A pair of big home runs by Charlotte powered the 49ers to a series-opening win to capture a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season title in a 10-7 road win at Saint Louis Thursday night at the Billikens Sports Complex. The 49ers have won 10 straight games and improve to 34-19 overall, 17-5 in conference, two games ahead of Saint Louis and La Salle with two games remaining in the season. The Billikens slip to 34-18, 15-7 in the A-10. The Billikens had a three-game win streak snapped.
Charlotte scored a run in each of the first four innings when the leadoff runner reached in each frame and scored an unearned run three times due to an error in the frame. Charlotte’s lone RBI came from redshirt senior outfielder Tony Montalbano (New Orleans, La. / Bossier Parish JC) on a single in the third inning. Saint Louis also scored a run in the first after the leadoff runner was hit by pitch and SLU collected a pair of singles.
In the sixth, junior first baseman Grant Dunnegan (Clearwater, Kan. / Hutchinson CC) hit a leadoff single up the middle and senior Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) lifted a 1-0 pitch to left with two outs and collected his third home run of the season.
The Billikens then hit three singles to score a run and pull the game to 6-2.
In the seventh, sophomore third baseman Derek Gallello (Fredericksburg, Va. / Riverbend HS) also drilled a 1-0 pitch out to left field for his first career home run and a 9-2 lead.
The seventh saw SLU get a single, a walk and two groundouts to score a run and set the score at 9-3
The Billikens were able to push across four more runs by collecting four singles, a double, and a hit batter in the eighth inning to pull to within two runs with one inning left.
With two outs, Charlotte drew two walks and Basen dropped a single out to left center to give the Niners the three-run lead and the game’s final run.
Saint Louis went in order in the ninth against reliever Wes Hatley (Norwood, N.C. / South Stanly HS), who picked up his team-leading fourth save of the season.
The win went to Charlotte junior starter Tyler Barnette (Hickory, N.C.) after he pitched 7.1 innings. Barnette allowed six earned runs on 11 hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.
The loss went to SLU starter Alex Alemann, who was bounced after 3.1 innings. He allowed six hits and two walks, but none of the four runs charged to him was earned. He struck out two, but committed three throwing errors on the game.
Montalbano finished 4-for-4 in the game, with Basen also collecting four hits in six at bats. Basen, Gallello and SLU’s Alex Kelly all had three RBI to lead all players.
Charlotte and Saint Louis will play game two of the series Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. Eastern. A win would clinch the top seed in the A-10 Tournament next week in Charlotte and give the 49ers the conference title outright.
NOTES: Charlotte has outscored opponents 70-30 in the 10-game win streak, batting .345, while allowing opponents to bat .239… Montalbano leads the team with a .462 average (18-for-39) in the last 10 games… All seven career home runs by Basen have been hit on the road… Charlotte is 8-0 when scoring in double figures this season and 24-0 when scoring six runs or more… The 49ers are 4-1 when the opponent scores exactly seven runs.