Charlotte redshirt senior left fielder J.J. Elseser (Brunswick, Ga.) lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score what proved to be the game-winning run in the top of the ninth as Charlotte came from behind to win an Atlantic 10 Conference road game at Xavier 8-7 Saturday afternoon at Hayden Field. The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the 49ers, ending a seven-game winning streak for the Musketeers. The 49ers improved to 23-16 overall, 7-4 in the A-10. Xavier dropped to 21-16, 8-3 in the league.
It was the third road conference win this season in which the 49ers scored the go-ahead run in either the in the top of the eighth or ninth, winning late twice at Richmond to start conference play in March.
Senior center fielder Michael Green (Richmond, Va. / Thomas Dale HS) set a career high with four hits, including a bases-loaded, game-tying, two-RBI double in the top of the eighth.
Following a leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth from freshman catcher Daniel Rizzie to put Xavier back on top in the bottom of the eighth, the 49ers got a leadoff double in the ninth from redshirt senior right fielder Tony Montalbano (New Orleans, La. / Bossier Parish JC) against closer Alex Vice, who had gotten the save on Friday. Junior first baseman Justin Seager (Kannapolis, N.C. / Northwest Cabarrus HS) singled to center to tie the game back at seven. Redshirt senior Justin Roland (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS) bunted his way on with a single, with an error moving Seager to third. A ground ball resulted in Seager being thrown out at home trying to take the lead, but both remaining runners executed a double steal ahead of Elseser, who got a 2-2 pitch deep enough in left to push Roland across for the go-ahead run.
Charlotte led after the first half inning when senior third baseman Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) hit a solo homer to left to give Charlotte a 1-0 edge. Basen has six career home runs, four at Hayden Field, but this is the first game hit at Xavier that Charlotte has won. It was his eighth career game at the park.
Xavier scored four runs in the bottom of the first off of Charlotte starter John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio) from two walks and five hits in the inning.
The 49ers ended up with three runs in the fifth, the first on a fielder’s choice RBI with the bases loaded with one out when the Musketeers could not turn a double play, adding an error to score a second run. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Roland, who drew another walk to drive in the tying run.
Hamilton settled down to keep Xavier off the board until the bottom of the fifth, when a walk and a groundout got a runner to second for designated hitter Derek Hasenbeck, who singled to drive in his third run of the game and gave Xavier a 5-4 edge.
The Musketeers then added an insurance run off of reliever Wes Hatley (Norwood, N.C. / South Stanly HS) with a leadoff double in the seventh, a walk and two sacrifice bunts for a 6-4 lead, setting up Charlotte to tie it in the eighth and go ahead in the ninth.
Charlotte reliever Hunter May (Cornelius, N.C. / Hopewell HS) got his team-leading seventh win of the season after finishing the game, tossing two scoreless innings (7-0). He gave up one hit and faced six batters.
Vice took the loss (1-2) after allowing two runs in the last inning and two-thirds.
Green’s four hits led all players, while Hasenbeck’s three RBI were the game high. Five other 49ers had two hits for Charlotte’s total of 16 hits.
The series finale will take place Sunday at noon at Hayden Field, with the winner taking the series.
NOTES: Charlotte has outscored opponents 10-0 on the road this season in the ninth inning (12 games)… Charlotte has won seven games either at home or on the road with a go-ahead or walk-off run in the ninth inning… Charlotte’s 16 hits were second-most in a conference game this season… The seven runs allowed were the most to an A-10 opponent this season… Basen’s home run gave Charlotte four in its 11 conference games, allowing just three in those contests.