CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Trailing 3-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth in a seven-inning game with a Conference USA tournament berth on the line, Charlotte baseball found a way to score four runs and hold on in the seventh to take a 6-4 victory over UAB on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the 49ers become the #8 seed in next week’s tournament and will face top-seeded and regular season league champion Florida Atlantic on Wednesday.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” stated Head Coach Loren Hibbs. “We kept grinding and kept playing. This was a great team effort, I’m happy for our guys and happy to see them get rewarded. There’s something to be said for finishing in the top-eight of this conference.”
GAME ONE: UAB 11, Charlotte 8 (9 innings)
The winner-take-all game two was setup after UAB took an 11-8 victory in extra innings during game one. The Blazers took advantage of an early 49ers error to score four runs in the top of the first before Charlotte responded with three in the second to get back in the opener. Eddie Hull started the second with a bases loaded walk before Nick Daddio’s sacrifice fly and Reece Hampton’s RBI single to left got the Niners to within one.
The Niners took the lead in the first contest with two in the third thanks to a Derek Gallello RBI single and UAB wild pitch that scored Hunter Jones with the go-ahead run. UAB regained the one-run advantage in the fourth with a pair of two-out runs before Zach Jarrett’s RBI single to center in the home half plated Brett Netzer for the equalizer.
Each team traded a pair of runs in the sixth to help force extra innings in the seven-inning affair. Charlotte had to rally back again using a Netzer single to center and two-out base knock by Jones. A one-out double, RBI single and 49ers error in the top of the ninth allowed the Blazers to score their three final runs setting up the do or die final game.
Netzer led the way with three hits in game one as the 49ers out-hit the Blazers 14-12. Five other Niners had two-hit games during the opener.
GAME TWO: Charlotte 6, UAB 4
Trailing 3-2 going to the bottom of the sixth with the season on the line, Jarrett opened up the frame with a double off the wall in right-center to start the final rally. Jones followed with an infield single to second that helped score Jarrett after a UAB throwing error. Gallello followed with a bunt single to second allowing Hull to execute a perfect sacrifice bunt sending runners to second and third.
With the UAB in during a 3-3 game with one out, Nick Daddio sent a hard line drive to short that allowed Jones to beat the throw to the plate giving the Niners a 4-3 lead. A rare failed pickoff attempt at third that resulted in an error helped plate Gallello before a Reece Hampton sacrifice fly brought home Daddio with the sixth and final run.
UAB made things interesting in the seventh putting the first two runners aboard before a pair of spectacular defensive plays aided the Niners in clinching their tournament spot. Logan Sherer snagged a line drive off the bat of Jacob Armstrong and stepped on first to double off the runner and put two outs on the board. After a RBI double to left-center by Riley McCown setup up runners at first and third with one out to go, Mitch Williams smoked a line drive up the middle that saw Netzer dive to his right deep in the hole, jump up and fire to first to end the game.
“I’ve been chirping at Netzer to keep working on that backhand,” laughed Hibbs. “You’re not going to see a better play than that at any level of baseball.”
Charlotte will now advance into the postseason for the first time since 2013 and will face top-seeded Florida Atlantic on Wednesday. Charlotte will play the second game of the day at 1:30 p.m. eastern time. A full bracket of the double elimination tournament is attached to the right.