BOCA RATON, Fla. – Charlotte scored a pair of early runs to take a 2-0 lead before Florida Atlantic eventually came back and walked off for a 3-2 victory in Friday night’s Conference USA series-opener. Charlotte’s third error of the night started the FAU rally in the ninth leading to the second of three unearned runs tallied by the Owls in the win.
“We could have gotten a lot more, we had three or four situations there where we could have added onto the lead and we didn’t,” remarked Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “If you don’t take advantage of those opportunities against a good team on the road then it’s going to come back to bite you.”
Billy Endris led off the FAU ninth reaching on a fielding error at short and moved to second on Stephen Kerr’s sacrifice bunt. After Mitch Morales walked, Brendan Sanger came up with the one out walk-off single to left that scored Endris with the game-winner.
Charlotte (8-23-1, 1-12 C-USA) had plenty of opportunities from the middle stages of Friday night on to tack on insurance runs, but would strand 12 runners on base including two in each of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
In a scoreless game in the second, FAU put together a threat with the bases loaded and two outs having appeared to score at-least two runs, possible three to clear the bases, until Des Roberts came up with the catch of the year. Stephen Kerr sent a deep fly ball down the right field line that Roberts was able to track down, diving to make a full extension catch to keep the contest scoreless through two.
“He played great defense tonight,” Hibbs commented in reference to Roberts’ catch. “We had several other guys that played tremendous defense including Huddy (Jordan Hudson) in center. Zach Jarrett made a couple of great plays too.”
Charlotte grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third taking advantage of an FAU throwing error by starter Austin Gomber. Derek Gallello began with a single to right before Hudson’s sacrifice bunt attempt went back to the mound, causing Gomber to spin towards second and misfire into center field. Both runners moved up an additional base on the play allowing Mikal Hill’s sacrifice fly and Jarrett’s double to left to plate both runs for the 2-0 advantage.
Florida Atlantic (18-15, 6-10 C-USA) started to chip away at the deficit with a run in the fourth taking advantage of the Niners first error of the night. Kerr started with a groundball to short that took an FAU big bounce and dropped into left-center field for a one-out single. Morales followed by reaching on a fielding error at third before Sanger’s fielder’s choice that resulted in a Niner throwing error, allowed Kerr to score FAU’s first unearned run of the night.
The Owls would complete their comeback scoring the tying run in the sixth tallying the only earned run of the night on either side. Tyler Rocklein began with a double to left, moved to third on Robert Buckley’s sacrifice bunt plating on C.J. Chatham’s sacrifice fly to right.
Kerr and Chatham would each collect a pair of hits in the win while Sanger drove in two of the three FAU runs on Friday night. T.J. Nichting and Gallello each picked up two hits in the loss.
Bo Logan (2-1) picked up the win in relief for FAU tossing the final two innings without a blemish on his line. Corey Roberts received a no-decision after 6.1 innings allowing two runs, one earned on three hits and a strikeout. Hunter May (1-2) was the victim of the ninth inning error taking the loss.
“Roberts was outstanding,” commented Hibbs. “I thought he really threw well, I thought Hunter threw well on the backend of the bullpen. We just didn’t play the kind of defense we needed to.”
Game two of the weekend series will take place Saturday afternoon starting at 4:00 p.m. RHP Ryan Butler (2-4, 3.15) will get the start for Charlotte while FAU counters with RHP Jeremy Strawn (2-4, 3.45). Live audio/stats will be provided through http://www.charlotte49ers.com.