Charlotte senior outfielder Justin Wilson (Canton, N.C. / Pisgah HS) logged three hits and an RBI, but Massachusetts scored runs on the first two hits of the game and outlasted the 49ers 5-1 to even an Atlantic 10 Conference weekend series at one game each at Earl Lorden Field Saturday. The 49ers are now 33-10 on the season, remaining in first in the league with a 12-5 record. The Minutemen are 14-22 overall, improving to 6-8 in A-10 play.
The loss was only the second for Charlotte when logging more hits than the opponent (26-2), but the Niners are 1-8 now when scoring two or fewer runs in a game. The 49ers left 10 men on base, including the bases loaded in the seventh.
UMass had only two hits in the first five innings, but each hit was an RBI double against Charlotte starter Corey Roberts (Charlotte, N.C. / Olympic HS) for the 2-0 lead. A walk in the first and a hit batter in the fourth were able to score on the extra-base hit in each frame. Roberts only allowed five baserunners in the first five frames.
The 49ers got runners on base in five of the first six innings, but could not score in first six against Saturday's starter, Charlie Benson. With only one start under his belt for the season, the left hander pitched out of trouble with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, inducing a grounder back to the mound for the 1-2-3 double play to end the inning with the score 1-0.
Wilson had a leadoff single in the first and catcher Miguel Rodriguez (Cape Coral, Fla.) had leadoff singles in the third and fifth innings, reaching third twice, but could not score.
The Minutemen made it 3-0 with a run in the sixth after a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and pair of wild pitches by Roberts.
Charlotte finally pushed the run across in the seventh after a leadoff single from left fielder J.J. Elseser (Brunswick, Ga.). He got to second on a single from shortstop Justin Roland (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan) and scored on the RBI single through the right side from Wilson. Charlotte loaded the bases a second time in the game, but Benson got a flyout and closer Leif Sorenson came in and got a groundout to end the inning.
Massachusetts added two more runs with a two-out, two-RBI single to left by designated hitter Dylan Begin for the game's final runs.
Roberts took the loss (7-2) after six innings, allowing just three hits and three walks, with four strikeouts.
Benson got his second win of the season (2-2) by holding Charlotte to just the one run on eight hits and four walks in 6.2 innings. He struck out one batter on 111 pitches. Sorenson became the Minutemen all-time saves leader with his sixth of the season and 11th of his career by holding Charlotte hitless and scoreless in the final 2.1 innings. He struck out a pair of batters.
The series-clinching finale will be Sunday at noon.
NOTES: Roland recorded his 16th sacrifice hit of the season, extending his school-record season... Tilton stole his conference-leading 27th base of the year, giving him 69 for his career to get into a tie with two other players for sixth all-time in team history... After coming back from a three-run deficit in Friday's game one, the 49ers slip to 9-8 when the opponent scores first.