Charlotte baseball returns to Atlantic 10 Conference play this weekend on the road in its toughest test of the season to this point, tangling with Xavier with a three-game road series scheduled to begin Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Hayden Field. The series pits the A-10’s best offensive team (Xavier, tops in the league with a .313 team batting average) against the league’s stingiest pitching staff (Charlotte, league low 3.23 earned run average) in the weekend series with the highest ranked teams in the league standings. Xavier is second at 7-2, while Charlotte is in a tie for third at 6-3.
The Musketeers enter play this weekend at 20-15 overall. Xavier has a 5-1 mark at home this season, technically 8-1, though their three-game series that was supposed to take place at St. Bonaventure was moved to Cincinnati due to weather, scoring eight runs per game in those nine contests. Xavier has won its last six games, including a weekend sweep of Evansville last weekend on the road for the team’s conference bye weekend.
The 49ers dropped both midweek contests, garnering nine total hits in the two games. Charlotte swept George Washington at home in conference play last weekend and sits with a 22-14 overall mark. The 49ers are just 3-7 on the road this season, winning two out of three in a weekend series at Richmond to start A-10 play four weekends ago.
The 49ers own an 11-7 mark overall in the all-time series against Xavier, but the 49ers dropped two of three last season in a trip to Hayden Field, salvaging the one win in the series in the finale, taking a 6-5 result on getaway day on April 1. The 49ers have lost two out of three at Xavier in the two previous trips to Hayden Field after sweeping the first-ever series against the Musketeers back in 2007 as Charlotte set a league record with 24 conference wins en route to setting the school record for wins that season, with 49.
One interesting note, senior third baseman Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) has hit three of his five career home runs at Hayden Field. Basen hit his first career homer over the tall fence in left on May 9, 2010. In the 49ers’ return trip in 2012, Basen hit homers in back-to-back games for the only time of his career, out to right center on April 30 and then out to left again on April 31 of last season. Basen has started Charlotte’s last 132 consecutive contests, currently the 12th-longest active streak in the NCAA. Teammate and redshirt senior Justin Roland (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS) is currently holding the fifth-longest active streak of consecutive games started, with 152. His 218 career games started is the second-most in Division I baseball currently and is the Charlotte school record in that category.
When Charlotte comes to bat, the numbers start to vary from a team standpoint. The 49ers are fourth in the league with a .288 team batting average, while Xavier’s team ERA is eighth in the conference, at 4.24 in 305.1 innings pitched. The 49ers have a player tied for the league lead in runs scored (Justin Seager, 31), hits (Shane Basen, 50) and the league’s RBI leader in Brett Lang (34) at this point of the season.
Charlotte junior Tyler Barnette (Hickory, N.C.) will start for the 49ers on Friday afternoon’s 3 p.m. series opener. He leads the team and is tied for sixth in the league with 44 strikeouts. Barnette is 3-1, with a 4.01 ERA and has allowed 13 walks. Xavier sophomore lefty Jon Richard will get the start to begin the series Friday. He is 5-2, with a 2.95 ERA and has amassed 48 strikeouts against 13 walks this season. His strikeout total is tied for second in the conference.
Saturday, Charlotte starts senior left hander John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio) in his home state. Hamilton was the first Charlotte starter in three league weekends to claim a victory. Hamilton is 2-3, with a 3.46 ERA to go with 35 strikeouts and 13 walks. His pitching counterpart will be Musketeers sophomore lefty Alex Wastrick. Wastrick is 3-3 this season, with a 2.38 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 19 walks.
The series finale will feature Charlotte junior right hander Brock Hudgens (Jamestown, N.C. / Southwest Guilford HS) and his 3-0 mark, 3.27 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 18 walks against redshirt senior righty Tyler Koors. Koors has posted a 4-3 record with a 4.42 ERA. He has struck out 31 and walked 11 this year for Xavier.
Hudgens is the reigning A-10 Pitcher of the Week after tossing 7.1 innings of shutout baseball on Sunday. He scattered just three hits and a walk in that span, striking out five. Charlotte is 6-1 in games that he has started this season.
On the road in 2013, the 49ers have gotten off to slow starts, with the 49ers being outscored in each of the first four innings of the ten road games this year. Charlotte has posted a total of more runs than its opponent in just three of the nine innings this season, but putting up an 8-0 number in ninth innings this season. The 49ers have outscored opponents 17-7 from the eighth inning on and 22-13 from the seven inning on this year. Charlotte is 3-1 when scoring first on the road this year and the magic run total for the season on the road so far is six runs. Charlotte is 0-7 on the road when scoring five or fewer runs, 3-0 when getting to six or more runs.
The 49ers are 20-7 in games that start before 6 p.m. After the 3 p.m. Friday start, the series is scheduled to continue Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon.