Redshirt junior catcher Ross Steedley (Granite Quarry, N.C. / East Rowan HS) drilled the first pitch of the second inning over the fence in left field and the Charlotte 49ers never looked back to win the Atlantic 10 Conference opener over visiting Rhode Island 4-2 at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium Friday night. Charlotte is now 18-5 on t the season, winners of six in a row. The Rams fell to 9-9 on the season.
The game was played in front of Charlotte's fifth sellout of the season (1,135), the tenth home game of the year with a four-digit attendance number.
Steedley's homer was his first of the season, the third of his career and the team's fifth in 2011. The hit extended his career-long hit streak to seven games, the longest active streak for a 49ers hitter.
The 49ers added to the lead in the sixth, with three runs on just two hits, back-to-back two-out doubles from outfielder Cory Tilton (Cary, N.C. / Green Hope HS) and first baseman Corbin Shive (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS). Tilton's double drove in a pair, while Shive plated Tilton for an RBI. Tilton leads the 49ers with 25 RBI.
The Rams avoided the shutout by scoring a pair of runs in the top of the eighth on a triple to right by pinch hitter Kevin Stenhouse after a single and a walk in the frame.
Charlotte starting pitcher Andrew Smith (Matthews, N.C. / Butler HS) got his fourth win of the season (4-1) to tie for the team lead. He held Rhode Island scoreless through 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and a walk to lower his ERA to just 1.96 through 36.2 innings this season.
Freshman reliever Brock Hudgens (Jamestown, N.C. / Southwest Guilford HS) came in with a runner on in the ninth to record his second save of the season.
URI starter Chris Pickering took the loss, allowing all four Charlotte runs in 5.2 innings. He allowed just four hits and two walks, striking out five to fall to 3-2 on the season.
Each team had three runners thrown out trying to steal a base in the contest. Tilton had a career-high three stolen bases in the contest. He also led all players with two RBI. It was his team-leading seventh multiple-RBI game this season.
Saturday's game time has been moved up to noon in an attempt to evade the rain that is forecasted to come through the area.
NOTES: Charlotte is 11-0 when leading after six innings this season... The 49ers are also perfect when scoring three or more runs (17-0)... Charlotte has won all four games in which at least one 49er had a home run... Charlotte is averaging 1,008 fans per game this season...