 17.1 K%). SO C Blake Barton (.712 OPS, 13.9 BB%, 16.7 K%) was an OVC All-Freshman Team selection, but he only had 36 PA last year. To fill the void in the lineup, five transfers (4 JUCO, 1 D1) are brought in, with four expected to earn starting gigs, led by JR SS Sam Kirkpatrick (Holy Cross; .672 OPS, 6.2 BB%, 15.3 K%). The JUCO players all put up impressive numbers at their previous stops.
Pitching will be the strength of this team as they return two of three weekend starters. JR LHP Andy Bean (9-1, 4.64 ERA, 85.1 IP, 9.8 BB%, 20.5 K%) was the 2022 OVC Pitcher-of-the-Year while JR LHP Jalen Borders (5-2, 3.04 ERA, 80.0 IP, 12.3 BB%, 17.8 K%) was a 2nd Team All-OVC selection. The team will also need to replace Kyle Brennan and his 31 career saves (14 in 2022), but the team returns four of six relievers who tossed 20.0 or more innings last year. They also welcome back midweek starter SO RHP Jordan Zuger (2-2, 4.50 ERA, 34.0 IP, 11.2 BB%, 13.8 K%), an OVC All-Freshman Team member, who would be a logical choice to slide into the weekend rotation. JR RHP Will Jenkins (2-1, 2 SV, 6.44 ERA, 29.1 IP, 14.1 BB%, 27.4 K%) could be a huge weapon if the control can be reigned in. Auburn transfer SO RHP Cade Granzow should play a significant role.
Not really a lot to add to that, to be honest. Kirkpatrick has hit the ground running at SS and Landers is doing his thing. The lineup is going to take some time to work itself out with all the changes. The pitching staff so far has shown an ability to tally up strikeouts by the bunches, but control has been a major issue between walks, wild pitches, and hit-by-pitches.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Friday: LHP Andy Bean (JR)
Saturday: LHP Jalen Borders (JR)
Sunday: LHP Dominic Baratta (JR)
3B Mason Landers (JR) - .389/.450/.944, 10.0 BB%, 25.0 K%, 0-0 SB. One of the more experienced returnees is stepping up as expected/hoped, earning MVC Player of the Week honors. Getting some extended run in the infield after mostly DHing over his first two seasons. Doubled his career home run total by cranking three in the season opening series.
SS Sam Kirkpatrick (JR) - .556/.556/.778, 0.0 BB%, 10.5 K%, 1-1 SB. Known as a glove-first middle infielder, he showed some pop last weekend with two extra-base hits, including a homer. Good contact skills with an aggressive approach at the plate. Has posted three three-hit games already this year.
CF Max Blessinger (JR) - .353/.400/.588, 10.0 BB%, 10.0 K%, 0-0 SB. JUCO transfer from Pasadena City College who started his college career off with two seasons of very limited play at Dallas Baptist. Has a four-game hitting streak going.
1B Brodey Heaton (JR) - .125/.222/.250, 11.1 BB%, 38.9 K%, 0-0 SB. Off to a bad start to the year thanks to a bit of bad luck and a lot of pressing at the plate. He’s a better hitter than that, though (.973 OPS, 6.8 BB%, 22.9 K% in 2023). Expect a bounce-back effort from the big 6’5 right-hander.
LHP Andy Bean (JR) - 0-1, 1.80 ERA, 5.0 IP, 8.3 BB%, 33.3 K%. Left the Ohio Valley Conference and took their Pitcher of the Year trophy with him. Also owns an absolutely hilarious cover photo to his player bio on the Belmont website. Took the loss in the season opener last weekend thanks to some shoddy defense behind him that accounted for three unearned runs. A solid pitcher with good-not-great control. He’s been historically a flyball pitcher, which can be dangerous at The Doak.
LHP Jalen Borders (JR) - 0-1, 12.27 ERA, 3.2 IP, 10.0 BB%, 45.0 K%. The big 6’7, 240 pounder had a weird season opener. Cruised through the first two innings before control issues popped up and plated a run in the 3rd, then fell apart with two outs in the 4th. If he’s throwing strikes, he gets a lot of groundball outs. If he’s not, he’ll groove some pitches and give up some runs.
LHP Dominic Baratta (JR) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5.0 IP, 20.0 BB%, 35.0 K%. Five shutout innings in his weekend rotation debut sounds fantastic, but he did it while playing with fire. Four walks and four wild pitches make for a stressful afternoon, but I’m sure the coaches will take the goose egg on the scoreboard in return. Expect the control to be better this time around.
RHP Cade Granzow (SO) - 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 3.2 IP, 15.4 BB%, 30.8 K%. Auburn transfer who was the top ranked RHP from the state of Tennessee coming out of high school. Was also a highly recruited football player, with offers from Vanderbilt, Kansas, Coastal Carolina, UAB, and Air Force. Spurned football to pursue baseball (obviously).
RHP Caleb Guisewite (SO) - 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 4.0 IP, 5.9 BB%, 41.2 K%. Already over halfway to matching his season innings total from last year (7.0), when he somehow earned OVC All-Freshman Team honors with that few innings. Had a great summer in the Cal Ripken League which is apparently carrying over here as he’s one of Belmont’s top bullpen arms early on.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Belmont’s starting 2B is a guy named Jack Rando.
The Bruins have not beat a Top 25 ranked opponent since 2018.
Despite being located in a neighboring state, Belmont doesn’t have a single player from the state of North Carolina.
If it feels like these two programs have played before, that feeling is wrong. This will be the first ever meeting between Belmont and NC State.
With State carrying some serious momentum into this game from Wednesday’s big win at Coastal Carolina, a sweep feels like it’s in the works, but sweeps are hard in baseball.
The Wolfpack’s pitchers should be able to take advantage of a mostly inexperienced lineup that isn’t yet settled, while State’s hitters will push the issue on the bases with a first-year starting catcher behind the dish for the Bruins.
Outcome: State takes two of three