CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A week after taking a step back suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of UAB, the Charlotte 49ers baseball team will look to get back on track traveling to Louisiana Tech this weekend for the final Conference USA road series of 2014. Friday’s series-opener will mark the first ever meeting between the two schools and Charlotte’s first-ever trip to Ruston, Louisiana.
Charlotte (14-29-1, 6-17 C-USA) suffered through some early base running miscues in Friday’s opener vs. UAB to take a 6-2 loss. The Niners would out-hit UAB 13-10 on the night getting their runs in response UAB scoring in the top of the inning. In the second, Grant Dunnegan’s RBI single to right would drive home Logan Sherer who, along with Jordan Hudson, started the inning with back-to-back singles and moved up ninety feet on Zach Jarrett’s sacrifice bunt. Hudson would later try and score to make it a one-run game but was thrown out at the plate trying to tag up on Mikal Hill’s fly ball to left.
Trailing 5-1, Charlotte tacked on their final run in the fourth as Jarrett singled in Sherer after his double to left-center. The Niners had plenty of other chances on Friday putting the leadoff man aboard in the first, fifth, sixth and ninth frames without being able to push across any other runs.
On Saturday, UAB broke up a scoreless game with a five-run third inning and never looked back. Before long, the Blazers would carry a 12-0 lead into the seventh that saw Charlotte push across their pair of runs in the loss. Brett Lang began with a base knock and move to third on Jarrett’s double to left. Hudson would soon line a single into center scoring both Lang and Jarrett with the two Niner runs on the afternoon.
Sunday, the Niners managed only five hits in the 3-1 loss as UAB completed their weekend sweep. The Blazers registered a run in the second and two in the fourth while limiting early opportunities for the Niners. T.J. Nichting doubled to lead off the fourth, Hill did the same with one out in the fifth while Hudson’s single began the sixth, all resulting in no runs scored.
Dunnegan would spark a two-out rally for the Niners to get on the board in the eighth with an inning-continuing walk before an infield single by Hudson and base hit to right by Nichting scored Dunnegan with the hosts only run.
Derek Gallello will enter the weekend in Louisiana leading the team with his .307 batting average on the year ahead of Nichting’s .297. Hudson, in just 25 games of action offensively, in hitting .304 heading to Louisiana Tech. Charlotte is currently hitting .250 as a team.
The Niners do see the individual offensive numbers climb in Conference USA play as Nichting leads hitting at a .330 clip in all 23 C-USA contests. Gallello is right behind at .326 while Dunnegan, in 14 league matchups, is hitting a robust .368.
Three of those Niners are red-hot in their last five contests despite four losses as Dunnegan leads the way hitting .455 in his last four while Hudson and Gallello stand at .438 and .429 respectively in their last five.
Louisiana Tech (15-29, 5-19 C-USA) enters the weekend hosting their final three-game of the regular season coming off of a series loss at Marshall last weekend. The Herd took the first two games of the series to assure them of a series victory while Louisiana Tech held on for an 8-7 victory in Sunday’s series-finale. After the Bulldogs tallied an insurance run in the ninth, they soon found out it would be the eventual game-winner as Marshall scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to make things interesting.
The Bulldogs will enter the weekend riding a four-game win streak at home after suffering through a seven-game skid. Louisiana Tech swept Alabama A&M in a non-conference weekend set two weeks ago while starting the four-game streak salvaging a 4-2 victory over FIU in the finale of their C-USA series in mid-April.
Taylor Love begins the weekend as the Bulldogs’ top hitter sporting a .323 average over his 41 games. Ryan Jones follows right behind at .308 as the team hits .252 as a collective unit. As expected, Love and Jones are also the two best hitters in Conference USA play hitting .322 and .310 respectively.
“They’re used to being in a good league and playing good competition,” commented Head Coach Loren Hibbs in reference to Louisiana Tech. “Every weekend is a battle with the margin of error being so thin. It’s a very difficult league and we’ve got to get better over these next 10 opportunities.”
As far as Conference tournament hopes go, Louisiana Tech has already been mathematically eliminated while the Niners are still hanging on by a thread. Over the course of this weekend, any combination of a Niner loss at Louisiana Tech or victory by Middle Tennessee at FIU will officially eliminate Charlotte from postseason contention. Florida Atlantic, also with Middle Tennessee at 12 wins, is off this weekend from C-USA play hosting UAB next weekend.
“Looking at the conference tournament and who might not make it or won’t you have Tulane who beat LSU earlier in the year and then beat Wichita State two-out-of-three the weekend after we swept them at our place,” continued Hibbs. “FAU, who was a regional championship game team last year, that’s beaten Miami, Florida and Central Florida (all nationally-ranked at the time) all on the road this year, is in danger of not making our own conference tournament.”
Charlotte series-opener at Louisiana Tech on Friday will begin at 7:00 p.m. eastern, 6:00 p.m. central/local time in Ruston. Saturday’s game two will begin at 4:00 p.m. while Sunday’s series-finale fires off at 2:00 p.m.
CHARLOTTE/LOUISIANA TECH PROBABLE STARTERS
FRIDAY (7pm): RHP Corey Roberts (2-4, 3.38) vs. RHP Austin Greer (1-0, 2.35)
SATURDAY (4pm): RHP Ryan Butler (3-7, 3.93) vs. RHP Richie Navari (5-5, 2.11)
SUNDAY (1pm): RHP Brock Hudgens (2-5, 3.48) vs. TBA