CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After Wednesday’s non-conference game with Rider was cancelled due to weather and unplayable field conditions, the Charlotte 49ers baseball team will get back inside Conference USA play this weekend hosting East Carolina. The Niners will have nearly a week off between last Saturday’s doubleheader at Middle Tennessee and Friday’s series-opener against the Pirates.
The Niners (3-13-1) are coming out of their second Conference USA series seeing host Middle Tennessee take all three games in the weekend set. In Friday’s opener, Charlotte trailed 6-0 going into the top of the eighth until a Logan Sherer two-run homer to left and a T.J. Nichting grand slam tied the contest at 6-6 late in the series-opener. The Blue Raiders would come right back to score the decisive run in their half of the eighth as the Niners third error of the game and eventual sacrifice fly led to Middle Tennessee’s 7-6 victory on Friday night.
On Saturday, both teams engaged in a pair of nine-inning contests playing a doubleheader to avoid drastic weather changes coming in on Sunday. In game one, Middle Tennessee took an early 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and second frames before opening the contest up with three more in the fifth. Charlotte would cut the deficit down to three scoring two in the sixth as Eric Eason and Des Roberts picked up the RBI, but an insurance tally for the Blue Raiders came in their sixth en route to a 6-2 win.
In a scoreless game two, the Niners put together their best inning of the day and were poised to post a big inning in the fourth. Sherer, Mikal Hill and Brett Lang all singled to start the inning loading the bases with Derek Gallello with nobody out. Gallello would smoke a line drive on a 1-1 pitch back up the middle only to see Middle Tennessee starter Johnathan Frebis snag the line drive, spin towards second and double off Hill. A fielder’s choice later, Middle Tennessee saw all the momentum shift their way getting out of the inning without any harm done. The Blue Raiders would go on to hit four homers in a 9-1 win to finish off the sweep with Charlotte’s Corbin Shive provided the lone run with a solo homer to left in the ninth.
Hill still leads the Niners with a team-best .310 average entering the weekend with Gallello hot on his heels at .306. Charlotte hits .243 as a team with a team earned run average standing at 4.42.
East Carolina (10-11) enters the weekend 3-3 in Conference USA play most recently taking two-of-three from Tulane at home. The Green Wave scored a 7-2 win in Friday’s opener before the Pirates swept both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday 5-2, 13-3. ECU opened C-USA play by dropping two-of-three to Marshall, also at home. The Pirates suffered an 8-4 setback to VCU on Wednesday heading into their first league series on the road this weekend.
“They’re kind of a tough team to figure out because they are so talented with their roster from top to bottom,” quipped Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “They beat Tulane two out of three this weekend but they lost two out of three at home to Marshall.”
ECU knocked out 34 hits in the three-game series with 14 in Saturday’s game two saving their best output for last. Hunter Allen led the Pirates over the Tulane weekend going 6-for-11 with a double and five runs scored. East Carolina added nine more hits in the loss to VCU on Wednesday with nine different Pirates recording a hit.
Zach Houchins leads ECU with a .350 batting average starting in all 21 games. The Pirates are hitting .253 overall sporting a 3.02 ERA as a pitching staff.
Charlotte will send right-hander Corey Roberts (0-2, 4.12) to the mound in Friday night’s series-opener. Roberts will make his fifth start/sixth appearance of the season coming off of a seven-inning no decision at Middle Tennessee last weekend. Butler allowed six runs, two earned on nine hits with four strikeouts. The Niners got Roberts off the hook using the Sherer two-run homer and Nichting grand slam in a six-run eighth to tie it.
“I’m sure it’ll create a lot of interest with our fans not only in Charlotte but in the eastern part of the state,” continued Hibbs. “We’re looking forward to three competitive games with good weather this weekend.”
Friday night’s series-opener has been designated a “green out” with all Niner fans encouraged to wear green. Saturday will be a “white out.” Tickets for the weekend series are available in advance by calling 704-687-4949. Live stats/video will be available for all three games through http://www.charlotte49ers.com with in-game updates provided on Twitter by following @49erGameDay and @Charlotte 49ers.
CHARLOTTE/EAST CAROLINA PROBABLE STARTERS:
Friday (6pm): RHP Corey Roberts (0-2, 4.12) vs. RHP Jeff Hoffman (0-3, 4.56)
Saturday (2pm): RHP Ryan Butler (1-2, 3.38) vs. LHP Reid Love (1-1, 1.57)
Sunday (1pm): RHP Brock Hudgens (0-2, 3.58) vs. TBA