RUSTON, La. – Charlotte used a four-run sixth inning and fought off a furious rally by Louisiana Tech over the final three innings to escape with a 5-4 Conference USA victory on Saturday afternoon. A pair of key strikeouts in each of the seventh and eighth innings, along with a game-ending double play, allowed the Niners to hold on late for the one-run win.
The Niners struck first again on Saturday taking an early 1-0 lead on an unearned run given up by Louisiana Tech. Logan Sherer started with a leadoff walk and moved to second on Des Roberts’ single to right. Two batters later with one out, Brett Lang sent a chopper over to third where the Bulldogs appeared to be on the verge of a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Instead, the Niners cashed in as the throw to second ended up in right field as Sherer scored the unearned run for a 1-0 advantage.
Louisiana Tech (15-31, 5-21 C-USA) would take advantage of Charlotte’s first error of the day to score their own unearned runs grabbing a 2-1 lead after five. Steven Blanchard and Taylor Burch started the frame with back-to-back singles before Colby Johnson’s sacrifice bunt sequence plated both Bulldog runs two pitches later. On Johnson’s bunt to third, the tough throw to first ended up down the right field line accounting for both Bulldog runs.
Charlotte (16-29-1, 8-17 C-USA) immediately responded with four runs in the top of the sixth to regain the lead for the final time in Saturday’s win. Derek Gallello started with a leadoff hit-by-pitch and soon scored on Sherer’s two-run blast to left. On a 1-2 pitch, Sherer was able to pull his fourth pitch down the left-field line, keep it fair and sneak it over the wall for his fourth dinger of the year.
“A great job with two strikes,” remarked Head Coach Loren Hibbs in reference to Sherer’s home run. “He’s really been attacking the ball here lately, got something off-speed and hammered it to left.”
Later in the frame with one out and the bases empty, Mikal Hill would start the second rally of the inning with his infield single to third. After a wild pitch and stolen base of third, Hill later plated on Grant Dunnegan’s two-out single to left making it 4-2. The fourth and final run of the sixth came on Jordan Hudson’s ground rule double to left that scored Dunnegan from second.
The Bulldogs would come back to make things interesting in the seventh plating a pair of runs for a 5-4 game while putting the tying run at third with one out. A single by Johnson and walk by Ryan Jones put runners at first and second before a wild pitch moved them up ninety feet. After a passed ball scored Johnson and pushed Jones to third, Taylor Love’s RBI double would make it a 5-4 game. Love would move to third on another Niner wild pitch and stay there with one out. Sherer would bear down on the mound after surrendering Love’s two-base hit coming back to strike out Stephen Gandy for the second out. Hunter May would relieve Sherer and quickly get Tyler Qualls to line out to center ending the threat.
In the eighth, Louisiana Tech would put runners on at first and second with no luck scoring the tying run as May struck out Burch and forced Johnson into a groundout to end the inning. In the ninth, the Bulldogs would have first and second, one out before Qualls’ game-ending 4-6-3 double play on a 3-1 pitch secured the Niners victory.
“We kind of hit the wall and held on in the seventh, eighth and ninth,” continued Hibbs. “It was a good win. It wasn’t pretty. It was a grind it out kind of game. We did the things we needed to do to get the win.”
May (4) picks up the save after tossing the final 2.1 innings allowing two hits with a strikeout. Ryan Butler (4-7) records the win after going 6.1 innings allowing four runs, two earned on six hits. Hudson and Nichting each collected two hits in the win as Charlotte posted 10 as a team for the 17th time in 2014. Love and Blanchard paced Louisiana Tech with three hits apiece in the loss.
The final game of the series and final road game of 2014 for the Niners will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The Niners will look for a series sweep sending RHP Brock Hudgens (2-5, 3.48) to the mound against the Bulldogs’ RHP Richie Navari (5-5, 2.11). Live audio, along with stats and video, will be provided via http://www.charlotte49ers.com with in-game updates provided on Twitter by following @NinerBaseball, @49erGameDay and @Charlotte49ers.