After nine defensive-filled innings, the Charlotte 49er (30-11, 17-3) baseball team was able to break through to the top of the tenth inning, scoring four runs en route to their 4-1 victory over North Carolina (20-18, 14-13). The statement win over an ACC team, which has nine teams projected to make the postseason, is just what the team needed heading into another series versus No. 25 Old Dominion this weekend.
"We try not to put our confidence on if we win or lose, but this win can't hurt right," head coach Robert Woodard said after the game on this win.
Trae Starnes pitched five innings, allowing zero runs. While he did allow a few hits, he could grind out innings and throw the right pitches at the right time.
"I give Trae Starnes so much credit. He's been doing a fantastic job in the lefty-lefty role for us the entire year. That's what this time of year is about. Once you get into May and June, you've got to have guys step up. I'll never forget that start from Trae (Starnes) as long as I live. That's a special outing for him. He's worked so hard to be ready for this opportunity, and he certainly made the most of it," Woodard said about his starting pitcher's performance.
Freshman Dominic Pilolli stepped up in a big moment in this game for the 49ers. Pilolli came to bat with three on base with only one out in the inning and drilled a triple to left-center field, bringing in three runs. After some shaky at-bats to start for Pilolli, he shook it off and ultimately sealed the game for the 49ers.
"We try really hard as a team to not get too high, and when things don't go well, don't get too low. That was such a mature approach and at bat by (Pilolli) to block out those previous at bats and stay in the moment. What a great swing of the bat that was to clear the bases," Woodard added.
This win is, in a way, a statement win for the 49ers, as they have proven that they can play with the top teams in the top conferences around the country. Come postseason play, this will play a huge factor being that they will likely have to play premier opponents from these premier conferences.
"These experiences of playing against tough opponents and playing in different ballparks will certainly help us down the road," Woodard said.
This win was special for coach Woodard in more than one way. He played for the Tar Heels as well as being an assistant coach with the team for several years before taking the head coach position with Charlotte. Being able to travel to Chapel Hill and see old friends as well as walk out of the ballpark with a victory meant a lot to Woodard.
"It's tough to put into words. It's surreal. I've spent ten years here as a player and assistant coach. To be honest, the surrealness doesn't go away. My home is Charlotte and always will be," said Woodard. "My second home is Chapel Hill, and 90% of my best friends and family have been in these two places. It's just special," Woodard said about the return to Chapel Hill.
Charlotte will have a few days off before they face No. 25 Old Dominion on Friday, April 30 at 3 p.m., followed by a double-header on Saturday and then the final game on Sunday at 3 p.m.