A three-run homer by redshirt senior catcher Ross Steedley (Granite Quarry, N.C. / East Rowan HS) capped a four-run seventh inning and broke open a tight ballgame, launching the Charlotte 49ers past the Toledo Rockets 8-4 to open a three game series at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium Friday night. The 49ers improve to 4-1 on the season, winners of all four home contests. Toledo has its season mark leveled to 2-2.
Redshirt senior Andrew Smith (Matthews, N.C. / Butler HS) got his second win in as many starts with a Charlotte season-high eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings.
After a two-hour rain delay to get the game started, the Rockets scratched across an unearned run after a walk, two Niners errors and an RBI single in the first.
The 49ers tied the game in the third after a two-out RBI single up the middle from junior third baseman Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS), driving in redshirt senior Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. North Mecklenburg HS) after he walked and stole second.
The Rockets were able to retake the lead in the fifth when a leadoff single from Wes White resulted in a score after a one-out single and RBI groundout to second by Joe Corfman.
Charlotte was able to take its first lead of the day in the bottom half of the fifth. A leadoff double down the third base line from shortstop Justin Roland (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS) proved fruitful as he scored on a one-out single from Brown. Brown later scored on a passed ball for the 3-2 margin.
Freshman designated hitter Derek Gallello (Fredericksburg, Va. / Riverbend HS) hit a leadoff single in the sixth, scoring on a ground ball double play later in the frame to give Charlotte a 4-2 lead. He led all players in the game with three hits in his first college start and is 5-for-6 to start his collegiate career in two games.
The Rockets closed to within one after a leadoff double from James Miglin turned into a run after a single to left by Jeff Cola, but left hander John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio / Strongsville HS) came in with runners at second and third and two outs to get a ground out and preserve the 4-3 lead.
In the seventh, Brown scored his game-high third run of the day after singling and stealing second and third to tie his career high of three steals in a game. He scored on an infield error to extend the lead to 5-3. After a hit batter, Steedley blasted an 0-1 pitch out to left to push that Niners lead to 8-3. It was his second home run of the season, matching his total from 2011 through just five games this season.
The Rockets scratched across a final run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly from pinch hitter Jacob North.
Hamilton got the save, his third of the 49ers four wins so far this season. He came in with a one-run lead and inherited runners at second and third from Smith, but a diving grab by first baseman Corbin Shive (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS) saved the lead and Hamilton finished the final 2.1 innings. He struck out a batter and allowed two hits.
Toledo starting pitcher Mike Hamann took the loss, his first decision of the season (0-1). He gave up eight hits and three walks in 6.1 innings, allowing six runs, four of which were earned. He struck out six.
The two teams will play game two of the series Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Prior to the game, Charlotte will retire the jersey of former 49er All-American Adam Mills (Class of 2007). Mills was a school-record 14 games and led the nation in wins and ERA (1.01) en route to winning Charlotte's first NCAA Regional game at the end of the 2007 season, during which the Niners won a school-record 49 games and Atlantic 10-record 23 conference victories. The ceremonies will take place around 3:45 p.m.
NOTES: Smith has 13 strikeouts in 13.1 innings and a 2.03 ERA for Charlotte... Charlotte's three weekend starters are 4-0, with a 1.05 ERA, with 19 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched... Charlotte has scored 10 runs in 11.1 innings against opposing bullpens so far this season.