Redshirt junior outfielder Tony Montalbano (New Orleans, La.) hit his first home run of the season and drove in a game-high four runs to propel the Charlotte 49ers past the Wagner Seahawks 7-4 Friday to start a four-game weekend series at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. Charlotte improves to 7-2 on the season, winners of three in a row, holding Wagner winless through its first six games.
Charlotte took a lead it never relinquished in the bottom of the first inning. An error, a walk and a single loaded the bases for the Niners for junior third baseman Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS), who doubled over the center fielder's head for two runs without an out recorded. In the next at bat, Montalbano crushed the 1-1 pitch out to right for his second career home run and a 5-0 lead.
Charlotte starting pitcher Andrew Smith (3-0) retired the first 12 batters he faced before the Seahawks were able to touch him up for four runs in the fifth. He hit the first batter of the inning and walked two more among a pair of doubles, including a bases-clearing two-bagger down the third base line from shortstop Eddie Brown to pull within a run at 5-4. Smith only allowed those two hits in five innings, with four strikeouts and two walks to stay perfect on the season. He has won his last five starts for Charlotte, going back to last season and including the NCAA regionals and Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
The 49ers scored runs on sacrifice flies in the sixth and seventh. Freshman second baseman Derek Gallello (Fredericksburg, Va. / Riverbend HS) singled and advanced to third on a double from junior first baseman Corbin Shive (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS). Gallello scored on the sac fly from freshman designated hitter Brad Elwood (Indian Trail, N.C. / Piedmont HS) for his second RBI of the season. Redshirt senior Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS) dropped a bunt to start the seventh for an infield hit and stole his conference-leading ninth base of the season ahead of a Montalbano RBI sacrifice fly for his fourth RBI of the day.
Senior Tyler Pilkington (Waxhaw, N.C. / Weddington HS) and junior Wes Hatley (Norwood, N.C. / South Stanly HS) both held the Seahawks hitless and scoreless over innings six through eight. Pilkington allowed one walk in two-thirds of an inning, while Hatley gave up a walk and recorded a strikeout in 2.1 innings. Junior John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio / Strongsville HS) garnered two strikeouts and allowed a walk in a scoreless ninth for his fourth save of the season.
Wagner freshman starter Max Schmardel took the loss (0-2). He was charged with four earned runs on five hits and three walks, with one strikeout. Reliever Connor Smith gave up the runs in the sixth and seventh in 3.1 innings pitched. He allowed five hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Brown was the only player in the game to score twice. Four 49ers had two hits each. Montalbano's four RBI are a season high for any 49er hitter.
Charlotte and Wagner will attempt to dodge the raindrops Saturday for a scheduled doubleheader to begin at noon. It is youth day at the stadium. Free admission will be given to children 17 and under with paying adult.
NOTES: Only 14 players in team history have had as many as five saves in a single season for Charlotte... Montalbano did not have a home run in his first 51 games played at Charlotte, but now has two in his last 14 games played (including at Dallas Baptist, May 21, 2011)... Basen's two hits puts his season average at .400, tops on the team... He passed outfielder J.J. Elseser for the team batting lead, after he had his seven-game hit streak snapped, though he reach base twice in the game, scoring a run... Brown's 14 runs (two today), nine walks (one today) and nine stolen bases (one today) are all team-high totals... Charlotte is 6-1 at home this season and 121-32 (79.1%) since the new stadium opened March 31, 2007... Charlotte has not trailed in two straight games, totaling three games without trailing this season.