Redshirt sophomore left fielder/second baseman Tony Montalbano (New Orleans, La.) delivered an RBI triple in the bottom of the ninth and came home on an RBI sacrifice fly foul out by redshirt pinch hitter Ross Steedley (Granite Quarry, N.C. / East Rowan HS) as No. 28 Charlotte overtook visiting Fordham 6-5 Saturday. The 49ers win levels their Atlantic 10 Conference series at a game each. Charlotte is now 30-9 on the season, 10-4 in league play. Fordham has a seven-game win streak halted and slips to 24-14, 7-4 in the A-10. Charlotte has now won 30 games in a school-record seven straight seasons.
The Rams led all the way until the finish, scoring four runs in the first two innings, with two of those runs coming home on a two-run homer to left by infielder Brian Kownacki in the top of the first.
The 49ers closed the gap with three runs in the bottom of the second, the first two scoring on a single up the middle by junior catcher Miguel Rodriguez (Cape Coral, Fla.) with one out. Rodriguez later scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Justin Wilson (Canton, N.C. / Pisgah HS).
The Rams added their fifth run of the day after back-to-back doubles and the second RBI of the day by second baseman Nick Martinez on a groundout.
Senior centerfielder Cory Tilton (Cary, N.C. / Green Hope HS) hit a solo home run in the sixth, his second of the round tripper of the season, with one out on the first pitch of his at bat to pull Charlotte to within one at 5-4. Tilton led all players in the contest with three hits.
That score held until the ninth, when leadoff batter Shane Basen recorded his first hit of the game, a single through the left side of the infield on an 0-1 pitch from left fielder/closer Tim Swatek. The Rams moved Martinez to the mound from second to finish the game, but he gave up a 1-0 triple to Montalbano that rolled all the way to the fence in right center. Senior infielder Corey Shaylor (Charlotte, N.C. / Independence HS) was hit by a pitch and Steedley popped up a 1-0 pitch down the right field line in foul territory. Kownacki made the tough catch on the run, but his momentum prevented him from making a good throw home to get Montalbano who tagged from third for the game-winner.
The win went to Chad Rothlin (3-2), who came in for the last out of the top of the ninth and recorded a groundout with a runner aboard.
Martinez took his first loss of the season with the blown save (1-1). He gave up the hit to Montalbano in a third of an inning and was tagged with an earned run.
Charlotte starter Corey Roberts (Charlotte, N.C. / Olympic HS) gave up the five Fordham runs in 4.2 innings on eight hits and two walks. He struck out five.
49ers sophomore relief pitcher John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio) shut down the Rams scoring in the middle innings to allow the offense to come back, giving up just one hit and one walk in four innings, tying his career high with five strikeouts.
Fordham starter Chris Pike tossed 6.2 innings, limiting the 49ers to five hits and three earned runs. He walked four and recorded one strikeout.
Charlotte's Rodriguez, along with Fordham's Martinez and Kownacki all had the game-high of two RBI.
The weekend finale, and series-clinching game, takes place Easter Sunday at noon.
NOTES: This was Charlotte's second walk-off win of 2011, the first was at home against Missouri on February 26... The 49ers have outscored opponents 19-5 in the ninth inning this season, and 88-32 after the sixth inning this season... Charlotte is 18-1 when scoring six or more runs this season, and 3-1 when tying the opponent in hits (both team had nine hits in this contest)... The 49ers are 7-1 in one-run games... The 49ers are 24-5 at home this season.