CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Fresh off of their second-straight Conference USA series win of the season, the Charlotte 49ers baseball team will open up another pivotal weekend set hosting UAB this weekend at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. The Niners will enter the weekend 4.5 games back from the eighth and final conference tournament spot available with nine league games left to play.
Charlotte (14-26-1, 6-14 C-USA) registered a series-win last weekend out in San Antonio taking two-of-three from host UTSA. Friday’s series-opener saw Corey Roberts throw eight innings, allowing two runs on seven hits to pick up the win with four strikeouts. Friday marked Roberts’ seventh-straight quality start in C-USA action. Hunter May would notch the ninth inning save with a game-ending double play to snag the 5-2 victory.
“Guys are starting to see the speed of the game and starting to understand in this league’s there’s a lot of good teams,” commented Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “Every weekend is going to be a battle and I was pleased with our effort. Anytime you can win two on the road against a good team in conference play is a good weekend.”
Offensively, it was Corbin Shive who broke a scoreless game up in the fifth on a mammoth two-run blast to left before the Niners followed that up with a three-run sixth on a crucial base knock by Zach Jarrett. Leading 3-0 with the bases loaded and two outs, Jarrett would lace a two-run single into left scoring Des Roberts and Logan Sherer for a 5-0 lead. UTSA would add single runs in the eighth and ninth until May eventually closed the door.
After a defensive struggle on Saturday that saw the Niners give UTSA their two final runs in a 3-1 victory, Charlotte would bounce back to grab the series win on Sunday with a four-run fifth en route to doubling up the Roadrunners 4-2.
The Niners posted six hits over the first four frames on Sunday but were unable to cash in with a run trailing 1-0 until the fifth. Mikal Hill started the one out rally with a base hit to left followed by Derek Gallello’s double just inside the third base bag. Brett Lang would come up with the Niners first big hit lining a single to center giving Charlotte a 2-1 lead. Two batter later, Sherer would crush an opposite field homer to right for the 4-1 advantage.
UTSA would once again make things interesting late getting a RBI single from Mitchell Matulia to make it a 4-2 ballgame before the Niner bullpen held on the rest of the way. The Roadrunners would have the two leadoff men aboard in the sixth, leadoff man in the seventh and put two runners aboard with one out in the ninth before the bullpen combo of Micah Wells, Nate Traugh and May saved the win for Brock Hudgens.
Hudgens picked up the win after tossing the first five allowing one run on five hits with four strikeouts. May would notch his second save of the series after throwing the final 1.1 innings allowing a hit with two punch outs. Wells would relieve Hudgens throwing 1.2 innings allowing just two hits with two strikeouts getting Charlotte out of the UTSA jam in the sixth. Traugh contributed with one frame surrendering the run on a hit.
“We’ve played a lot better defense in the last month or so,” continued Hibbs. “It’s amazing what happens when you get some practice time. To have a chance to win in this league you have to have good starting pitching and play good defense.”
UAB (27-16, 13-8 C-USA) enters the weekend after sweeping Marshall in a three-game series last week. The Blazers would use an eight-run eighth inning on Friday to pull away for a 10-2 victory before a walk-off 3-2 win on Saturday in 10. UAB would complete their sweep on Sunday erasing a 2-1 deficit with another big eighth scoring four times for a 5-2 win. The Blazers had previously lost their last two series before sweeping the Herd. Nationally-ranked Rice swept UAB in Houston just after Southern Miss took two-of-three from the Blazers in Birmingham.
Griffin Chum leads UAB hitting .299 on the year followed closely by Chase Davis’ .297 mark. The Blazers hit .262 as a team using a .286 earned run average as a pitching staff. Lang still leads the way for the Niners hitting one point better than T.J. Nichting at .296. Nichting currently sports the fourth-best hitting average in the league during Conference USA play hitting .342.
“We’re practicing better now, I think we’re more competitive game in and game out and we need that to continue this weekend because it’s going to be really, really tough with UAB coming in here. They have really good arms. Their numbers are off the charts. It’s going to be a challenge.“
Friday night’s series-opener will feature “Beach Night” with first pitch being thrown at 6:00 p.m. The 1979 Charlotte 49ers baseball team will be recognized before Saturday’s 2:00 p.m. start while Sunday’s series-finale will take place at 1:00 p.m. Tickets for the weekend series can be found online by clicking HERE or by calling the Niners ticket office at 704-687-4949. Live video/stats will be available through http://www.charlotte49ers.com with live, in-game updates provided on Twitter by following @NinerBaseball, @49erGameDay and/or @Charlotte49ers.
1972 REUNION SATURDAY
Prior to Saturday’s game, Charlotte with host the 1979 Niners baseball team alumni. The 1979 Niners picked up the program’s first-ever win on March 16th during a 13-10 victory over Catawba. Head Coach Gary Bartley will throw out a ceremonial first pitch during a pre-game ceremony to recognize the group as a total of 12 members of that ’79 team will be present. In addition to Coach Bartley, others also scheduled to attend are Eric Miller, Gary Tolbert, Mark Windle, Mark Vogler, Mark Dunn, Steve Philpott, Donnie Hoover, Carl Council, Randy Duncan, Herb Hall and assistant coach Dr. Don Ammons.
CHARLOTTE/UAB WEEKEND PROBABLES
Friday (6pm): RHP Corey Roberts (2-3, 3.00) vs. RHP Chase Mallard (7-1, 1.11)
Saturday (2pm): RHP Ryan Butler (3-6, 3.62) vs. Alex Luna (5-0, 1.71)
Sunday (1pm): RHP Brock Hudgens (2-4, 3.32) vs. RHP Johnny Lieske (3-2, 2.55)