CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte baseball will hit the Conference USA road for the final time this regular season heading to UTSA for a pivotal three-game series starting Friday night. The 49ers are just one game out of the final tournament spot starting the weekend in San Antonio. Friday’s opener is set for 7:00 p.m. eastern time with Saturday following at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday at noon.
Charlotte (20-28, 9-15 C-USA) will head to Texas for the second-straight road trip after taking the series-finale over Old Dominion 5-2 on Sunday. The 49ers gained a big game in the Conference USA standings on Sunday as FIU, WKU and UAB all lost.
The Niners got on the board quickly on Sunday using a one-out double by Brett Netzer and RBI single to center by Logan Sherer. In the third, it was the power of Zach Jarrett who belted a two-run shot down the left field line helping scoring T.J. Nichting who reached on a two-out infield single. In the fourth, a Reece Hampton groundout scored Hunter Jones with the fourth run of the day before Sherer blasted off in the bottom of the fifth for Charlotte’s final tally.
Netzer continues to lead the Niners with a .381 average on the year which is third-best in Conference USA. Nichting follows at .361 while Sherer (.354) and Hampton (.330) wrap up the four hitting above .300. As a team, the Niners sport a .292 average heading into UTSA with a pitching staff ERA of 5.32.
UTSA (15-32, 6-18) begins their final home series of the year having dropped their last five-straight including a 9-8 decision to Incarnate Word on Wednesday night. Down 9-2 in the seventh, the Roadrunners tried to rally back with a five-spot in the seventh and one more in the ninth putting up a threat, but Incarnate Word escaped with the 9-8 victory. Bryan Arias led UTSA with a 4-for-5 night at the plate driving in four and scoring three.
Arias leads the Roadrunners hitting .316 on the year followed by Tyler Straub’s .290. As a team through 47 games, UTSA has a .269 team batting average with a pitching staff ERA of 6.09 heading into Friday.
“It’s a challenging week with finals,” remarked Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “Practices have been scaled back with the academic side of it and we’ve got a very challenging week and a half starting with UTSA this weekend. Every game is difficult. UTSA has a good program. We need to be ready to go, ready to play. I know it’s old school, but take it game-by-game and show up to play.”
ABOUT THE SERIES
Charlotte and UTSA will meet for the third series in the all-time history of the two programs as the 49ers make the second trip to San Antonio overall. Two seasons ago, the Niners took two-of-three on the road at UTSA before the Roadrunners returned the favor last season in Charlotte. The Roadrunners knocked the Niners out of the C-USA Tournament race in that final series a year ago.
PROBABLE WEEKEND STARTERS
Friday: LHP Josh Maciejewski (4-6, 6.23) vs. RHP Aaron Burns (3-7, 4.98)
Saturday: TBA vs. LHP Karl Craigie (3-2, 5.43)
Sunday: LHP Holden Capps (4-1, 2.72) vs. TBA
CONFERENCE USA TOURNAMENT RACE
Entering the weekend, the Niners are in a four-team fight to get into the Conference USA tournament race with all four teams separated by one game with six left to play. WKU and UAB each sit at 10-14 holding the seventh and eighth spots while Charlotte and FIU sit in a tie for ninth at 9-15.
Charlotte holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over FIU and is currently holding the advantage over WKU despite not playing the Hilltoppers in 2016. UAB will come to Charlotte for the final regular season series of the year next weekend. Not only will the Niners head into another pivotal series, but FIU travels to UAB this weekend. WKU will host Marshall in the other series to watch.