Offensive firepower gives the Niners a series win over the Lady Toppers
The Charlotte 49ers (26-18, 7-8 C-USA) showed their potential and won 2-of-3 games against the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers (16-21, 7-8 C-USA) over the weekend. The two Charlotte wins came in Saturday’s doubleheader, featuring the dominant pitching from Lexi Betancourt in game one and opportune hitting throughout the 49ers lineup in game two.
With the two wins on the weekend, the 49ers now sit tied for second place in the East division of Conference USA with only three weekends of conference play remaining.
Game 1: CHAR 1, WKU 0
In another complete game performance, senior pitcher Betancourt improved to 16-11 on the season by only giving up three hits and three walks, while striking out nine total Lady Toppers. On the offensive side, the 49ers had five hits on the afternoon, scoring their lone run in the first inning.
Freshman Emma Ocker started off the game with a four-pitch walk, followed by a sharp single through the right side from sophomore Bailey Rhoney. Shortstop Haley Pace stepped up and placed a bunt in front of the WKU pitcher, who threw it over the head of the first baseman which allowed Ocker to score from second base.
In the second inning, Charlotte threatened to score again with runners on second and third base with only one out, but were unable to capitalize and kept their 1-0 lead.
Both pitchers continued to dominate until the sixth inning, when Western Kentucky had their big chance to tie the game up or even take the lead. Two walks for the Lady Toppers, along with an error from the 49ers’ Lizzy Birch, gave WKU the bases loaded with two outs.
Betancourt was able to escape the jam, getting Western Kentucky’s left fielder to ground out to Grace Beatty at third base and salvage the 1-0 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Betancourt completed her stellar performance with two strikeouts and a pop fly to left field, giving the 49ers the 1-0 win. The shutout was the senior pitcher’s fifth on the season, and helped lower her season ERA to 2.74.
Game 2: CHAR 11, WKU 3 (F/5)
The 49ers got their bats warmed up again for the second game of the day, racking up eleven runs on twelve hits to give Charlotte their fifth mercy-rule win on the season. Birch, Taylar Byrne and Erin Powers all went 2-3 with two RBIs each on the afternoon, and Haley Wiseman continued her excellent pitching, allowing only three runs and improving to 10-6 on the season.
Charlotte threatened to score in the first inning again, loading the bases against the Lady Toppers after three errors by the WKU shortstop. However, an infield fly and a groundout kept the 49ers off the board and left it at 0-0.
In the bottom of the third inning, two more errors by Western Kentucky gave the 49ers runners on second and third with one out. Following a strikeout from Meredith Harris, the freshman Birch stepped into the box and ripped a two-run double to right center field for a 2-0 Charlotte lead. The catcher Byrne followed with a walk. Powers then singled through the right side to score Birch and extend the lead to 3-0.
The sophomore pitcher Wiseman got into a tough spot in the fifth inning, loading the bases and then allowing WKU to score three runs off of a two-run double and an RBI single, all with no outs. Despite getting caught in the jam, Wiseman continued to throw hard, getting a strikeout on the Lady Toppers left fielder. Following the strikeout, the 49ers were able to escape the jam as Western Kentucky lined out to Harris at first base, who quickly fired over to Beatty at third base and turn the double play after the Lady Toppers baserunner was caught trying to score.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Charlotte bats got rolling, scoring eight runs to earn the mercy-rule victory. With one out, Birch singled to center and then promptly scored on an RBI double from Byrne to make it 4-3. Powers followed with a single of her own to center, scoring the pinch-runner Alex Paulson to make 5-3. A walk from freshman Kiersten Berrier and an infield hit for Ocker loaded the bases for Bailey Rhoney, who singled to left field to score two more runs, pushing the lead to 7-3 Charlotte. After a foul out from Haley Pace, Beatty stepped into the box and did her part on offense, singling to center field to score Ocker and make it 8-3.
Up next was Harris, who had lined out to the WKU shortstop for the first out of the inning. She made sure not to end the 49ers offensive explosion, doubling to right center to score Rhoney and Beatty and extend the lead to 10-3. Batting for the second time in the inning, Birch drew a walk, giving the 49ers runners on first and third, after Harris had advanced on a passed ball. Byrne stepped again and ripped a single right past the outstretched glove of the Western Kentucky third baseman, scoring Harris and winning the game for Charlotte, 11-3.
Game 3: WKU 4, CHAR 0
In game three, the 49ers were limited to two hits on the afternoon in a 4-0 loss to the Lady Toppers. Lexi Betancourt pitched again for Charlotte, but was not as dominant as the previous game, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks in her seven inning appearance.
Western Kentucky got going early, as the leadoff hitter got on with a single to center field and, with one out, their shortstop sent a fastball flying over the right field wall for a home run and a 2-0 lead. The Lady Toppers added another run in the fourth inning, scoring off a wild pitch from Betancourt and extending the lead to 3-0.
The Charlotte bats were nowhere to be found until the fifth inning, when Berrier singled to left field and ended the no-hit bid from WKU’s pitcher, Kathryn Downing. Ocker followed Berrier’s hit with a single of her own, but the 49ers were unable to do any damage from there, still trailing 3-0.
The Lady Toppers added their fourth run in the top of the seventh, after Byrne attempted to catch a runner stealing second base, but the throw got away from the 49ers and the WKU baserunner came around to score and make it 4-0.
The Charlotte 49ers will battle in-state foe Appalachian State (9-36, 2-16 Sun Belt) on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Phillips Softball Complex. Then this weekend, the 49ers will host the Owls of Florida Atlantic (36-7, 13-2 C-USA) in an important conference series, starting Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.