MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Charlotte rallied from a 6-0 deficit to score six in the top of the eighth, only to see Middle Tennessee score the eventual game-winner on the Niners third error of the night in their eighth to score a 7-6 victory on Friday night. Miscues again cost Charlotte (3-11-1, 0-4 C-USA) as Middle Tennessee (6-10, 2-2 C-USA) scored five unearned runs out of their seven in the series-opener.
Middle Tennessee would break open a scoreless game in the fourth using a pair of hit by pitches, a wild pitch and Charlotte error putting together a five-run frame. Jared Allen started the inning with the first of those two plunkings before moving to third on a fielding error by Corbin Shive at first. Michael Adkins hit a hard groundball towards Shive who was unable to get a clean glove on it to help set up Middle Tennessee’s big inning.
Austin Bryant brought in the Blue Raiders first run with a double down the right-field line before the second hit by pitch of the inning loaded the bases with two outs for Dustin Delgado. Kaleb King in the nine hole took the two out hit by pitch to keep the inning alive as Delgado soon lined a two-run single to center as Middle Tennessee took a 3-0 lead. A wild pitch later in the inning allowed King to score from third while Ryan Stephens ended the inning after a RBI single to right.
The Blue Raiders would extend the lead to six tacking on an additional run in the seventh, again with two outs on the board. Jared Allen led off the fifth with a double down the left field line and later came around on another two out hit by Bryant with his single to center.
Trailing by six entering the eighth, Mikal Hill started the inning with a leadoff walk before Logan Sherer crushed a 1-0 pitch deep to left for his second homer of the year getting the Niners on the board. Derek Gallello followed with an infield single before Zach Jarrett picked up a one-out single to center. Eric Eason, with the best at bat of the inning, battled to draw a walk to load the bases for T.J. Nichting. Nichting, down 0-1, belted a grand slam to right for his first homer of the year to bring Charlotte all the way back to tie the contest at six.
“Logan Sherer put a really good on a ball, really aggressive on a fastball,” remarked Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “Eason had a great at bat and then T.J. hits the grand slam. We had some guys really, really compete tonight. We got ourselves back in it and then made some mistakes.”
In the Middle Tennessee eighth, Bryant began the frame with a single to right and became the all-important base runner aboard for the Blue Raiders. On a pickoff attempt by Niner reliever Ryan Mas, Bryant scampered the second as Mas’ throw sailed a little wide of the bag allowing Bryant to move up 90 feet on the third error of the night.
Jake Ingold did his job by moving Bryant over to third on a chopper groundout to second bringing up King with the go-ahead run 90 feet away. King would come through for the Blue Raiders lifting a sacrifice fly to center easily scoring Bryant with the eventual game-winner.
Bryant led the Blue Raiders offensively going 4-for-4 at the plate with a double, pair of RBI and two runs scored. Delgado went 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI from the leadoff spot while Trent Miller recorded a pair of hits in his four at-bats.
Sherer and Gallello both had outstanding offensive appearances at the plate for Charlotte each recording four-hit nights. Sherer went 4-for-5 with his homer adding three singles. Gallello also put together a 4-for-5 night posting four singles with a run scored. Eason, in addition to his spectacular at bat in the eighth, added two hits and a run in his three plate appearances.
Middle Tennessee did waste a solid start by left-hander Zac Curtis picking up the no-decision. Curtis handcuffed Charlotte early going seven innings of shutout ball allowing nine hits with nine strikeouts. Nine of Charlotte’s 10 runners left stranded were thanks to Curtis. Corey Roberts received a no-decision after also working seven frames, allowing six runs, two earned, on nine hits with four strikeouts.
Due to expected weather in the Tennessee area on Sunday, both teams will now play a doubleheader on Saturday to wrap up the Conference USA weekend. The Niners will send RHP Ryan Butler (1-1, 1.89) to the hill in game one followed by RHP Brock Hudgens (0-1, 3.32) in game two. Middle Tennessee will counter with RHP Paul Mittura (0-0, 3.86) and southpaw Johnathan Frebis (0-3, 5.59).
Live audio, stats and video will be available for both contests tomorrow accessing http://www.charlotte49ers.com. Game one’s first pitch is slated for 2:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. central) with in-game updates provided on Twitter by following @49erGameDay and @Charlotte49ers.