Following a seven-game road swing, the Charlotte 49ers baseball team plays six of its last seven games at home inside Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium, beginning with a three-game home series this weekend against conference foe Saint Louis. The Billikens enter the weekend with a school-record 34 wins against 15 losses and sit atop the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, at 14-7. Charlotte is 20-26 so far, with an 8-9 league record. The 49ers have won their last four conference games.
Charlotte sits in ninth place in the league, but is only four games out of first with a tightly-packed standings board. Charlotte is just two games out of the sixth and final spot in the A-10 Tournament in two weeks. Saint Louis has a bye in the final weekend of the regular season, so these three games represent the end of their conference play in the regular season. Saint Louis is not guaranteed a place in the A-10 Tournament at this point.
Charlotte will be starting the same rotation that is has for four of the six previous conference weekends, starting with redshirt senior Andrew Smith (Matthews, N.C. / Butler HS) on Friday night, starting at 6 p.m.. Smith is 5-7 in 2012, with a 4.62 ERA, with 47 strikeouts and 25 walks. He is 2-4 against A-10 teams this season. His 21 career victories are sixth-most in program history, while 47 career starts are tied for fourth at Charlotte.
Saturday, graduation ceremonies will be taking place on campus, with redshirt senior Joe Yermal (Bel Air, Md. / McDonogh HS) taking the hill at 2 p.m.for his 53rd career start, extending his own school record in that category. He is two wins away from the school record of 32, held by Adam Mills. Yermal is one of just six 49ers to pitch 300 or more innings, with Smith set to join that list Friday night if he pitches into the fifth inning.
Sunday, the 49ers will send sophomore Tyler Barnette (Hickory, N.C. / Hickory HS) out for his 11th start of the season at noon. He is 2-3 in just 39 innings pitched in 2012, with 23 strikeouts and 23 walks.
Redshirt senior Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS) has been Charlotte's hottest hitter, batting .500 (17-for-34) over the 49ers last ten games. He has also stolen a team-best three bases in that span. He leads the A-10 in batting (.375) and is second with 29 stolen bases. Junior Corbin Shive (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS) has posted a .694 slugging percentage in those same last ten games for the 49ers. He has belted three home runs and drawn a team-high eight walks in that span, while scoring ten runs in those games. His six total home runs lead the team and are tied for seventh-most in the league.
These two teams have played 49 previous games, dating back to their affiliation with Conference USA. The team teams have played a series every year since 1996 (with the 2002 year off), and Saint Louis has only won one series in Charlotte, dropping the last six games played at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. Charlotte is 18-3 all-time against the Billikens in the Queen City, 36-13 overall in the series.
Six players will be receiving degrees on Saturday, including Brown, Smith, Yermal, Brandon DeLong (New Bern, N.C. / New Bern HS), Tony Montalbano (New Orleans, La.) and Miguel Rodriguez (Cape Coral, Fla.) in Saturday ceremonies.