The non-conference portion of the 2021 season treated the Charlotte baseball team well, as the team picked up three series wins and a notable 9-0 shutout against Tennessee.
The 49ers turned the page to Conference USA play this past weekend with their first four-game series of the year at Western Kentucky. The conference series will feature four games instead of the traditional three. The change will make for an interesting transition, and Charlotte didn't back down in their first time this season with four games on their plate.
Charlotte beat the Hilltoppers 7-4, 6-0, 5-4 (8) and then lost on Sunday 16-17 in a thrilling 10-inning game.
"I can't it emphasize enough to be short-handed coming into this series and walking away winning three-of-four. I'm really proud of our guys. That's the tough part about the game before the bus ride home," said Charlotte Head Coach Robert Woodard on the weekend.
Coming off a 15-5 win against Appalachian State on Tuesday, the 49ers kept things going on Friday with two runs in the top of the second and then two more in the third.
The Hilltoppers bats were quiet early on as Charlotte pitcher Bryce McGowan threw six innings and struck out ten batters. WKU would score three runs on him, however, and the 49er lead was cut down to 7-3 by the end of the sixth. Although WKU added one more run, Charlotte went on to win 7-4.
Charlotte kicked off Saturday's doubleheader with a 6-0 shoutout of the Hilltoppers. Pitcher Austin Marozas picked up the win allowing only four hits in five innings and striking out four batters.
That dominant performance paved the way for the 49ers' hitters. Aaron McKeithan hit a double down the left-field line to bring in two runs for a 2-0 lead in the third.
After a one-run fifth inning, Jake Dragum hit a double to bring in a run. Jake Cunningham then hit his first career home run to bring in two runs to seal the 6-0 win.
In the second game on Saturday, Charlotte had their hands full early. After holding a 1-0 lead in the first inning, WKU scored two in the bottom of the first. WKU lead the 49ers for the next four frames.
A Hunter Baker triple then brought in two runs for a 3-2 lead for the 49ers. One more run would give the cushion the lead at 4-2.
WKU fought back in the bottom of the sixth and tied the game at 4-4. After a scoreless seventh inning.
The game went into extra innings, and with Aaron McKeithan on base, Charlotte's Nate Furman hit a triple for a 5-4 walk-off win.
"I'm really proud of our team. It's hard to win on the road and sweep doubleheaders. We'll enjoy it this afternoon; recharge the batteries to try and get it done tomorrow. I can assure you it's going to be a dogfight tomorrow," said Woodard on the doubleheader.
Sunday's game was a shootout. WKU scored five runs in the opening inning. They added two more in the following inning. Down 7-0, the 49ers roared back.
A Gino Groover double brought in two runs, and the runs kept coming from that point on. The 49ers scored six straight runs to make it only a 7-6 Hilltopper lead. WKU didn't score in the bottom of the third, and Charlotte took the lead in the fourth with nine straight runs for a 15-7 lead.
The Hilltoppers scored nine unanswered runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings to take a 16-15 lead. The 49ers tied it up in the top of the ninth as Austin Knight doubled and brought in a run.
In extra innings, WKU brought in a runoff a single for a 17-16 win.
It was a massive day at the plate for the 49ers. Furman had two hits and brought in three runs. Knight had three hits in four at-bats.
Charlotte now turns their attention back home as they host Florida Atlantic in another four-game C-USA series. The 49ers are currently 14-9 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
Note: C-USA four-game series will consist of nine innings for the series opener/finale while the two games on Saturday will be seven innings.