|Baseball Opens A-10 Play at Rhode Island Friday|
Charlotte baseball begins Atlantic 10 Conference play with a three-game series starting Friday at Rhode Island. The 49ers and Rams are the two winningest programs in the league since the last expansion in 2006, the only two team with more than 100 league wins in that span.
Both teams suffered sweeps last weekend, but rallied to win Wednesday games heading into the weekend. Charlotte is 11-10 on the season, while the Rams sit at 7-11. These will be the first home games for Rhode Island in 2012. Friday's game starts at 3 p.m., with a 1 p.m. Saturday start and noon series finale.
Redshirt senior and defending league Pitcher of the Year Andrew Smith (Matthews, N.C. / Butler HS) will pitch the conference-opener for the 49ers. In five starts, Smith is 3-2, with a 3.26 earned run average. He leads the team in innings pitched (30.1), strikeouts (26) and has the lowest batting average against (.176) of any of the starters for the 49ers. He will be opposed by redshirt senior lefty Chris Pickering. He is 1-4 on the year, with an ERA of 8.00. He has struck out 17 and walked 10 so far this season.
This will be Smith's second career start versus the Rams, and the first on the road. he tossed 5.1 innings of shutout baseball against Rhode Island to open conference play at home last season as Charlotte defeated the Rams 4-2 on March 25, 2011.
Redshirt senior righty Joe Yermal (Bel Air, Md. / McDonogh HS) will make his first Saturday start of the season at URI. He is 3-1 on the year, with an 0.95 ERA in 19 innings pitched. He has struck out 11 and walked four batters. Sophomore lefty Nick Narodowy will get the Saturday start for Rhody. He is 0-2 this season, with a 5.71 ERA, with 10 strikeouts to go with 12 walks in 2012.
Yermal will make his second start against Richmond as well, his first coming at URI. Back in his freshman season, he got a home win in his final regular-season start of 2008, lasting six innings in an 8-2 victory as the 49ers won their first back-to-back league titles that weekend. Yermal is currently second in the country among active players with 27 career victories. He is five shy of the school record, held by Adam Mills ('07) and needs two to get into a tie for second place on the Charlotte career list.
Charlotte is 12-4 against the Rams, winning four of the last five meetings. The 49ers are 4-2 at Bill Beck Field. In every season that Charlotte has played a regular-season series against Rhode Island, the two teams have also met in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, with the Niners going 4-0 in those games. Coincidentally, those are the four seasons in which the 49ers have claimed regular-season league titles (2007, '08, '10 and '11).
The 49ers are led offensively by redshirt senior Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS). Brown leads the Atlantic 10 Conference with 32 hits and 18 stolen bases. He was tied for sixth in Division I with 16 stolen bases Monday and has more swipes than five other A-10 teams to this point of the season.
The 49ers lead the league with eight triples, seven saves, a .218 batting average against and 186 innings pitched.