CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Riding a season-high four-game win streak after successfully completing a three-game road sweep at Louisiana Tech and walking off on Winthrop Tuesday, the Charlotte 49ers will wrap up the 2014 baseball season hosting Southern Miss in Conference USA action starting Thursday night.
The Niners (18-29-1, 9-17 C-USA) started last weekend with a four-run first inning Friday night to set the early tone for the entire series with the Bulldogs. Des Roberts posted a career night going 3-for-4 finishing a triple shy of the cycle with a career-high four RBI in the 8-2 victory. Corey Roberts, who will make his final collegiate start on Thursday, tossed 7.2 innings allowing two runs on four hits in the win. T.J. Nichting opened up 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored on Friday while Brett Lang added a two-run double. Zach Jarrett capped the night with his first career home run belted to left.
Charlotte would benefit from a four-run sixth inning on Saturday and then hold on late to escape with a 5-4 win assuring them of a series victory. An unearned run led to the Niners first tally in the second before Louisiana Tech bounced back for two of their own unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead through five. Logan Sherer would give the Niners the lead back for good in the sixth driving a 1-2 pitch deep to left for the first of his two round-trippers on the weekend before Grant Dunnegan’s RBI single and Jordan Hudson’s run-scoring ground rule double.
Hunter May recorded the first of back-to-back saves on Saturday tossing the final 2.1 innings allowing two hits with a strikeout ending the game on a double play ball to second. May would help Louisiana Tech strand one of four potential tying runs over the final three frames to give Ryan Butler his fourth win of the season. Butler went the first 6.1 innings allowing four runs, two earned, on six hits.
Up 4-2 heading to the ninth on Sunday, Sherer would come up huge once again crushing a three-run homer to left provided the Niners their final bit of insurance to ensure the weekend sweep. Four Niners picked up two-hit outings at the plate while May pitched the ninth allowing one hit scoring his fifth save of the year.
"We played well," remarked Head Coach Loren Hibbs. "The last two conference road weekends we've won, that's five out of six games and that's really difficult to do. I thought we played well the first night, didn't play great on Saturday but did enough to win and we matched their energy level and executed on Sunday."
Charlotte brought the successful road trip back home to Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium on Tuesday night to pick up a 5-4, walk-off win over Winthrop to take that season-series 2-1. Sherer again was the hero driving a single to right that scored Hudson with the game-winner. The Niners scored three runs right off the bat in the first and responded to the Eagles four unanswered runs with a game-tying, unearned run in the sixth to set up Sherer’s heroics.
Derek Gallello and Mikal Hill each slapped a pair of hits on Tuesday while Hill and Sherer accounted for four of the Niners’ five runs driven in having two apiece. Jason Harris and Micah Wells combined to toss a four-hit shutout over the final five innings with Wells notching the save after allowing just one hit with a strikeout during the final 2.2 innings.
"We've played a schedule going into this weekend that's top-50 nationally," continued Hibbs. "I don't know that with our youth and inexperience that we were really ready to play that schedule early in the season, but we've gotten better. This weekend is going to be another challenge, another measure stick for our program."
Entering the weekend with Southern Miss, the Niners continue to raise their team average nearing the finish line of 2014 now hitting .254 as a club. Gallello leads the way hitting at a .302 clip while Nichting is right behind at .298. In Conference USA play, the two flip-flop on the stat sheet as Nichting hits a team-best .340 while Gallello swings at .310. Charlotte’s pitching staff has dropped its team earned run average to 3.77 entering the Southern Miss series.
Southern Miss (30-22, 17-10 C-USA) opens Thursday night coming off of their first league series win in nearly a month taking two-of-three with East Carolina over the weekend. The Golden Eagles dropped game one of a doubleheader in 15 innings on Saturday 7-5 before bouncing back for a 2-1 win in game two. Southern Miss would clinch the series taking a 6-4 victory over the Pirates on Sunday.
Southern Miss carried a 4-3 lead into the ninth on Friday before ECU tallied the game-tying run in the top of the ninth. Each team would trade a run in the 14th before the Pirates game-deciding pair of runs were scored in the 15th. On Saturday, East Carolina saw a 1-0 advantage disappear in the eighth before Southern Miss walked-off in the bottom of the ninth for their 2-1 victory. Another Golden Eagle comeback was needed on Sunday with single runs in the seventh and eighth broke up a 4-4 game.
Matt Durst leads Southern Miss in the hitting department sporting a .279 average entering the weekend, 20 points better than his nearest teammate. The Golden Eagles bring a .244 team average to Charlotte with a 3.59 staff ERA. Both sets of numbers improve in Conference USA play as Southern Miss hits .247 as a team with Connor Barron leading the way at .347 in 22 games. Pitching improves to the tune of 3.27 for an ERA in C-USA action as well.
Thursday’s series-opener is slated for 6:00 p.m. weather permitting. Friday’s action will begin at 3:00 p.m. while Saturday series and season-finale for the Niners will start at 11:00 a.m. Fans are urged to follow @NinerBaseball, @Charlotte49ers or @49erGameDay for any potential weather/series updates throughout the weekend.
Tickets for the final series of the year are available by clicking HERE or by calling 704-687-4949. Live video/stats will be provided all weekend through http://www.charlotte49ers.com with in-game updates provided on Twitter following the handles above.
SENIOR DAY FRIDAY
Prior to the middle game of the weekend series with Southern Miss on Friday, the Charlotte baseball team will take time pre-game to honor its eight seniors playing in their final collegiate home games at Hayes Stadium. Those eight to be recognized before the game will be Grant Dunnegan, Jason Harris, Brock Hudgens, Jordan Hudson, Ryan Mas, Hunter May, Corey Roberts and Corbin Shive.
CHARLOTTE/SOUTHERN MISS WEEKEND ROTATION
Thursday (6pm): RHP Corey Roberts (3-4, 3.28) vs. RHP Conor Fisk (5-2, 2.96)
Friday (3pm): RHP Ryan Butler (4-7, 3.84) vs. RHP Cody Carroll (3-1, 3.64)
Saturday (11am): RHP Brock Hudgens (3-5, 3.27) vs. RHP Christian Talley (4-4, 2.44)