Regionals all the same for ex-Lion Beaty
Posted: Friday, June 1, 2012 12:00 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
It’s the same game.
That’s what Matt Beaty said to himself in his first-ever collegiate baseball game a few months ago. It’s what he will be telling himself in Baton Rouge this weekend.
“That first game, I was nervous and I just had to remind myself it was the same game I’ve been playing since I was five years old,” Beaty said of that first game, Belmont’s season-opener against Evansville Feb. 17.
Beaty was a three-time all-state baseball selection at Dresden who signed with Belmont in Nashville.
He has played in 60 games for the Bruins this season, starting 59, and has been a key part of the team’s second straight Atlantic Sun Conference championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament regionals.
The Bruins will play in the Baton Rouge Regional this weekend, hosted by LSU. Belmont will play Oregon State 2 p.m. Friday.
He started at first base in his first three college games and then as the designated hitter in his next three but failed to get a hit. Given a game off, Beaty returned to the lineup Feb. 29 against Southern Illinois.
He was 3-for-4 with two runs and five RBI, getting his first home run in that game.
Since then, Beaty has made the college game look rather easy.
“It’s definitely not that easy,” he said. “Coming into college, I didn’t know what to expect. I had to get accustomed to pitching at the D-I level.”
He’s done pretty well, to say the least
Beaty goes into the regionals as the team leader in triples (5), home runs (7) and RBI (46).
He’s batting .259 with 59 hits, including 13 doubles and 33 runs. Beaty’s slugging percentage is .452 and his on-base percentage is .329. He also has a .987 fielding percentage in 33 starts at first base, 19 at third base and two in left field.
Beaty played most of the first half of the season at first, a new position for him, before moving to the hot corner late in the year.
He started at third, his natural spot, all five games Belmont played in the A-Sun tournament.
“I’d never thought about playing first until the fall, but I got comfortable there,” he said. “Third is what I played growing up, so the transition was pretty easy.”
Playing a schedule that included games against Kansas and St. Louis at home during the season-opening Music City Classic, Oregon at home in the season’s fourth game, a home-and-home set with Vanderbilt and a series at Auburn has the two-time A-Sun champs prepared for NCAA tourney play, Beaty believes.
“The first week of the season, we played Oregon, which is a great power hitting team,” said Beaty, who also made note of the experience gained playing in good atmospheres at Vandy and Auburn. “Even though we lost, it was a good game for us. And, then, getting a win over Vanderbilt gave us a lot of confidence as a team. We took a step forward from that.”
Beaty believes some intangibles will help the Bruins this weekend as well.
“Getting to regional last year should prepare us for this time,” he said. “I believe our senior leadership will keep us calm.
“If we stick to our game and don’t try to do too much, we can contend. Our pitching has kept us in games all year. We just need our pitching to keep us in the game and then get some timely hitting.”
Getting this far has been Beaty’s plan all along.
He led the Lions in home runs, batting average and RBI all four years at Dresden, knocking 19 home runs and driving in 61 runs as a junior and then hitting .627 his senior season. He was the District 13A Player of the Year twice.
Coming to Belmont, the exercise science major took advantage of a graduation that took its toll on the Bruins’ batting order and proved his worth in fall workouts.
The Bruins flew out of Nashville for Baton Rouge on Wednesday afternoon, and Beaty was ready for the trip.
“This is what I’ve been playing for my whole life.” Published in The WCP 5.31.12