College baseball’s longest-ever half inning consists of 26 plate appearances, three NCAA records and an unforgettable home run from a player whose teammates never saw it coming.
Zach Lannan stepped to the plate and settled into the right-handed batter’s box on March 29, 2015. His number, 28, was called to pinch-hit 17 runs and 19 plate appearances into Belmont’s marathon frame.
On this day, the Bruins set three NCAA single-inning records in the top of the sixth. All before it’d make three outs, Belmont recorded 26 plate appearances, batted in 20 runs and collected 43 total bases.
Here are some more of the most unbelievable statistics — individual and team — from the longest half inning in college baseball history:
- 13 different players batted for Belmont in the sixth inning. Each reached safely at least once.
- The Bruins hit the same number of home runs as singles — 7.
- The only variation of a home run not hit in the sixth was a grand slam. Dom Veltri hit one in the seventh inning.
- Belmont had more batters reach with two outs (13) than it did combined with zero or one out (10).
- Tyler Fullerton finished a triple shy of the cycle … in the inning.
- Belmont had 31 hits in the game. None were triples.
On an afternoon in Martin, Tennessee, where multiple NCAA records fell, Lannan — a rare lineup fixture— was in search of a personal milestone: his first collegiate hit.
His sixth-inning appearance was Belmont’s first offensive substitution in a contest that opened up during the Bruins’ first trip through the lineup. The second time batting around created even more separation and the third rotation opened strong on a home run as Lannan waited in the on-deck circle.
Six home runs and a number of barreled balls later, there wasn’t much more momentum to establish. Belmont was firmly in control over UT Martin.
The crowd at Skyhawk Park wasn’t particularly large that day, but the interest of an in-state, conference matchup was enough to attract a draw. By the time Lannan came to bat, most of the noise was coming from visiting fans and the Bruins’ dugout.
If you think this anecdote ends with a base hit through the gap, think again.
Some pinch hitters are apprehensive to swing early in the count. In this situation, not Lannan. He went deep on the first pitch he saw, clearing the wall in left center field. Associate head coach Aaron Smith joked that the ball still hasn’t landed.
“The inning was already insane,” former Bruins outfielder Drew Ferguson told NCAA.com. “That pinch-hit home run was when we went from very excited to maybe even a little over the top.
“Even though it was out of the ordinary for Zach to come off the bench and hit a home run, in that inning it fit the narrative and it felt like it was expected.”
Ordinary might be one of the last verbs used to describe a 20-run inning, much less one where the Bruins sent 26 batters to the plate, had 43 total bases, and batted in all 20 of their runs, seven by way of the long ball.
Below is a re-creation of what a scorebook might’ve looked like during this game as well as a key to navigate it.
Expecting to produce an inning of that magnitude might seem ambitious when considering how little of Belmont’s game would be considered ordinary. They won 34-10 in a game that lasted less than four hours.
For what it’s worth, Belmont had already put up double-digit runs five times through its first 23 contests of the 2015 season. It finished the year top 10 nationally in doubles, home runs, runs and slugging percentage.
According to head coach Dave Jarvis, the numbers his team put up don’t come across the mind before a game. But when you complement Belmont’s offensive arsenal with the right weather conditions, the possibility of a big day at the plate becomes a lot more likely.
When the Bruins arrived at the ballpark Sunday, they were greeted by shades of gray above the diamond. A mild chill wafted through the air as temperatures sat in the 50s. Seventeen miles per hour gusts blew out towards right field — the type of blustering breeze that could inject new life into a baseball on a given pitch.
Conditions were optimal for a power surge. Prior to the game, they could’ve been seen as foreboding.
Belmont led the Ohio Valley Conference standings after winning its first five league games. But the Bruins were in danger of being swept. UT Martin won the first matchup before clinching the series in extra innings the following night.
The Skyhawks were able to build momentum with a series win after a slow start to the season. The Bruins needed less than an inning to take it back.
Four of the game’s first seven batters deposited pitches of various speeds and spins behind the walls in right and center field. Belmont scored five runs in the first, all from home runs. Ferguson opened the barrage before Tyler Fullerton and Nick Egli went back-to-back. A deep shot from Joseph Stovall made it three home runs in four batters.
“Every ball that we hit was barreled. Everything was just hit hard. Even if it wasn’t, it found a hole,” Fullerton told NCAA.com.
After plating a pair of runs in both the second and third innings, Belmont’s offense quieted down with six of its next seven batters retired.
What came next, according to Fullerton, would be best described as a “laser show.”
After he and Egli reached on base hits to open the inning, Tyler Walsh hammered a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall and the Bruins never looked back.
When Fullerton returned to the plate nine batters later, only Alec Diamond had made an out. The Bruins had five extra base knocks (three home runs, two doubles) in their first rotation batting around, capped by back-to-back long balls from Ferguson and Matt Beaty to reset the order with Belmont leading 17-4.
The Bruins’ second time through the lineup was slightly quieter. They scored six runs, down from eight and had one fewer extra base hit. Still, Egli and Stovall hit their second home runs of the afternoon while Fullerton and Brennan Washington each picked up their second extra-base hits.
Walsh made the second out on a groundout to second base, possibly the shortest distance a live ball hit by Belmont traveled during the frame.
After batting around twice, the Bruins led 23-4, averaging seven runs each time through the order, a mark that almost matched the team’s per-game runs average for the season.
Like the scoring itself, the Bruins’ offense was not conventional. The results of nine out of 18 plate appearances were extra-base hits. At one point, Belmont had as many home runs (5) as it did singles.
“Within that inning, we became conditioned to expect everyone to get a hit or hit a home run,” Ferguson said. “Everything was aligning in our favor.”
Perhaps the best example of that begins with Stovall. His second home run was the first of 13 (!) consecutive batters to reach safely, half of the Bruins’ total plate appearances for the inning.
During the third and final time batting, Fullerton hit a three-run home run before Lannan’s pinch hit served as the second half of a back-to-back. From there, three more pinch hitters entered the game — Desi Ammons, William Dodd and Dom Veltri.
All three kept the inning alive as Ammons and Dodd singled while Veltri drew a walk.
“It was hard to keep up with everything that was happening,” Jarvis said. “At some point you’re just trying to be respectful to your opponent.”
The team had collected 43 total bases and had 20 runs cross the plate when a Ferguson flyout finally brought the inning to an end.
What might be more astonishing than any of the offensive milestones shattered is Jarvis remaining unfazed by the incredulity of it all. As the only head coach in the history of Belmont baseball, he’s experienced plenty of firsts. While he hasn’t seen everything, he’s been able to check some rarely marked boxes off the list.
It’s possible he’s unfazed because the Bruins lost that series. Or maybe it’s because he’s been in the dugout for two other innings comparable to this one. Four years earlier, Belmont had a 19-run frame in the first inning of a win against UT Martin. More recently, the program experienced an opening weekend loss after Illinois State scored 16 on the Bruins in the top of the 11th.
Jarvis is known by his staff and team for having an even-keeled demeanor. After nearly four decades of coaching, not much catches him off guard. Not even a record-breaking afternoon.
“It is an event when you see something like that,” he said. “It’s one of those things you make a mental note of and say, ‘my gosh, I hadn’t seen something like that before.’
“When you see the unusual, it sticks out in the game of baseball.”