After a dominating performance by Charlotte 49ers starter Andrew Smith (Matthews, N.C. / Butler HS), the Saint Louis Billikens fought their way to a win with five runs in the ninth for a 7-5 win on Friday to start an Atlantic 10 Conference series at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. The Billikens improve to 35-15, winners of five straight games, and 15-7, in first place in the Atlantic 10. Charlotte slips to 20-27, 8-10 in A-10 play.
The 49ers cracked the scoreboard in the second with three runs, the first two coming home on the third career triple from freshman Brad Elwood (Indian Trail, N.C. / Piedmont HS). Catcher Ross Steedley (Granite Quarry, N.C. / East Rowan HS) then grounded out for the RBI to score Elwood for the 3-0 lead.
Elwood tied his career high with a third RBI in the fourth with a sacrifice fly to left with the bases loaded for the 4-0 lead.
The Billikens got on the board in the fifth after a walk and a two-run homer to left by third baseman Grant Nelson to cut the lead in half at 4-2.
Smith left after seven innings, allowing just two hits including the home run. He gave up three walks and struck out six in the game, but did not get the decision.
The 49ers added their fifth and final run of the day on a single to left by pinch hitter Justin Seager (Kannapolis, N.C. / Northwest Cabarrus HS) , driving in outfielder Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS), who had walked to lead off the eighth.
The Billikens showed fight in the ninth, putting up three singles to load the bases to start the inning, before an RBI groundout from Mike Vigliarolo scored one run for a 5-3 game. Sophomore Brock Hudgens (Jamestown, N.C. / Southwest Guilford HS) entered and struck the first batter he faced, before allowing a walk to load the bases. Catcher Connor Gandossy then blooped a single over the head of third baseman Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) out into left to tie the game. After another walk to load the bases, the 49ers committed their only error of the night to allow the go-ahead run to score, while a bases-loaded walk drove in the insurance run as the Billikens batted around in the frame.
SLU closer Travis Parker came in for a one-two-three ninth inning and his tenth save of the season.
The win went to reliever Jim Foster (2-0), who tossed two innings, giving up the run in the eighth on one hit and two walks. He struck out a batter in the seventh.
Hudgens took the loss (0-1) for his first decision of the season. Both of the runs charged to him were unearned. He gave up a hit and three walks in two-thirds of an inning, with one strikeout.
Charlotte has dropped four in a row, and had a four-game conference win streak snapped in the contest. Saint Louis snapped a six-game losing skid in Charlotte.
Game two of the series will be Saturday at 2 p.m.
NOTES: This was Smith's first no-decision of the season... The two runs allowed were the fewest since a complete-game win at Temple on April 13... The Niners have blown four saves this year, with one in each of the last two games... Brown, Justin Roland and Corbin Shive all extended their streak of games reaching base safely to 21, 23 and 31 games, respectively...