CLARKSVILLE – Austin Peay State University’s baseball team couldn’t capitalize on its few scoring opportunities and dropped its first Ohio Valley Conference series opener this season, 5-2, to Belmont, Friday at Raymond C. Hand Park.
Austin Peay (26-12, 9-6 OVC) generated scoring chances in three innings, but only broke through once in the affair – a two-run fourth inning. The Govs offense was held to its second-lowest hit total this season, managing only four hits against Belmont pitching and only one of those hits came with a runner on base.
Belmont (27-9, 14-2 OVC) scored first thanks to Austin Peay’s lone error in the contest, coming when right fielder Drew Turner reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. The Bruins quickly converted the miscue when third baseman Scott Moses singled in the run.
The Govs had an opportunity to immediately tie the game in its half of the second. First baseman Craig Massoni doubled to start the inning and moved to third on shortstop Reed Harper’s ground out. However, left fielder Cody Hudson’s fly ball was not deep enough to move the runner and designated hitter Michael Davis was called out on strikes to end the threat.
Austin Peay would have to wait until the fourth to get another opportunity. Second baseman Jordan Hankins was hit by a pitch to start the frame and scored when Massoni doubled to the wall in right center. Massoni would score as the Govs used two outs to manufacture the run and take a 2-1 lead.
Belmont regained the lead thanks to the long ball. Catcher Jamie Ritchie hit a two-out home run just over the wall in right, tying the game in the fifth. One inning later shortstop Jared Breen hit a two-out line drive home run to left, giving Belmont a 3-2 lead.
That was enough for Belmont starter Dan Ludwig (8-1), who settled in after allowing the double to Massoni in the fourth. He would retire the next nine batters he faced before running into trouble again in the seventh.
Austin Peay would load the bases in the seventh frame and did so without a hit. After Harper reached on an error to start the frame, Hudson reached on a fielder’s choice that got Harper at second. Davis was hit by a pitch and the Govs had two on with one out. Catcher P.J. Torres was called out on strikes but the Govs extended the inning when center fielder Dylan Riner walked to load the bases.
The Govs thought they had the break they were looking for when right fielder Rolando Gautier hit a towering pop up down the right field line where the Belmont defense lost the ball in the sky. However, the ball landed two feet into foul territory. Two pitches later Ludwig struck out Gautier to end the threat.
Massoni led the Govs had a pair of doubles and a RBI to lead the Austin Peay offense. Hudson and Torres had the Govs only other hits.
Govs starter Lee Ridenhour (6-1) suffered his season’s first loss after allowing four runs on six hits over 7.0 innings. He struck out a career-high tying nine batters, including seven of the first 12 batters he faced.
Ludwig held the Govs to two runs on three hits while striking out seven, including striking out the side in order in the sixth as part of a streak of four straight strikeouts. Moses took the mound in the ninth and worked around a one-out single to record his season’s fourth save.
Turner led Belmont with a 3-for-4 outing. Moses went 1-for-4 at the plate, adding a ninth-inning RBI ground out to complete a two-RBI performance.
Austin Peay, which has lost three consecutive OVC contests with Friday’s loss, and Belmont resume their three-game series with a 2 p.m., Saturday contest.