Preseason All-American Andrew Smith (Matthews, N.C. / Butler HS) gave up just one hit in 6.2 innings as the Charlotte 49ers cruised to a 4-1 victory in the season-opening home game over Saint Peter's Friday afternoon at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. Smith, who was the ninth player in team history to win 10 games in a season last year, got off to a 1-0 start and opens with a 1.35 earned run average in 2012.
Smith allowed a hit to the first batter of the game, leading returning hitter and outfielder Preston Aldridge, who singled out to left field. Aldridge later scored after consecutive groundouts to stake the Peacocks (0-1) to a 1-0 lead.
Smith then retired 14 of the next 16 batters he faced while his offense scored in the third to tie the contest.
In that frame, redshirt junior shortstop Justin Roland (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS) and redshirt senior outfielder Shane Brown (Davidson, N.C. / North Mecklenburg HS) were both hit by a pitch to start the inning. Junior outfielder J.J. Elseser (Brunswick, Ga. / Brunswick HS) then drove a single out to center to score Roland from second to force the one-all tie.
Brown collected his first hit of the game and the only extra-base knock in the contest, with a double over the left fielder's head in the sixth to score redshirt senior catcher Ross Steedley (Granite Quarry, N.C. / East Rowan HS) from first and give the Niners the 2-1 lead.
Smith was lifted with two outs in the seventh and the lead after back-to-back two-out walks in the inning.
"I was nervous today," said Smith after the game. "I got mad after the hit and the run in the first. I spent a lot of energy today. I have some work to do this week to get better for my next start."
Wes Hatley (Norwood, N.C. / South Stanly HS) got a lineout to end the inning and allowed a hit in the eighth to preserve the one-run lead.
Charlotte's offense got three hits and plated two more runs in the eighth for the game's final scoring. Roland collected his only hit of the day on a swinging dribbler up the first base line to lead off the stanza. After an infield error and a double play, the 49ers collected back-to-back singles from third baseman Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) and designated hitter Corbin Shive (Salisbury, N.C. / East Rowan HS). Basen's hit scored Roland before he stole second and got to third on a wild pitch, allowing Shive's single to right center to count for an RBI.
Junior closer John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio / Strongsville HS) gave up a one-out single in the ninth, but retired the other three batters for his first save of the season.
All nine offensive starters reached base, with eight of the nine recording hits. Elseser and Basen had three hits each for Charlotte, with the four RBI each going to different hitters. Roland had the game-high total of two runs scored.
Smith recorded five strikeouts and four walks in his 82-pitch season debut.
Saint Peter's starter Zack Hopf took the loss (0-1), allowing six hits and two runs in 5.2 innings. He struck out six and also allowed four walks.
The Peacocks' three hits came from different batters.
Saturday, the two teams play a noon doubleheader, with both games scheduled for nine innings each.
NOTES: The announced crowd was 1,199, above last season's average of 1,043 per game, which is the program record... Charlotte has won its home opener in now nine-straight seasons... Charlotte has won its last three home contests and 11 of the last 13 home games, dating back to last March 29... Smith has won his last three contests, which includes an NCAA postseason victory over No. 19 Arkansas and the opening game of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament... This contest was the first-ever meeting between the two schools.