A complete-game effort from senior John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio) combined with good defense and clutch hitting as the Charlotte 49ers outlasted Rhode Island 5-2 Thursday at the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. The win gave the 49ers a 36-21 record and its 28th home win of the season, pushing Charlotte into Friday’s noon contest against Xavier. The Rams will have to stay and face George Washington later in the evening on Wednesday to stay alive at 35-23.
Charlotte got the lead with a first-inning run, their 35th of the season after a two-out single to right by senior shortstop Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) and an RBI double down the right field line by sophomore second baseman Brad Elwood (Indian Trail, N.C. / Piedmont HS) for the lead.
Rhode Island answered in the third when left fielder Chris Famigletti doubled to left center and score on a an RBI single from shortstop Tim Caputo to tie the game at one.
A Rams error led to a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth. Elwood singled, followed by an error to put on Justin Seager (Kannapolis, N.C. / Northwest Cabarrus HS) and a hit batter to load the bases. After a strikeout, sophomore designated hitter Derek Gallello (Fredericksburg, Va. / Riverbend HS) shot a two-out single through the middle to score two runs and gave Charlotte the lead for good at 3-1.
Hamilton got out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the fifth thanks to good defense and the 49ers got another unearned run in the bottom half after Elwood hit a second RBI single to score J.J. Elseser (Brunswick, Ga.), who had reached base on a fielding error to give the 49ers a 4-1 lead.
The Rams got another double in the eighth after a leadoff double from Caputo, scoring after a double play was turned in the frame.
Charlotte extended the lead back to three with the final run of a day after a walk, an error and two wild pitches to plate Elwood for the game’s final scoring play.
Hamilton threw his second career complete-game, his second and three weeks and improved to 6-3 on the season. He allowed just five hits and a walk, striking out five on 120 pitches.
The loss went to Rhode Island starter Sean Furney (7-4), who gave up six hits and no walks with four strikeouts. Only one of the four runs charged to him was earned on four of the five errors committed in the game.
Elwood led all players with three hits and two runs scored. He and Gallello had two RBI each to lead all players.
Charlotte and Xavier have not lost a game in the double-elimination format. The winner of the noon game Friday advances to the championship round on Saturday, needing only one win to capture the conference title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
NOTES: Charlotte has won 12 of 14… The 49ers are 5-0 all-time versus Rhode Island in the A-10 Tournament, capturing the title in all three previous tournaments in which they faced the Rams… Charlotte has thrown three complete games since May 4, a span of 10 games… Charlotte is 6-4 when the opponent scores exactly two runs and 11-4 when holding the opponent under three runs… The Niners are 28-1 when leading after the sixth inning this season… Charlotte now has 28 home wins, one shy of the school record, set in 1998 and tied in 2010.