|Niners Claim Share of Title in 5-0 Sunday Shutout of Saint Louis.|
The Charlotte 49ers clinched at least a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference title in a 5-0 shutout of visiting Saint Louis in a rain-shortened game Sunday to sweep the weekend series at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. It was Charlotte's second shutout of the season, second in the last five home games, and the Niners tied the school record with 29 home wins in a season on the last home game of the 2010 season. Charlotte is now 35-13, 18-6 in conference play. The Billikens fall to an even 26-26 on the season, 12-12 in league play with one weekend series remaining.
Coupled with a loss by Rhode Island on Sunday, Charlotte holds a three-game lead over URI and Xavier with three games remaining in the regular season. One Charlotte win or a loss by the Rams and Musketeers each gives Charlotte an outright conference title, the top seed and a bye in the league's tournament in two weeks. Charlotte has won the conference title in baseball in three of its five seasons as a member of the league.
Charlotte sophomore starter Chad Rothlin (Hickory, N.C. / Fred T. Foard HS) held Saint Louis without a hit in the first six innings and was lifted with one out in the seventh after he allowed the first SLU hit on 70 pitches. He walked two and struck out a pair in his finest outing of the season for the win (4-3), his first since April 6. It was the second time this season that a starting pitcher did not allow a run in a conference game, and Rothlin's first scoreless start for his career.
The 49ers scored a pair of runs in the second inning against starter Bryant Cotton. Charlotte had four hits in the inning, including back-to-back RBI singles from outfielders Cory Tilton (Cary, N.C. / Green Hope HS) and Justin Wilson (Canton, N.C. / Pisgah HS).
Neither team had a hit in innings three through six, quickening the pace of the 2:03 contest.
Charlotte scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth before rains came to end the ballgame. Senior designated hitter Mike Perkins (Skaneateles, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for an RBI, scoring Wilson from third. Outfielder Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS) then hit a single off the pitcher's throwing hand that trickled into left field for two more RBI. Catcher Zane Williams (Claremore, Okla.) had a 3-2 count against Cotton when the teams cleared the field due to thunderstorms.
For the second straight game, the Billikens only threw one pitcher in the contest, as Cotton lasted all seven innings, allowing eight hits and two walks, striking out six. He took the loss for the Billikens (8-4).
Charlotte reliever Tim Lysaught (Shawnee, Kan. / Bishop Miege HS) got his first save of the season in relief. He tossed 1.2 innings, allowing one hit, but striking out a three batters.
The two hits allowed by Charlotte is a season-low total for an opponent and fewest hits allowed since a win over Rhode Island in the home finale of 2008, when the Niners gave up two hits in an extra-inning win to Rhode Island on May 17.
Tilton and Wilson were the only two players in the game with two hits, while Brown's pair of RBI was the game-high total. Five different 49ers scored a run in the game, which was the quickest of the season.
Charlotte heads to Chapel Hill Tuesday for its last non-conference game of the year, taking on No. 21 North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium at 6 p.m. The Niners will then travel to Richmond for the final weekend series of the season, starting Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m.
NOTES: This weekend was the first all season where the starting pitchers all earned wins, as the starters have passed the bullpen in wins (18 of 35)... Charlotte enjoyed sellouts all weekend (1,110+ fans) and finished the year with 12 sold-out contests... Tilton gets credit for the game-winning RBI, giving him two for the weekend and a team-leading eight for the season... The 29 wins ties the 1998 season for the most home wins in a season in program history... Charlotte finished 14-1 at home in conference play... The senior class finished with 100 home wins (100-26, for a 0.794 win percentage) in the past four seasons, including a 42-12 home conference mark... Charlotte's seniors need one more win to get to 161 wins in a four-year span, the most for one class in program history.