Charlotte baseball fell twice at home to Saint Louis on Championship Saturday and finished as runners-up at the 2013 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championships at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. The Billikens captured the title by virtue of a 5-4 win in game one and a 7-4 result in game two in front of a sold out crowd of 1,136 fans. SLU improved to 41-19 and received the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. Charlotte’s season is over at 37-23.
Following the contest, the 49ers landed three players, sophomore Brad Elwood (Indian Trail, N.C. / Piedmont HS), redshirt senior Tony Montalbano (New Orleans, La. / Bossier Parish JC) and senior pitcher John Hamilton (Strongsville, Ohio) to the 2013 All-Tournament Team.
The 49ers gave up an unearned run in the second inning and could not get the offense going against starter Clay Davis, who held Charlotte to a one-hit shutout last Friday in Saint Louis.
The Billikens added a second run in the fifth on a solo homer from first baseman Mike Vigliarolo before scoring three in the sixth on four hits.
Charlotte rallied in the top of the seventh for four runs, starting with a three-run home run from Grant Dunnegan (Clearwater, Kan. / Hutchinson CC), his second of the season, down the right field line. Senior Shane Basen (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge HS) doubled in Michael Green (Richmond, Va. / Thomas Dale HS), who had earlier singled to left with two outs.
Charlotte got runners on in the eighth and ninth, but could not push them across, forcing the “winner-take-all” final game in the double-elimination format.
Smith got the win to improve to 8-2, allowing 11 hits and four runs in eight innings. Freshman Matt Eckelman got his fourth save of the season by retiring the only two batters he faced in the ninth.
The loss went to Charlotte’s Corey Roberts (Charlotte, N.C. / Olympic HS), who recorded his first decision of the year (0-1). In five innings, tying his longest outing of the year, he allowed eight hits and two runs, one of them earned, with two walks and three strikeouts.
Redshirt freshman catcher Brett Lang (Charlotte, N.C. / Ardrey Kell HS) had the team high of three hits for Charlotte. In the opening game and Dunnegan’s three RBI were a career-high total and led all players in the contest.
Saint Louis again scored first, touching up Charlotte starter Wes Hatley (Norwood, N.C. / South Stanly HS) for three runs in the third on an RBI single and a two-run home run from outfielder Alex Kelly.
A solo homer in the fifth from outfielder Michael Bozarth preceded another solo blast in the fifth, from designated hitter Steve Fernandez, to push the lead out to 5-0.
The 49ers again put together a four-run inning, this one in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to three Billikens errors and a Lang RBI single to pull the game back to within one.
Saint Louis then plated two runs in the seventh to finish the scoring and salt away the title.
Hatley took the loss (2-3) after four innings, allowing six hits and three runs.
Saint Louis starter Joe Powell got the win to improve to 4-0. In five innings, he scattered five hits and a walk, allowing one unearned run, with four strikeouts.
Gallello, Lang and junior Justin Seager (Kannapolis, N.C. / Northwest Cabarrus HS) all had two hits to lead Charlotte in the game.
Charlotte has won 35 or more game in six of the last eight seasons and will begin a new stretch in Conference USA starting next February.
NOTES: Montalbano hit .500 (8-for-16) in the five games of the tournament, while Elwood collected seven RBI to lead the team… The 49ers finished 11-9 in their 20 one-run games this season… The Niners finished 9-18 when the opponent scored first in the game… They were also 9-16 when the opponent scored five or more runs… Charlotte tied the school record with 29 home wins (29-11 at home) and set a new school mark with 39,604 fans attending Charlotte contests at Hayes Stadium… The 49ers averaged 990 fans per game in 40 home dates.
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