Charlotte trailed as close as 4-2 in the third inning but struggled to get on base and control Tennessee’s offense from scoring runs. The Niners fell to the Volunteers 8-2. Charlotte moves to 1-3 on the season while Tennessee remains undefeated at 4-0.
Tennessee got on the board early at Lindsey Nelson Stadium as leadoff man, Max Ferguson, earned a double to start the game. Two batters later, Jake Rucker hit a two-run homerun to give the Volunteers an early 2-0 lead. In the second inning, Trae Starnes allowed a walk, a hit and a wild pitch which left two Tennessee runners on first and third, respectively, with one out. After a fielder’s choice to get the guy out at third, Zach Daniels crushed a double into left center which brought in two more runs for the Volunteers. That extended the lead to 4-0.
Charlotte answered in the top of the third as Todd Elwood started off the inning with a leadoff double. Tate Pennington hit a single off a bunt that moved Elwood to third, which set up Carson Johnson to hit a single into center field to bring Elwood home, giving the Niners their first run of the night. With Pennington at third, David McCabe hit a sacrifice fly which allowed Pennington to run home and cut the lead down to 4-2.
However, Tennessee continued to score runs in the third. Starnes couldn’t stay in control of his pitches as he hit two Tennessee batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed a walk. With two outs and the bases loaded with Volunteers, Starnes threw another walk to Liam Spence, giving the Volunteers an easy run. Daniels led off the fourth inning for Tennessee and crushed a ball into center field for a homer, extending the lead to 6-2 after four innings.
Charlotte had a chance to respond in the fifth inning when Elwood singled to center field and later stole third. However, with two outs, McCabe flew out to center field, ending the inning. After this chance, Charlotte struggled to get batters on base as the Niners went three up, three down the next two innings.
Tennessee extended their lead in the eighth with a leadoff hit from Rucker and later advanced to third off an error. After Jordan Beck was walked, Christian Scott pinch ran for him and stole second. With runners on second and third, Colby Bruce threw a wild pitch which allowed one run to score and Scott to advance to third. Alerick Soularie hit a sacrifice fly, allowing Scott to run home and score the final run of the game.
Starnes started his first game of the season and struggled early and often, allowing six hits and six runs in 3.2 innings. Starnes also struggled to stay in control of his pitches, allowing four walks, threw three wild pitches and hit two batters. Charlotte’s bullpen only allowed two runs the rest of the game, but the damage was already done.
Elijah Pleasants earned the win for the Volunteers, throwing five innings, allowing five hits and only one earned run. The bullpen for Tennessee combined to throw for four innings and allowed only one hit, which made it difficult for Charlotte to cut into the lead.
Charlotte will return home as they welcome the UMBC Retrievers for a four-game series, starting on Friday, Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.